Alternative Ukrainian Future Trajectories: Implications for Russia and the West

June 2023 No Comments

Speaker: Dr. Graeme Herd (George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies)

Date: 22 June 2023

Speaker Session Summary

SMA hosted a speaker session with Dr. Graeme Herd (George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies) as part of its SMA EUCOM Speaker Series.

Dr. Graeme Herd at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies is conducting multiple workshops and seminars, creating predicted pathways for war in Ukraine, using open-source materials. Dr. Herd identified five potential future pathways for the war in Ukraine, being: Ukrainian victory, Russian victory, protracted conflict, frozen conflict, and negotiated peace. He emphasized that the war is currently mired in a protracted conflict. The characteristics of a mired conflict are ongoing military combat with limited wins and manageable losses on both sides, resulting in a stalemate. Russia can declare victory; however, for it to truly be victorious, it must secure the capitulation of the Ukrainian military. For Ukraine to secure a victory, it must push the Russian military out of Ukraine and potentially retake Crimea. A regime change in Russia may be necessary for this outcome to occur. A Putin replacement could alter Russia’s geopolitical narrative, claiming that they are continuing to fight against the West’s ideology while avoiding further military conflict and beginning to repair Russia’s geopolitical relationships.

A frozen conflict, negotiated peace, and a continued protracted conflict are the most likely pathways to occur soon. A frozen conflict is likely to occur if attrition levels become too high and both Russia and Ukraine resort to irregular warfare. During a frozen conflict, there may even be regional ceasefires. A negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine is only likely to take place if there are enough incentives given by the international community for them to negotiate. If Russia agrees to a negotiation that involves them seceding territory that they held at the beginning of the war, then it will be considered a Russian defeat. Dr. Herd predicted that a Ukrainian victory would be the most stable outcome of the war. However, he warned that Putin’s decision making, including the possible use of WMDs, is a wild card in the pathways analysis. 

Speaker Session Recording
Briefing Materials

Biography: Dr. Graeme P. Herd is a Professor of Transnational Security Studies in the RPA Department of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. His latest publications include: Understanding Russia’s Strategic Behavior: Imperial Strategic Culture and Putin’s Operational Code (London and New York, Routledge, 2022) and Russia’s Global Reach: A Security and Statecraft Assessment, ed. Graeme P. Herd (Garmisch-Partenkirchen: George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, 2021). Through FY23 he runs a  monthly  virtual seminar series and  three workshops examining alternative future scenarios for Ukraine.


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