What’s next? Supo foresees alternative scenarios on the effects of the Russian war of aggression

Supo analysts have formulated four possible scenarios on how the course of the war will affect Europe and Russia in the short term. Internal developments in Russia have a significant impact on Finland’s national security.

Mälkiä canal and a bridge.

The Russian war of aggression has significantly affected the security policy situation in Europe. We do not know all the consequences as the war in Ukraine may progress along highly diverging lines, even in the short term. 

As an intelligence service, Supo seeks to anticipate any developments that will affect Finland’s national security. This predictive analysis supports the decisions of Finnish policymakers and specialists in foreign and security policy. 

Supo analysts have formulated four potential scenarios related to the impacts of the Russian invasion on the internal development of Russia over the next two years. None of these scenarios is likely to materialise precisely, as reality is always more complex than any projection. Foresight is therefore not a matter of foretelling, but of examining a variety of potential futures.

The purpose of the scenarios set out in this article is to help envision various futures. The four scenarios have been prepared by applying the methods of futures studies, and their joint purpose is to cover the broadest possible range of varying development trajectories. Some of these trajectories are less likely than others. The following scenarios are not listed in any order of assumed likelihood.

Shocks or otherwise surprising events

Besides these scenarios proper, we must also consider the possibility of significant unexpected events. These surprising but highly influential developments may also be characterised as shocks. They include an entirely novel global crisis, such as a new pandemic or a terrorist attack that sparks a new conflict, which may divert international attention and resources, reducing the desire to support the Ukrainian defensive struggle.

Prolongation of the war

In the first scenario, the war in Ukraine continues into 2025 with neither Russia nor Ukraine achieving a military solution. The fighting has settled into a war of attrition in which both sides are still suffering significant losses. 

The Russian administration has retained its stability, even though ongoing losses in Ukraine and the sustainability of the economy give the national leadership growing cause for concern about continued public support.

Russia lacks high-performance troops and weapon systems. It has been unwilling to take risks, such as those of a full military mobilisation. On the other hand, Ukraine has sustained a dogged defensive struggle. 

The West has continued to support Ukraine, but this support has not been sufficient to resolve the war in Ukraine’s favour. As 2025 arrives, it is even more uncertain how support from the West will continue.

There are no realistic prospects of a peace agreement at this time.

Ukraine prevails

Supported by a united West, Ukraine has expelled Russian forces from its territories by 2025. The Ukrainian military success is due not only to its own fighting spirit and military prowess, but also to even stronger support from the West.

The failure of Russia, on the other hand, is explained by its inability to increase investment in military measures in Ukraine. The Russian leadership is unwilling to take the risks involved in such measures as a full-scale military mobilisation. There is growing discontent in Russia due to the losses experienced in Ukraine, a crisis in the financial market and a decline in living standards.

Russia’s worsening losses increase its desire to escalate the situation even further.

The Russian withdrawal from Ukraine causes difficulties for the Putin administration, leading to a shift of power, though not to a revolution. A new national leader emerges from within the power apparatus.

Russia occupies Ukraine

In this scenario, Russia occupies nearly the whole of Ukraine by 2025. A fragmented West has been unable to provide enough support to Ukraine. The energy crisis and inflation are among the factors that erode the desire to support Ukraine in the West.

Russia’s continued systematic destruction of civilian targets and the heavy losses suffered by Ukraine ultimately have a decisive impact on national morale. The Ukrainian defence falters, and Russia is able to occupy most of the country. A Ukrainian resistance movement continues to fight the occupying forces throughout the country. More Ukrainians flee the occupying regime, arriving in other European countries.

The military success and achievement of the political goals of the invasion have boosted public support for the Russian administration and for its foreign policy. The Russian economy has nevertheless been suffering due to a state of emergency. The standard of living in Russia has continued to deteriorate, and there are even signs of a humanitarian crisis in the poorest regions.

The central government of the Russian Federation systematically monitors the mood of the people, taking a heavy-handed approach to repressing expressions of opinion.

Russia redeploys armed forces to its borders with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, with an increased risk of war between NATO and Russia. The occupation of Ukraine is a painful defeat for the West. Relations between Russia and the West have collapsed, with some countries breaking off all diplomatic relations with Russia.

An uncertain peace

The hostilities end in a ceasefire agreement before 2025 that leaves Ukraine divided according to the location of military front lines at the time. The agreement emerges from the losses experienced by both sides, the impression that no military solution is likely, and the influence of external actors on both sides of the conflict.

Western military support for Ukraine has begun to erode. The unity of European countries is breaking and a sense of war fatigue afflicts the people. On the other hand, the Russian leadership has concluded that continuing a fruitless conflict could pose an existential threat to its own regime.

Ukraine cedes its eastern and southern regions to Russia. This solution is seen as a great tragedy, but the price of continuing the war is considered too onerous.

The credibility of Putin’s continued leadership has been undermined, and he is sidelined from power soon after 2024.