Had the Russian plan been carried out as it was written, Kyiv would have been conquered in just a few days. Zelensky, his wife, and his children would have been murdered by one of the hit squads that roamed the capital city. The Ukrainian state would have been taken over by the collaborators who had already chosen their Kyiv apartments. Then, city by city, region by region, the Russian army would have fought the remnants of the Ukrainian army until it finally conquered the entire country. Originally, the Russian general staff imagined that this victory would require six weeks.
Had all of that happened as planned, Ukraine would now be pockmarked with the concentration camps, torture chambers, and makeshift prisons that have been discovered in Bucha, Izyum, Kherson, and all the other territories temporarily occupied by Russia and liberated by the Ukrainian army. A generation of Ukrainian writers, artists, politicians, journalists, and civic leaders would already be buried in mass graves. Ukrainian books would have been removed from schools and libraries. The Ukrainian language would have been suppressed in all public spaces. Hundreds of thousands more Ukrainian children would have been kidnapped and transported to Russia or trafficked farther around the world.
Russian soldiers, strengthened by their stunning victory, would already be on the borders of Poland, setting up new command posts, digging new trenches. NATO would be in chaos; the entire alliance would be forced to spend billions to prepare for the inevitable invasion of Warsaw, Vilnius, or Berlin. Millions of Ukrainian refugees would be living in camps all across Europe, with no prospect of ever returning home; the tide of sympathy that originally greeted them would have ebbed long ago; the money would be running out, the backlash under way. The Moldovan economy would have collapsed entirely; a pro-Russian government in Moldova would perhaps already be planning to incorporate that country into the emerging Russian-Belarusian-Ukrainian federation that one Russian propagandist hailed, too early, on February 26.
This disaster would not have been confined to Europe. On the other side of the world, Chinese plans to invade Taiwan would be well under way, because Beijing would assume that an America unwilling to defend a European ally, and now totally bogged down in a long-term battle against an emboldened Russia, would never go out of its way to help an island in the Pacific. The Iranian mullahs, equally cheered by Russia’s success and Ukraine’s defeat, would have boldly announced that they had finally acquired nuclear weapons. From Venezuela to Zimbabwe to Myanmar, dictatorships around the world would have tightened their regimes and stepped up the persecution of their opponents, now certain that the old rules—the conventions on human rights and genocide, the laws of war, the taboo against changing borders by force—no longer applied. From Washington to London, from Tokyo to Canberra, the democratic world would be grimly facing up to its obsolescence. [Continue reading…]