The ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war

The ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war

In this edition of the Horizons, we pay attention to the course of the war in Ukraine. We indicate how the conflict arose and how it is escalating. In addition, we discuss what is needed to end the war.

Climbing the escalation ladder

The blowing up of the Kerch bridge to Crimea and Russia’s subsequent response by destroying civilian infrastructure are the latest steps in the continuing spiral of escalation in the Ukrainian war. From the Russian perspective, the conflict should be traced back to NATO’s eastward expansion over the past 30 years, which Russia has experienced as a security threat. It poses an example of the “security dilemma”, a concept that describes how the actions that one state takes to make itself more secure, tend to make other states less secure and force them to react, resulting in a spiral of hostility. If a security threshold has been exceeded, a state can respond in two ways. With horizontal escalation, adversaries do not escalate in a like-for-like manner. For instance, when Russia annexed Crimea, Western countries imposed economic sanctions. With vertical escalation, reciprocal measures intensify and accumulate, leading to a ladder of escalation. This is happening in the Russian-Ukrainian war. As long as parties keep climbing the escalation ladder, there is no room for diplomacy, complicating a resolution to the conflict.

Broaden Your Horizons

  • According to members of Russian establishment, the military conflict will only escalate in the coming months. Yet none can predict what will happen if Russia loses.
  • In this article, the Atlantic Council assembled a list of possible policy responses the West should consider in response to escalation of the war by Russia.
  • The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies published a paper on How wars end. They consider what we can learn from war terminations in the past and what this implies for the Russia-Ukraine war.

Little prospect of ending the war

According to the theory of war termination, three factors impact the ability of adversaries to resolve a conflict. The current state of these factors in the Russian-Ukrainian war makes it very unlikely that the war will end soon. First, there is information asymmetry: when Russia invaded Ukraine, the Kremlin was convinced they could win the war within days and the West would not intervene. They misjudged the situation however, and are now locked in a conflict that both parties believe they can win. As long as there is asymmetry of information about who is stronger, combat will continue. The second factor is the promise of victory to their countries by the leaders. Both Zelensky and Putin have raised the expectation of total victory within national politics and cannot back down on that without loss of face and power. The third factor is mutual distrust: if adversaries do not trust each other, negotiating a peace deal will be impossible. In the Ukraine war, mistrust is high. To end the war, all three factors must be met. It seems peace is still far away.

Horizons is a bi-monthly Dasym Research initiative to show you how the Dasym themes have been in the news. We publish the Horizons on our website and as an email newsletter. If you wish to receive the email, sign up here.

Do you have questions about the digitalization of customer’s daily lives? As a research-driven investment company, we want to be relevant to you, so please provide us with you questions and remarks. Your feedback will help us to drive our research agenda.