Why I am not writing a 2022 scenario for Ukrainian Crisis

Putins einmarsch 2022

[Edited 24 February 2022 –

Obviously, I was wrong.

See: Ukrainian Crisis: tableflip]

For the last few weeks if not months there has been a steadily frantic series of articles and other pieces in the Western media about an imminent and huge invasion of Ukraine by Russia, by a massing of up to 175,000 troops on the border (cf. New York Times). The above cartoonish map from the German magazine BILD shows you how it would all roll out.

I have read only a few half-intelligent or at least measured pieces on the subject so far; here are two that I would bother to bring to anyone’s attention.

The first is


The first is from War on the Rocks, and while it does not dismiss the chance of an overt Russian invasion outright it does take a semi-realistic look at the ability of the Russian forces to launch and sustain such an operation (also, vs. Poland or the Baltics). Short answer is, yes if they wanted, but not far and not for long.

(The piece also invokes that Baltic war game that RAND ran five years ago that had Russia seizing all three Baltic states within three days. I’m very reticent about generalizing the findings of that RAND wargame, even if it did have a hex map and counters. Some of its questionable assumptions and omissions are summarized here):  http://talk.consimworld.com/WebX?233@@.1ddb6d55/161!enclosure=.1ddbe25c

The second is


The Valdai Discussion Club is, as fairly as one can put it, a Russian think tank that sometimes stands in for an endorsement or occasionally testing out of Russian government thinking and policy on foreign affairs and world events. It’s easy to dismiss its outputs as Putin propaganda or even sinister maskirovka but the linked article lists some pretty basic and logical points and consequences for why Russia would not and should not invade Ukraine.

That War on the Rocks article is the only Western media thing I’ve seen that actually stopped to crunch the numbers. All the rest of this is drum-beating, ritual dances for whatever tribe of analysts/ journalists the writer belongs to, and stupid little arrows on a cartoon map. At this point it seems to serve both sides much better to put on the best show they can in the event that something might happen, than it is for anything to actually happen.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I do not intend to write any kind of update or scenario for 2022 for Ukrainian Crisis. The game was best fitted to cover the first six months of the 2014 crisis until the First Minsk Agreement. And while its mechanisms are quite flexible and adaptable to other conflicts, it’s not worth the effort to try and update so many of its component parts for this go-round… and anyway, as the game not so quietly points out, a large overt military invasion is a signal that you have already lost the sub-games in its other two dimensions (even more so if the invasion is launched in response to a large-scale deliberate Ukrainian offensive on the LPR and DPR).

Perhaps I am wrong about this. If some nation genuinely wants a border war, it can at least start one but I doubt it will prove much more than most other border wars ever have. In the meantime, you can go back to 2014 and see what you could have done back then: Free Games!

[ETA: Another article along the same lines – not enough trucks – by David Axe (War is Boring) appeared in Forbes magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidaxe/2022/01/13/the-russian-army-doesnt-have-enough-trucks-to-defeat-ukraine-fast ]

About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

4 Responses to Why I am not writing a 2022 scenario for Ukrainian Crisis

  1. timdensham says:

    The War on the Rocks article is excellent. The other piece I would emphasize is just how thickly wooded the Baltics eastern border is. A platoon of engineers with chainsaws making abatis across the handful of existing east-west roads could make add 24 hours to any Russian push without firing a shot.

    • brtrain says:

      Rex Brynen held a series of miniatures games in 2020 with a group of us (over Zoom, with players from the West Coast to the UK!) on a Russian attempt on Estonia. I did my best as a Russian commander but it was hard to keep up the impetus.

  2. Pingback: Ukrainian Crisis: tableflip | brtrain

  3. Pingback: Computerspiele, der militärische-industrielle Komplex und fehlende Kommunikation (Fragment) – ÜBER/STROM

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