Ukraine - The End State

How will the conflict in the Ukraine come to an end? What will the aftermath look like? Some thoughts:

There was a little-noticed news item about an old Ukrainian Russian-made drone/cruise missile which went off course, flew across Hungary into Croatia and crashed near Zagreb, fortunately causing little damage.
Tu-141 “Strizh” Missile-Like Drone From The War In Ukraine Looks To Have Crashed In Croatia (Updated) (

What if that Ukrainian drone had instead crashed in Germany causing substantial damage? NATO would have retaliated against an apparent Russian attack, the situation would have escalated to a thermonuclear war leaving most cities in Europe, the US, and Russia in ruins. China would have been left as the ruler of a very different planet.

The probability of that kind of outcome is low – but definitely above zero. Surprises & accidents happen in real war zones. If that is the end state of the current conflict, I would simply like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Walker for having set up this fine site. It has been fun!

The other pole would be that Russia achieves its military aims in the Ukraine (despite Twitter assuring us that Russia has been losing all along). Russia then gives a wink to China. China pulls in France & Germany, and the three of them negotiate a settlement in which Ukraine gives Russia what it wants.

Russia would undoubtedly demand that the Ukraine not re-arm, and that all the US-funded Fauci labs be destroyed. That would require Chinese troops as peacekeepers, especially on the western border of the Ukraine. Ukraine would want assurances that Russia will not attack again, which would require French & German troops on the eastern border with the independent Donbass. Ukraine will need a lot of investment to recover from war damage – which China will be able to supply, for a price.

Meanwhile, the West’s sanctions would stagger on, creating opportunities for smart traders and problems for Russia which are unpleasant but survivable. More importantly, following from Western seizure of Russian reserves, everyone in the world will start tiptoeing towards the exit. Steadily, China and others will liquidate their reserves in Western banks, leading to dramatic drops in the value of Western currencies (especially the Dollar) and huge – possibly existential – financial challenges to the West. NATO collapses, and China emerges as the “essential nation”.

One way or another, the world will never be the same again – just as it was never the same again after an anarchist shot an aristocrat.


Both Hungary and Croatia are purchasing SAM systems:


An alternative hypothesis would follow the Cyprus model. Turkey invaded parts of Cyprus in the summer of 1974. In this alternative future, the eastern portion of Ukraine styles itself as the Russian Republic of Easter Ukraine and will be internationally recognized only by the Russian Federation. Okay, perhaps Belarus too.

The UN sends a peacekeeper contingent that patrols the border between the rump republic and the rest of Ukraine. In an eerie parallel with Nicosia airport, the ruins of the Gostomel airport near Kyev remain abandoned for many decades, including a wrecked jumbo jet.

Weakened by conflict, the Russian Federation is unable to maintain control over its 2,600 miles long border with the PRC. Slowly at first, Chinese settlers take de facto control of the largest cities in the Russian Far East: Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Chita. The expansion is accompanied by large scale natural resource exploitation that fuels a population boom and tremendous economic development.

The Western part of Ukraine lingers at the mercy of unsteady economic aid from Germany. Weary of creating an economic rival, Poland is not fully onboard with the aid packages and attempts to enlist the help of Hungary and Romania to block what they view as inordinately rich aid disbursements for the Ukrainians.


If we manage to avoid nuclear war – and the jury is still out on that – then the probability is that the Ukrainian situation will become rather similar to the Covid situation, in that the longer-term economic effects are going to be much more significant and much wider spread than the immediate direct effects.

How many of the now reportedly 2+ Million people who have fled from the Ukraine will want to go back? Ukrainian oligarchs seem to occupy a deeper circle of Hell than Russian oligarchs, and they have kept the Ukrainian population desperately poor.

What will Germany be able to afford in the future? Energy costs in Germany are going much higher, and that will probably make Germany’s industry increasingly uncompetitive, throttling the golden goose.

The financialized economies of the UK and US are going to suffer from their impounding foreign reserves. For many wealthy people around the world, those are no longer safe countries in which to invest.

All of these changes will take time, and will probably mostly not be good for Europe & North America. Even so, economic problems are preferable to nuclear devastation.


?Why do you keep harping on nuclear devastation. Nobody wants nuclear war, not the least Russia. They may be posturing, but in truth nuclear war would kill Russia, at least as we know it now. ?Remember how we reacted to December 7 or 9/11. Think of that in spades.

China is also, I believe, in poor position. It has no real proven blue water navy, and I believe Taiwan is a strategic location for us. ?Who in his right mind would allow China to suddenly control 1/2. or more of real computer chips. China may now make the junk stuff you use in refrigerators or ovens, but none of it is useful in computers. Then there is the overall poor situation for much of Chinese people. They have been willing to rise up before, and the hold by the ChiCom military is tenuous. I wouldn’t be surprised to find much of their stuff is like the Russians - a few built for show without real numbers. And Tse has the problem of some 10 million new workers looking. for work - and food - each year! There is only so much junk that the world is willing to buy.

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Because it would be very stupid for the DC Swamp Creatures (who caused this situation by failing to take Russia’s concerns seriously) now to also ignore Russia’s clear warning that any escalation of the current situation will lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

The potential for nuclear Armageddon exists. “Our Guys” need to be careful. History is full of people misjudging situations. But this time, misjudgment may lead to annihilation.

Given the DC Swamp’s track record in Iraq, Serbia, Libya, Afghanistan – we should rightly be highly skeptical of them. Given “General” Milley’s traitorous contacts with the Chinese military and disastrous management of the abandonment of Kabul, we should have no confidence in our military leadership. US soldiers – and US civilians – don’t deserve to die because of the foolish tunnel vision of our “leaders”.

Now, you are undoubtedly correct that China & Russia have their problems too. But they don’t have to be good – they merely have to be better than us. With the quality of “leadership” we have in the Swamp, that is not a high hurdle. Caution is in order!


No, I am not confident that the DC Swamp—who heavily populate Biden’s administration—would necessarily respond in kind to a nuclear attack either tactical on the ground there or strategic here. I mean for crying out loud they are attempting to help Ukraine only via Twitter right now. I don’t think these people are truly mentally prepared for what they are advocating. And I frankly don’t think they have that kind of love of country to go that last full measure.


We have always known that a potential for Nuclear Armageddon has existed. It is known that we, Russia, China, England,France, India, and NorKo have them. Israel also has them but denies it. It is suspected that Pakistan also has them. Iran is working hard and probably will shortly get them too. I would be somewhat surprised to know that Ukraine and Georgia gave up all their nukes in exchange for a guarrantee of protection from a notoriously fickle “ally” like the US. You have to go back no farther than Vietnam to see that.

You speak as if the Swamp actually has a viable, thought-out, foreign policy. I seriously doubt it. Like ALL communist organizations, the Dens have no interest in issues outside our borders. Their ONLY interest is securing their OWN power with our nation. Rest of the world be damned. This has always been true of communist movements, and the “progressives” have shown themselves - finally - as communists.

So I keep reading your comments as those of an intelligent person - trying to argue with a wolf. Wolves don’t process thoughts and concepts as you do. They think food, safety, sex, probably in that order. So your calls for caution, thought, rational procedure are really aimed at us, here on this forum, and we - here on this forum - are bridled by adel-pated idiots with no other sense than personal power.


One of the problems in dealing with low-probability, high impact events is that most of those in the decision making chains affecting them do not know how to think about probability and statistics.

Nuclear weapons have existed for 77 years (2022−1945). During that time, they have been used once in war. Hence, the yearly incidence of nuclear war during the period when it was possible is 1/77=0.013=1.3\% per year. If we round that down to 1% per year, that seems not unreasonable given the number of players involved and the variety of scenarios which might result in the use of a nuclear weapon in a conflict. But if that number is correct, then the probability of at least one nuclear war occurring in a century is 0.632, or 63.2%. Does that seem probable or acceptable?

(The computation of probability in a period from annualised probability is purely mathematical:

P(t)=1-e^{-\lambda t}

where P(t) is the probability over t time periods and \lambda is the probability of a single occurrence in one time period.)

If the probability of a nuclear war occurring in a given year is one in a thousand, then the probability of a nuclear was in the next century is 9.5%. Is that acceptable?

Many possible scenarios, decision trees, and probabilities are discussed in the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute paper “A Model For The Probability Of Nuclear War” [PDF].


The usefulness of a blue water navy is highly disputed these days. “Steaming” to the South China Sea to parade the aircraft carrier group and accompanying fleet is simply not a thing anymore, given cheap AI guided missiles that China has been developing (Heritage event from 2018) Over the years, Steve Hsu has provided a lot of credible analysis in this space (link).

Satellite observation today - including LEO SAR (example) - leaves no place to hide for a carrier group. Hence the cost benefit of a blue water navy investment has shifted in the 2020s. Antisatellite weapons are very coarse and carry a huge penalty to use.

Prior to the war in Ukraine, it was generally thought that both Russia and China have made significant progress with hypersonic missile technology. It’s not clear whether Russia apparently bogging down the invasion reflects poor operational capabilities in practical settings, a strategic decision, or just another typical failure in a command economy.


In addition, there is the real world issue that the impact of a probabilistic outcome is the product of that probability and the cost of that outcome. A good example is “Bill Gates Watches Russian Roulette”.

What is one of the richest men in the world to do when he gets bored? Why not watch people playing Russian Roulette? So Bill sets up a game. It costs nothing to enter the game. The player enters the room; assesses the pile of money Bill has laid on the table; picks up the revolver, spins the barrel. points it at his forehead, and pulls the trigger; lays down the gun, picks up the money and leaves.

The question is – How much money does Bill have to put on the table to make it worthwhile for YOU to play the game?

Probabilistically, we have 5 chances out of 6 winning the money, and 1 chance out of 6 of losing no money. The Expectation Value is always positive. Therefore, we should play the game no matter how small the stack of money on the table may be.

Obviously, that is the wrong conclusion – because one of the outcomes is that we end up dead. That outcome is not acceptable, and therefore we refuse to play the game regardless of how large the stack of money on the table may be.

I suspect Our Betters have not realized that in risking nuclear war over the corrupt country of the Ukraine, they are engaging in a form of “Bill Gates Watches Russian Roulette”.


It seems like we now know billg’s proclivities align with people like Epstein rather than clever probability experiments.

Still have trouble understsanding his persistent interest in mass vaccination campaigns. Or the widespread reverence mainstream media held his quasi medical pronouncements throughout the last two years.

So perhaps the lesson here is when you have a ton of money you can self style as an expert in whatever topic picks your interest.


Thank you for sharing the link to the paper. The manuscript is a bit choppy.

As George Box famously quipped “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. The recent COVID-19 unpleasantness confirmed what we sort of knew but did not internalize about 20 years ago when the foot and mouth disease scare hit the UK economy. Models are almost always useless when it comes to practical life prediction.

A couple of observations or questions - what would have to be true for the US and Russian Federation nuclear arsenals to remain operational 31 years after the end of the cold war? On a technical note, other research areas generally accept that rare event probability modeling is not well served by using Poisson processes? Given the sample data - 2 correlated nuclear bomb war use events in 77 years - should a different approach be used (say extreme value analysis)?

Since the start of the Ukraine war, I’ve repeatedly seen the assertion that Russian (some instances claim Soviet) military doctrine does not preclude tactical use of nuclear weapons in theater. Have half-heartedly tried to get to the bottom of this but could not surface anything convincing either way. Sorting this out would go a long way towards updating our priors of possible nuclear outcomes for the current conflict.

Lastly, the current virtue signaling response leading the cancellation of Russia and its population creates another amorphous force in play in the dynamic of the conflict, which could possibly drive its outcome to nuclear escalation.

Cold war actors excluded “open source network swarms” (using John Robb’s terminology) so we are left in unknown territory regarding the range of possible outcomes. In the current situation, one of the forces involved is diffuse and lacks detectable leadership structure and acts in a maximalist “doubling down” manner. If we are at the mercy of emergent behaviors at regional scale, the outcome could very easily be chaotic.


I would disagree that we are in unknown territory regarding the range of possible outcomes. Russian statements about the seriousness of their responses to outside intervention in the Ukraine could hardly be clearer, backed up by ostentatiously putting their nuclear forces on high alert. Nuclear war is definitely in the range of possible outcomes.

Now, that does not tell us about the probability of a nuclear war outcome. But that probability depends on the action of all the independent actors – including those without detectable leadership! Nor does it tell us about the probability that – once fired – those nuclear weapons will work as intended, or even work at all. The half-life of Tritium is considerably shorter than the time those warheads have been sitting on the shelf – but it would be foolish for “Our Guys” to proceed with aggressive actions on the assumption that former Soviet nuclear weapons will not work.

What is so frustrating is that there is an obvious potential for a negotiated settlement – a happy prosperous neutral Ukraine (and neutral Donbass) with security guaranteed by a large contingent of Chinese peacekeepers. Why “Our Guys” keep cranking up the war talk instead of seeking to calm the situation down is not obvious. Some have speculated that “Our Guys” know their economic foolishness is coming home to roost, and want a foreign war on which they can dishonestly pin the blame. Will they be smart enough to keep that war foreign? Time will tell.

No, we know they have them. The US Intel Community knows that there is an Islamic Bomb.

Good point - I should have been more careful. What I tried to get at is the range of options now includes things that were never previously considered in this context. Such as escalation to tactical/strategic nuclear use driven by a difuse antagonist without a clear control/leadership structure in place. To my knowledge, this possibility had never been considered in the past.

If you accept that current events support this chain of events, what else could come out of the proverbial “left field”? I don’t think we have a good idea of the range of possibilities. Here is one crazy idea that’s been bothering me for a few days - what if the “network swarm” social media antagonist is taken over (at least temporarily) by a trolling faction that pushes some sort of physical branding to its supporters?

We saw this happen in the past, with e.g. “Je suis Charlie”, arguably Russia is doing something similar with the “Z” mark on it vehicles? Vaccination certificates were another form of recent signalling with a physical support. So, could the virtous demand their followers to prove out their loyalty to the cause by some minor vandalism act that at scale would have further escalation implications? I can’t rule this out tbh and it makes me very nervous to think about it.

The “network swarm” is chaotic and it’s possible its actions lead to emergent behaviors that can be stable equilibrium points very different from the realm of current day-to-day experience. John Robb makes the analogy between social media and the invention of the printing press which indirectly facilitated the 30-year war. This image in the wikipedia entry piqued my attention because it hints at a possible outcome in the future - what you think and how you say it could be life or death.


Elon Musk has been getting a lot of heat for tweeting this on 2022-03-14:


I think, like many new ideas the discarding of old concept for allegedly new tech is often proven poorly thought out. One can only look as far as the F-4, designed as an “interceptor” - since missiles made dog fighting, or ACM, no longer viable, to see that one has to take some of the proposals with a grain of salt.

Carriers are vulnerable, BUT they have been vulnerable since WWII, when locating them was considerably more difficult. Think Midway. Yes, they had to kind of feel their way to each other, but once found the battle raged - to our advantage.

Today’s carriers are a mobile force multiplier. With the range of aircraft they can carry, launch, and recover and rearm, they are a force to be reckoned with. Then there’s the other use of carriers - production of various types of support to remote areas accessible by sea but not otherwise.

Perhaps doctrine has to be changed to better use and protect the assets, but I wouldn’t write them off so quickly.


This is an image of U.S. aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln taken on 2019-12-04 by a Planet Labs CubeSat Earth observation satellite above the Strait of Hormuz, as reported in The Drive. The USS Farragut destroyer is seen leading the carrier and cruiser USS Leyte Gulf is bringing up the rear. Multiple Iranian boats are following the carrier in the red highlighted area.

Planet Labs is providing commercial, open-source imagery with this resolution to all customers with revisit times of once a day or better, from satellites in what amount to random orbits, launched as ride-shares on other missions. Planet Labs currently operates more than 200 satellites, and taking them out would create a catastrophic debris problem in low Earth orbit.

Given the knowledge where a carrier was within the last 24 hours, a radar homing missile could easily attack it, and the U.S. has no defence against a hypersonic maneuvering warhead on such a missile. Now consider the cost differential between a carrier (2018 dollar cost estimate for the Gerald R. Ford is US$ 13 billion) and a missile which could take it out (tens of millions at most) and the question is whether the carriers are economically viable in an open conflict where the advantage to an enemy of denying them would be compelling.


Warfare has long been a back & forth between attack and defense. Aircraft carriers were able to drive the battleship off the oceans since their aircraft could attack a battleship while the carrier remained far out of range of the battleship’s guns. Today, an aircraft carrier remains a useful force against a less well-endowed foe.

However, let’s not forget the example of the USS Cole, a state-of-the-art warship seriously damaged and taken out of action in Yemen in 2000 by some suicide bombers in a rubber dinghy. In Mr. Walker’s photo – what if the 13 Iranian speedboats had simultaneously done a mass suicide run at the carrier from all points of the compass? It could be done now with Tesla self-driving technology, and would not even need unreliable suicide bombers. This would be even cheaper than a ship-killer missile.

Warfare has changed continuously throughout history. I remain concerned that the West is making (has made) a giant mistake in focusing on advanced ships, planes, and tanks while outsourcing so much of its former manufacturing capacity to China. Who needs to sink a ship when all one needs to do is not sell spare parts to the enemy?