Predicting the Outcome of the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine



An A-10 Warthog in flight

The What-If

If Russia pushes further into Eastern Europe, particularly if they encounter American troops in Poland or Romania, there are essentially three possible occurrences. 

Prediction 1: Anything Goes

The first scenario involves weapons of mass destruction. Both nations have access to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons which could mean the end of civilization. 

If either nation fired a nuclear-tipped ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile), the other side would fire all of their ICBMs as well. The missiles would target enemy missiles, airfields, military bases, and population centers. In the event that one side fires a missile (either in desperation or preemptively), the other side would fire off all of their missiles because they would never have a chance to use them. Neither nation wants to be the only one without nuclear capability. 

The nuclear fallout from hundreds of nuclear weapons going off at once would make the majority of the planet unlivable for several decades at least. During the Cold War (1945-1991), a doctrine called M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction) prevented this sort of all-out nuclear exchange. 

Let’s assume that neither side uses its weapons of mass destruction. This leaves two possible scenarios, depending on how committed the Russians are to taking over Europe.

Prediction 2: “Kid Gloves”

If Russia is unwilling to commit more forces to their invasion than they already have, the United States and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Alliance) will have a slight advantage. The U.S., Canada, and several European nations compose NATO, a defensive alliance founded in 1949 to prevent Soviet expansion.

Counting reservists, the Russian military is nearly 3 million strong, compared to around 2 million in the U.S. military. However, Russian cannot commit all these troops to the theater of war. They must maintain forces in other parts of the nation, particularly in the far east, near the Middle East. It would be much easier to stop 200,000 Russians than all of them. 

To counter this invasion, the U.S. military would likely begin to rapidly deploy forces to the theater, especially armored brigades (around 5,000 troops, commanded by a Colonel). The nearest active duty armored units are in Georgia and Texas. While the logistical burden of moving multiple armored brigades to Europe is considerable, several prepositioned war stocks are nearby. Ports and air bases will facilitate moving these forces as well. 

The reason for this is that the U.S. military has been preparing for this exact fight for over 50 years. Since 1968, the U.S. has regularly conducted an exercise known as Reforger (now called Defender Europe) to prepare to rapidly move a large force to Europe to hold off a Russian, previously Soviet, invasion. The U.S. military has designed four weapon systems (A-10 Warthog, AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, M1 Abrams tank, and M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle) specifically to counter a Russian invasion of Eastern Europe. 

While the US military can’t commit everything, most European armies are well-equipped and trained, and could help even the odds. The US also has forces, such as the 10th Special Forces Group, which are intended to parachute behind enemy lines, train a local militia, and lead them against the Russians.

Broadly speaking, Russian troops have proven to be poorly motivated and low-performing, especially conscripts and reservists. In this scenario, both nations’ would activate their National Guardsmen and Reservists.

Prediction 3: All Hands on Deck

The last option is much less optimistic. If Russia commits more forces to theater or begins to conscript new troops, NATO will have a much bigger problem. 

The U.S. military could only commit about 6 divisions (15k-20k troops each, organized into several brigades, commanded by Major General) on the high end. This may not be enough, especially if those are mostly light or Stryker divisions (which are not intended to take on a large armored force such as the Russian Army). 

In order to be able to defend against this doomsday invasion, and maintain our other commitments, the U.S. military may have to begin drafting new members. The draft has typically been unpopular.  The Army Reserve has several training divisions which are composed of drill sergeants and instructors in the event that the Army needs to rapidly expand. 

We would probably see a significant shift in training doctrine. Initial entry training today is focused on training individuals to fill open slots. However, they would have to train entire divisions like in World War Two. The peak size of the U.S. military in WWII was 90 Army divisions and six Marine divisions. Today, there are 19 in the Army and four in the Marines. 

National Guard training camps could prepare these divisions, rather than relying solely on bases that already offer basic training. This change in training doctrine would mark an interesting challenge as the military made new units from scratch with little experience. 

The U.S. may also shorten or condense training to allow new soldiers to become combat-ready sooner. In 2019, the U.S. Army began to increase the training time of 6 combat MOSs (military occupational specialties) to 22 weeks, 6-8 weeks more than those jobs previously required. An adjustment to the prior training program could be beneficial. 

The training times for these MOSs would likely be reduced back to their old length, and several others would likely see cuts as well. This war would be a race against time and a deadlier conflict than we could ever imagine.

In Conclusion?

Only time will tell how this conflict will play out. There is always the possibility that Russia will not break out of Ukraine. This could happen if the Ukrainian forces manage to force the Russians out of their nation conventionally or convince the Russians that their land isn’t worth the price of a decade long insurgency.