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Predictions made by foreign experts: who predicted the course of a full-scale war in Ukraine

Western experts warned about the full-scale war in Ukraine since november 2021. Photo: General Staff of the Ministry of Defense

Western experts warned about the full-scale war in Ukraine since november 2021. Photo: General Staff of the Ministry of Defense

Since the end of last fall, European and American media have been massively reiterating materials about the build-up of forces by the Russian army, with possible scenarios of what could ensue.

Among the latter, it was said, for example, that Kyiv would fall in three days, more Ukrainian regions would be occupied, and even that nuclear weapons would be used.

The Page collected these predictions and their authors to analyze which ones came true soon.


Predictions about a war in Ukraine in November 2021: what would the results be?

Among the first to speak were officials from the military administrations of Western countries, as well as their analysts.

Nick Carter's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Carter's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Thus,now former senior British Army officer Nick Carter suggested (and was partly right) that the Russians didn’t want a "hot war", but instead wanted "to try and achieve their objective in rather more nuanced ways," like provoking a migrant crisis or halting gas supplies.

The general emphasized that Russia was a greater threat in eastern Europe than it was eight years ago, and although he hoped there would not be a full-scale war, NATO would have to be ready.

His opinion was not shared by Michael Kofman, Director of the Russia Studies Program at the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses. He affirmed:

Quote"Everything indicates that they are seriously preparing a large-scale military operation."

Moreover, Matthew Lynn, an observer for The Telegraph, warned that, although Russia could be bluffing, there could be no question that a serious conflict was brewing on Europe’s Eastern frontier along the border between Russia and Ukraine.

He also rightly assumed that a full-scale war between Russia and Ukraine would result in a serious economic crisis like the 2008 global crisis. Lynn predicted soaring oil and gas prices, a huge fall in the euro, a surge in inflation, and disrupted supply chains crossing Russia.

Mark Galeotti's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: ucl.ac.uk

Mark Galeotti's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: ucl.ac.uk

Political scientist Mark Galeotti, however, stressed that the Kremlin didn’t know yet what it would do. He argued that there was no way Russia didn’t know that there would be many soldiers coming home as ‘Cargo 200s’ (the dead) and what sanctions awaited the aggressor. Meanwhile, the expert said, if Putin was willing to brave the international sanctions and condemnation and domestic outrage, then an invasion could go ahead.

Galeotti believed that, in order to wage a full-scale war, Russia needed to have developed a plan by February of the level it simply couldn’t have had. Considering the course of the war that followed, there was some truth in his words.

Predictions about a war in Ukraine in December 2021: the role of the West in the war — expectations and reality

Artis Pabriks's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Artis Pabriks's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

As the winter of 2021 began, tensions rose even more. For example, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks condemned those who didn’t supply Ukraine with weapons:

Quote"Actually we are playing according to the playbook of the Kremlin. This is not a good thing. This is not bringing us closer to security and peace."

Gustav Gressel of the European Council on Foreign Relations, for his part, argued that Russia was seriously preparing for an invasion, but Putin could still be deterred by taking three types of measures:

  • providing Ukraine with lethal military equipment;
  • canceling the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project;
  • deploying additional forces on NATO’s eastern flank in countries such as Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

As we now know, the Alliance finally did it, albeit much later, and the eastern flank of NATO was reinforced only in the late spring of 2022.

American analyst Ian Brzezinski also warned that those who thought Russia’s actions were merely sabre rattling were making the same mistake as in 2008, before Russia's invasion of Georgia, and in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied parts of Donbas.

Japanese expert Nanae Hasegawa drew a similar parallel. He assumed that Russia could capture all of Eastern Ukraine during the Winter Olympic Games in China with a 50% probability because the Russian government repeatedly started wars precisely during this event, in particular, in Georgia in 2008 and in Ukraine in 2014. The expert was wrong in this.

However, he was right up to a point that the global community was initially not too concerned about the escalation of the conflict. He also correctly predicted that by blackmailing Europe with gas and taking into account the rise in oil prices, Russia could secure a confident position in negotiations with the West in the first months, as the West was not ready to impose full and comprehensive sanctions.

Predictions about a war in Ukraine in January 2022: an invasion could destroy Russia

Timothy Snyder's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Timothy Snyder's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Historian Timothy Snyder, for his part, wrote on January 18:

Quote"I am not sure that the Kremlin knows what will happen next. Indeed, I am not sure that there is agreement among Russian elites as to what should happen next."

He wrote that he didn’t know whether Russia was about to attack Ukraine, but he emphasized that it could happen. Snyder pointed out that a full-scale war would be a horror for Ukrainians as the suffering this time would be much worse than the losses in the previous eight years.

Quote"The forces that Russia has deployed are capable of a terrifying level of destruction. But invading Ukraine would also be an incredibly stupid move by Russia," the historian explained.

According to him, it would feel a lot like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979: seemingly successful at first, then system-destroying after a few years. And it looks like this prediction is coming true.

Snyder also warned that, although the Russian forces engaged in a full-scale war would be more numerous, the Ukrainian army was better trained than it was in 2014.

Predictions about a war in Ukraine in February 2022: what Vladimir Putin is guided by

In February 2022, uncertainty was building up, giving rise to new troubling assumptions.

Lawrence Freedman's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Lawrence Freedman's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King's College London, wrote that Putin was having a hard time finding a satisfactory military or diplomatic outcome, and therefore he was supposed to drift on for some weeks before eventually coming to a decision.

However, Freedman warned that a major military operation was more likely than a negotiating breakthrough, but a Russian offensive would not bring the crisis to an end. Moreover, albeit believing that Ukrainian forces were no match for Russian ones, the professor pointed out that an invasion would make the Ukrainians angry and even less likely to agree to any Russia’s demands.

Freedman argued that military escalation in the occupied Donbas and adjacent territories was more likely than an assault on Kyiv.

On the contrary, political scientist David Rothkopf argued that Vladimir Putin, like Donald Trump, saw himself as the master negotiator taking a hardline, certain his counterparts would fold.

Quote"What he does not appear to recognize is that should he follow through on his threat (my terms or war), the war will be absolutely devastating for him," the expert warned.
Carl Bildt's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Carl Bildt's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Getty Images

Ex-Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt noted on February 21 that the audience and actors at the Putin theater didn’t look too happy.

Quote"Everything now points at Russia abandoning the Minsk agreement and recognizing their puppet statelets as two independent states," he wrote on Twitter.

Mark MacKinnon, a correspondent for The Globe and Mail, also commented on February 21 on the meeting of the Russian Security Council:

Quote"Well there's another escalation. Putin advised to recognize Donetsk and Lugansk republics on their pre-2014 borders — so including cities like Slovyansk, Mariupol and Kramatorsk that are currently under Ukrainian control…"

The above-mentioned Latvian minister of defense, Artis Pabriks, said on February 23 that the next few days were crucial when Putin tested western reaction to his recognition of the occupied Donbas territories as independent republics.

Quote"They will have a small period of reconnaissance and thinking what the west is doing and what the west is planning. They will assess our responses. And if these responses will not be strong enough or convincing enough, then the next stage will be more incidents on the de facto Ukrainian border," the minister noted.

Predictions about the war in Ukraine in March 2022: why does the Kremlin offer negotiations and when will it fall?

After the full-scale invasion, military experts voiced varying opinions.

Piotr Grochmalski, Director of the Institute of Strategic Studies at Warsaw War Studies University, said that Russia wanted to drown Ukraine in blood while occasionally offering to stop mass murders if Kyiv accepts its terms.

He also believed that if Putin got stuck in the war in Ukraine, there would be a palace coup in the Kremlin and his head would roll.

Robert Brinkley's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: linkedin.com

Robert Brinkley's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: linkedin.com

Robert Brinkley, a former British ambassador in Ukraine, stated on March 18 that a breakthrough in the talks between Ukraine and Russia shouldn’t be expected.

He also didn’t believe that the West would close the sky over Ukraine because, although the 1994 Budapest Memorandum promised to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, it did not provide any specific guarantees from the U.S., Russia, Britain, or France.

As for possible negotiations between Russia and Ukraine, the diplomat argued that both sides weren’t ready, as they were both trying to improve their positions on the ground.

The German columnist, Winfried Schneider-Deters, was one of the few experts who saw the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine as an attempt to muddy the waters.

According to him, these negotiations were Putin’s deceptive ploy to make the West lose vigilance and hope for peace so that it would stop supporting Ukraine with weapons. Furthermore, the Kremlin was trying to buy time for a new attack as its first offensive failed. Deters also believed that the war between Russia and Ukraine would last a very long time.

Francis Fukuyama's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Francis Fukuyama's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: Wikipedia

Francis Fukuyama, an American philosopher and political economist, wrote on March 10 that Russia was already heading for a defeat in Ukraine because its military planning turned out to be incompetent.

The expert stated that this planning was based on a flawed assumption that Ukrainians were favorable to Russia and that their military would collapse immediately.

That was why Russian soldiers were carrying dress uniforms for their victory parade in Khreshchatyk street rather than extra ammo and rations.

Fukuyama argued that Russia would face a sudden and catastrophic collapse when the army in the field would lose morale and reach a point where it could neither be supplied nor withdrawn.

Quote"This is at least true in the north; the Russians are doing better in the south, but those positions would be hard to maintain if the north collapses," the expert emphasized.

Bellingcat investigative journalist Hristo Grozev outlined another scenario during a telethon in the first half of March 2022: in his opinion, Russia will try to freeze the war.

It will be difficult for Putin to announce its end because then the exact number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine will be known.

Predictions about the war in Ukraine in April 2022: when will the war end and what will its outcome depend on?

Richard Weitz's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: hudson.org

Richard Weitz's predictions about the war in Ukraine. Photo: hudson.org

In late April 2022, Richard Weitz, director of the Center for Military-Political Analysis at the Hudson Institute, said that Ukraine's accession to NATO would have a significant impact on its post-war recovery.

At the same time, according to the analyst, the outcome of the war will depend not on sanctions or proposals to join the Alliance but on Kyiv's ability to stop the Russian invasion by military means.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley added that the war between Russia and Ukraine will last years.

Quote"I don't know about decade, but at least years for sure," he said.

He argued that NATO, the United States, Ukraine, and all of their allies and partners would be involved in this global conflict.

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