Scenario for a Russian invasion into Ukraine: What are Russias option?

Yishai Gelb | 04.02.2022
Image by Richard R. Schünemann

War in Ukraine is the last resort to achieving the Kremlines' objectives, but a military confrontation is still on the table. This report will analyze Russia’s goals and the different scenarios moving forward.

In the past two years, Russia has strengthened its strategic stance in Europe. Putin’s primary goal is to create a buffer between the Russian belly and the military strength of its foes that are potential threats. That means controlling the states surrounding Russia, primarily states once a part of the Soviet Union and the Warsha pact, including the Balkans and East Europe. 

Even though the Russian army consists of over 1 million soldiers, over 4000 military aircraft, 12000 tanks, over 600 naval assets, and plenty of fossil fuels to fuel its army, the policy is still to use force as a last resort. Russia uses cyber attacks, political manipulation, gas as a pressure point on the European Union, sending military “aid” to puppet governments aligned with the Russian policy, and more.

Russia threatens to occupy Ukraine because NATO had gradually moved East by adding more states to its alliance, threatening Russia’s strategical depth in Eastern Europe. Russia claims that adding countries from the Warsaw Pact into NATO is not following the agreement signed between the Soviet Union and the United States in the ’90s. The US debunks that claim clarifying that any country that qualifies can join NATO. Given the Situation, Putin feels that he needs to stop Ukraine from joining NATO and accepting Western influence.

Putin feels that he can make an aggressive move in Ukraine for several reasons. The first is the West’s soft response to aggression. In 2013, Russia interfered in Syria in favor of the Assad regime and witnessed the US’s inability to enforce its red lines. In 2014, after occupying the Crimean Peninsula, the West failed to implement sanctions against Russia and Iran. The second reason is that Purin believes that NATO is split responding to Russian aggression. France has a long history of appeasement and waiting until it’s too late to stop aggressive tyrants. And Germany is too reliant on Russian gas, especially in the cold winter months when gas consumption is at its peak, to commit to confronting Putin. 

At the beginning of 2021, Russia began to send forces to the border with Ukraine. After nearly a year of diplomatic tries to solve the situation, Putin decided to notch up the aggression. It’s important to note that using the military might be another way to reach an objective. So here are the options that lay before Putin.

The first is to increase the military aid to Eastern Ukraine, where Russian proxies are currently putting pressure on the government to pivot towards Russia. This option does not include invading Ukraine and could help reach Putin’s objective to install a pro-Russian government.

The second option is to invade the country from the North. This would be a medium-scale invasion with minimal consequences from the West. 

The third option is to invade the country from the East, which is rich in natural resources and has a sizeable pro-Russian population. This option could escalate tensions and cause significant backlash from NATO and the US, and even a full-scale war between Russia and the West. If Russia chooses this option, it must do so before the weather warms and the ice melts, leaving muddy plains - impossible for moving forward.

In the case of an invasion from the East, Russia will conquer an enormous amount o Ukraninan territory thanks to the flat plains and Russias massive ground forces. However, the Russian army will face a sizeable Ukrainian resistance, especially in the cities where the opposition will be the highest, slowing down the Russian advance. The Russian could justify this sort of attack by falsely claiming a Ukrainian chemical attack or fabricating intelligence that NATO positioned nuclear warheads near the border. 

The Western response could be sending military aid, sending in volunteers to help fight for democracy, placing sanctions on Russia, isolating Russia from global forums, cyber attacking Russian infrastructure, sending military advisers to Ukraine, supplying the country with natural resources, blockading the Russian in the black sea, and more.

At any rate, a full-scale invasion is very Risky for Russia. 40% of Russia’s exports are to the European Union, and its no.1 export is gas. Economic sanctions and a dive in exports can be crippling to its economy. On top of that, there is no promise that a full-scale invasion will end up leading to the installation of a pro-Russian government in Ukraine. If there will be a full-scale attack in the near future, it will be in February. Otherwise, options one and two are more likely to be Russia’s choices and will involve fewer reactions from the West.

How Does China play a role in the Ukraine situation? How is Israels’ relationship with Russia and Ukraine affected by the growing tension? Stay tuned and keep an eye out for upcoming updates and reports.