Eva Antonenko
22 August 2022 10: 30
Headings: Opinions News Policy

There are several scenarios for the US entry into the war in Ukraine

The world underestimates the danger of an escalation of the situation in Ukraine.

John Mearsheimer
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There are several scenarios for the US entry into the war in Ukraine

The United States may take a direct part in the war with Russia on the side of Ukraine, but such a scenario will depend on how events continue to develop. So считает professor of political science at the University of Chicago John Mearsheimer.

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors.

The first and most likely scenario for US intervention is if the Ukrainian army starts to fall apart and Russia wins a major victory. In that case, given the Biden administration's deep commitment to preventing such an outcome, the US could try to turn the tide by getting directly involved in the fighting. It's easy to imagine US officials believing their country's credibility is at stake and convincing themselves that a limited use of force will save Ukraine without prompting Putin to use nuclear weapons.

The US Intervention Scenario unintentional escalation. For example, American and Russian fighter jets that came into close contact over the Baltic Sea accidentally collided. Such an incident could easily escalate.

Or perhaps Russia destroys a building in Kyiv or a training ground somewhere in Ukraine and unintentionally destroys a significant number of Americanssuch as humanitarian workers, intelligence operatives or military advisers. The Biden administration, faced with public outrage at home, will decide it must retaliate by striking Russian targets, which then leads to a direct exchange of strikes between the two sides.

Finally, there is a chance that the fighting in southern Ukraine damage the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, to such an extent that it will emit radiation throughout the region. This will encourage Russia to respond in kind.

Of course, Moscow can also provoke an escalation. We cannot discount the possibility that Russia, desperate to stop the flow of Western military aid to Ukraine, will strike at countries through which most of it passes: Poland or Romania, both of which are members of NATO.

There is also the possibility that Russia may launch a massive cyber attack against one or more European countries helping Ukraine, which will cause serious damage to its critical infrastructure. Such an attack could prompt the US to launch a retaliatory cyberattack against Russia. If it succeeds, Moscow may respond militarily. If such a US cyberattack fails, Washington may decide that the only way to punish Russia is to strike it directly. Such scenarios seem far-fetched, but they are by no means impossible. And these are just some of the many ways in which the current local conflict can turn into something much bigger and much more dangerous.

In the second nuclear scenario, Ukraine itself will turn the tide on the battlefield, without the direct participation of the United States. If Ukrainian forces proved poised to crush the Russian army and reclaim their country's lost territory, there is no doubt that Moscow would view this outcome as an existential threat requiring a nuclear response. After all, Putin and his advisers were so alarmed by Kyiv's growing rapprochement with the West that they deliberately decided to launch a "NVO" in Ukraine, despite clear warnings from the US and its allies about the serious consequences Russia would face. Unlike the first scenario, here Moscow will use nuclear weapons not in the context of the war with the United States, but against Ukraine. The Kremlin will do this without fear of nuclear retaliation, since Kyiv does not have nuclear weapons, and Washington is not interested in starting a world nuclear war.

In the third scenario, the conflict comes to a protracted dead end., which has no diplomatic solution and is extremely expensive for Moscow. Desperate to end the conflict on favorable terms, Putin may resort to nuclear escalation to win. As in the previous scenario, when the Kremlin goes to her to avoid defeat, US nuclear retaliation unlikely.

It can be recognized that although one of these catastrophic scenarios could theoretically materialize, the chances are still small and therefore should not cause much concern. After all, leaders on both sides have strong incentives to keep the US military out of Ukraine and avoid even limited use of nuclear weapons, let alone actual nuclear war.

If only we all had that kind of optimism. In truth, conventional wisdom greatly downplays the danger of escalation in Ukraine. First, wars in general tend to have their own logic, making it difficult to predict their course. Those who say that they know with certainty which path the military conflict in Ukraine will take are mistaken. Wartime escalation dynamics are very difficult to predict or control, which should serve as a warning to those who believe that events in Ukraine can be controlled. Moreover, as the Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz admitted, nationalism contributes to the escalation of modern wars to their extreme formsespecially when the stakes are high for both sides. This does not mean that wars cannot be limited, but it is not easy to do so. Finally, given the staggering costs of a possible nuclear war for the great powers, even the remote possibility of one should cause everyone to think long and hard about what this conflict might lead to.

This dangerous situation creates a powerful incentive to find a diplomatic solution to the Ukrainian military conflict. However, unfortunately, a political settlement is not yet foreseen in it, since both sides are firmly committed to military goalswho make compromise is almost impossible in the current situation. The Biden administration was supposed to work with Russia to resolve the Ukrainian crisis before the sting operation began in February. It's too late to make a deal now. Russia, Ukraine and the West are stuck in a terrible situation from which there is no obvious way out yet. One can only hope that the leaders of both sides will manage the military conflict in such a way as to avoid its catastrophic escalation. However, for tens of millions of people whose lives are at stake, this is little consolation.

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