It is pretty remarkable looking back at the last two years of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine and the fact that the combined West has not come to terms with the implications of a Russian victory and what that would mean.

I mean two years plus on, and the West still has its head in the sand on this core question with many Western politicians preferring not to think the unthinkable. What would a Russian victory mean for Europe and the Western alliance?

Blank faces.

The lack of contingency planning is all the more incredible as the Biden administration at least had the intelligence back in 2021 and believed it that the invasion was going to happen. And the Biden administration even expected a speedy Russian victory with Kyiv captured in days and Russian tanks then going on to take the bulk of the country. Even for Europeans who mostly got the invasion call wrong, the first few days after the full-scale invasion was surely a wake-up call to the prospect of a Russian victory. What then?


Blank faces again.

Fortunately for the West, brave Ukrainians fought and died to hold the line against Russia, even pushing Russia back in places. What we have seen since is the complacency on Russia, seen before the invasion, creep back in. The same lazy consensus that Russia would not invade has been replaced by a new lazy consensus that Russia cannot win. This complacency has shaped Western support for Ukraine – first drip-feeding military support to Ukraine, and now also financial support.

 Just about enough to keep Ukraine fighting but not winning the war. The West has not done whatever is needed to ensure a Ukrainian victory because it has been complacent about a Russian victory – seeing it as unlikely. But what has now become apparent in recent weeks and months is Western underfunding/under-resourcing of Ukraine could actually risk its defeat.

And what would be the implications of a Russian victory in Ukraine?


I would argue it would be devastating for the Western alliance and Europe, in particular.

First, tens of millions of Ukrainians would move West. This will strain the socio, economic and political fabric of Europe. Anti-immigration sentiment will rise, fueling further growth in extremist far-right parties. These will likely question the whole European integration agenda and likely back a Russian narrative driving centrifugal forces in Europe, but also when it comes to the Euro-Atlantic alliance.

Second, and at risk of accentuating point one, Hungary could take advantage of a Ukrainian collapse to take Transcarpathia which has a Hungarian minority. This would be part of a Greater Hungary policy which the right wing in Hungary aspire to. This could spark tensions with Hungary’s neighbors – Serbia, Slovakia, Romania and Poland – fearing Budapest has similar designs on its territory. Other countries in the region could begin to identify with their own “Greater” territorial agendas risking instability and insecurity across the continent.

All this will be further fanned by the populist forces as noted above.

Third, Russian tanks will head further West, perhaps even testing NATO unity to defend against encroachments into the Baltic states, et al. Remember this will be an emboldened, confident Russia – a deranged bear with the smell of blood in its nostrils and eager to cement its advantage. It will also be augmented with the addition of the now much enlarged Ukrainian military-industrial complex. Russia’s war machine will be a real threat to Europe.


NATO will have to respond by massively increasing defense spending – not just to the current 2 percent of GDP target but to at least 3 percent or perhaps over 4 percent as per the situation in the Cold War. Annually this would mean hundreds of millions of dollars, pounds and euros, more in defense spending per year – a huge deadweight on European economies.

Fourth, the credibility of the Euro-Atlantic alliance would be in tatters. The West encouraged Ukrainians to aspire to Western values and standards, and promised after the invasion that it would be with it for the long haul. But when push came to shove the West would have failed Ukraine. What message would that send to potential friends and allies of the West but also it enemies? The message to China is that Western resolve to stand by Taiwan should Beijing decide to invade is weak. It would encourage other states that might is right and to take territory by force.


Fifth, all the above suggests confidence in the West, and particularly Europe, will be badly dented. Europe will be beset by insecurity, political instability and likely a weakening economic outlook. That would surely be a deadweight around the euro.

All the above should suggest the West needs to appreciate better what a Ukrainian defeat means and hence do whatever it takes to ensure a Ukrainian victory – that means financing and arming Ukraine to win, and the only assurance therein is finally allocating immobilized Russian assets to Ukraine to enable it to fund its own defense. This would Trump-proof Ukraine’s defense. The irony of all this is the cost of a Russian victory in Ukraine is multiples higher than the annual cost of funding Ukraine in this war – running around $100 billion a year. It’s a no-brainer for the West to finance Ukraine to win the war or else bear the burden of much higher longer term costs.

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