If Russia withdraws from Ukraine, what then?

I’ve been contemplating what might be the most favourable exit scenario for Putin.

Imagine this. Russia announces, today, that it will be withdrawing its military from the majority of Ukraine, and will hold onto only the territory that it was already holding in early February, 2022. The actual withdrawal would take a few days, but the intention is laid out.

Russia will stop all shelling of Ukrainian cities, they will allow free movement of Ukrainian civilians and military personnel, they will not interfere in Ukraine’s future (in terms of both abiding by Zelenskyy’s presidency, and allowing Ukraine to join EU/NATO/whatever they want).

However, Russia accepts no fault or blame – they maintain that their invasion was just a ‘special military operation’ which was well-intentioned and justified. Russia also refuses to fund the rebuilding of Ukraine, or pay reparations to victims and their families. Their position is that they are choosing to leave Ukraine because they are the good guys, and they will never again aggress into Ukraine.

How does the rest of the world (particularly Europe) respond? Would they continue to pile on sanctions, or would the sanctions slowly be eased over the next year or two? Would there be a change in nuclear armaments in countries like Ukraine, Poland, Turkey, Finland? Would things go back to the ‘normal’ of pre-2022, or would Russia remain in the doghouse for years or decades to come?

This scenarios is so seemingly unlikely at this point that it is difficult to even speculate. If this were to happen it would be to the overall benefit to normalize relations with Russia if for no other reason that to minimize the long term impact upon access to Russian resources; only only the oil and natural gas that Europe loves but corn and wheat (Russia is a major exporter, especially to the aid organizations), phosphate fertilizers, titanium, uranium, and a number of other resources. And of course, if the Russian economy is in a death spiral, the likelihood that Putin or a hypothetical successor might resort to some desperate act is greater. At any rate, many nations (aside from China, of course, who wants to part in trying to restrain Russia if they can profit from the rest of the world imposing restrictions) are already undermining sanctions because of that sweet, sweet oil, so the idea that the developed nations would maintain onerous sanctions to their own cost is unlikely.

Long term, win or lose, Russia is going to be coping with the fact that the world knows that it is far weaker militarily than even most pessimistic analysts believed. Russia may actually isolate itself as much as possible as a defensive measure, although given how broad its borders are and the fact that it has no real patrons makes that a difficult proposition.


If Putin were to make such an announcement, I would assume that he was about to ramp up the attack in some way. Yesterday, he announced that he was pulling back from Kyiv. I told my wife at the time, that it wouldn’t surprise me if if was preliminary to amp up the attack. Apparently I was right. When Putin says something, you have to ask what he has behind the statement and how people’s reactions might help him out.

I agree with this. If Russia were to pull out the focus might be on Russia to aid with reconstruction and potentially pull out of Crimea. So the sanctions wouldn’t stop immediately, but they would ease down, perhaps to the level before the invasion.
Putin’s position would be in jeopardy though.

I don’t quite follow this sentence. How is China profiting?

“Look, if you travel as long as I have and as much as I have, and you meet many different people and spend time with them in countries that we’re supposed to hate and who are supposed to hate us, when you see how similar - and different, but mostly similar - people are, particularly when sitting around a table. It makes it very, very hard - when you see how the economies of the world are completely interdependent and interlocked, and the flow of money back and forth - it’s hard to come back and not be horrified by the willful, I mean willful ignorance of the kind of conversation we’re having now, often by people who know better. You know, Trump has - so many of his interests rest abroad and are completely dependent on other countries. It’s ludicrous for him to one one hand take this very xenophobic, protectionist point of view, that would make it impossible for his businesses to continue.”

  • Anthony Bourdain
    Interview with Peter Armstrong, CBC.

I’m not sure if this should be in a new thread or not but, do the Russian PTB really think that this well end well for Russia over the long term?

Even if this magically wrapped up next week with Russia withdrawing and ceding all of Ukraine back to Ukraine, they (Russia) will probably be feared and despised for decades after this. Are they, alternatively, expecting some huge amount of respect from the rest of the world as a result?

The problem with piling on sanctions, or not easing up on them, is that it teaches Russia that its withdrawal did no good and it would have been better off continuing to occupy Ukraine rather than withdraw. That will, in turn, teach future aggressors not to cave in.