Our (mostly failed) predictions about this war

The Russo-Ukrainian war lasts for over three months. It has been not only a disaster for Ukrainian people, but also a failed test for many famous Ukraine and Russia experts and for progressive activists and thinkers. Here I make a note for myself regarding the failed and successful predictions. It is important to find time in the nearest future and review the assumptions on which these failed and correct predictions were based to make future mistakes less likely as the costs of such mistakes rise considerably.

  1. The most famous prediction 'Russia will not go for a full scale war' failed spectacularly. It is wrong to conclude that it failed because Russian elites turned out to be irrational. Most probably the failure was due to several very widespread cognitive distortions: conservatism bias, confirmation bias (the more established a scholar/pundit you are, the more likely), affinity bias (especially in politically engaged milieu). It was not the Russian elite that was irrational, it was the arrogant and lazy scholarly thought. The left-wingers also failed due to economism, campism, and conspiratorial thinking. However, the analysis of this mistake does not mean dispensing with the theories associated with them and embracing obviously flawed 'theories' which predicted that Russian invasion would happened just because Russia has always been aggressive.
  2. Russia would occupy only a limited number of regions in Ukraine. Failed for largely the same reasons, especially conservatism bias. People ignored all that happened in 2021.
  3. Russians would not support the war. Failed due to flawed interpretations of the polls and underestimation of the pre-war anti-Ukrainian propaganda. Confirmation bias and wishful thinking.
  4. Kyiv would collapse in 3-5 days (this was also my mistake). Failed due to the flawed understanding of the balance of military forces and a superficial interpretation of the sentiments of Ukrainian people (the famous pro-Russian/pro-Western split).
  5. There will be insurgency in the newly occupied territories of Ukraine. Inconclusive. There is no significant insurgency in the newly occupied territories in the south of Ukraine; however, not much more is occupied yet.
  6. EU/NATO will be split in their policy against Russia. Failed (at least as of now).
  7. EU will be split regarding Ukrainian migrants, most countries will impose strict anti-migration measures (this was also my mistake). Failed. This prediction was partially based on the previous one, partially on the past practice (conservatism bias).
  8. Russia will declare full mobilization. Failed (as of now) due to the lack of clear understanding of the Russian military capabilities and planning.
  9. Belarus will send its army to Ukraine (failed, also my mistake). Lukashenka admitted to sending special forces to Ukraine, but managed to avoid full engagement. Possibly, he still has considerable control over his military and administrative elites who have not been lured to the Russian side; he may also have learnt from previous mistakes and takes into account popular sentiments. It is not excluded it will change soon as many indicators suggest (military preparations, propaganda fully aligned with Russia).
  10. Split in Russian elite circles, rebellion of oligarchs, coup. Failed due to underestimation of the Kremlin's control over the administrative and business elites.

What predictions circulate for the next three months or so?

  1. Ukraine will launch a successful counter-offensive and retake all or most of the newly occupied lands. Unlikely, although some limited success may be possible. Most likely Russia will fulfill its plan-minimum of getting the whole of Donbass and consolidate its control over the south of Ukraine, possibly moving further west and reaching Transnistria. Possible involvement of Transnistria and war in Moldova. This is premised on underestimation of Ukraine's losses.
  2. Russia will use tactical nuclear weapons. Most likely no because there will be no need. Although they will use the threat of it as a means of deterring western supply of weapons.
  3. EU will split over the strategy of containing Russia. Possible.
  4. Russia will face serious economic and political challenges towards the end of summer. Likely, although this may be balanced by possible military successes.
  5. There will be a negotiated ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia. It becomes likely if 1) fails and Russia achieves its plan minimum. Then Russia will be interested in a pause in fighting to consolidate its control over the newly conquered territories and rebuild its army. Additionally, Russia would be interested in internal political destabilization of Ukraine even under milder conditions of ceasefire. Kyiv will be interested due to the exhaustion of its supplies and the need for additional mobilization. This would also weaken the western support for Ukraine. If it happens, such ceasefire would be short lived and ensue in a fresh Russian assault.
  6. Coup, Putin dies etc. No grounds for this, although some turbulence this fall is possible.