In an interview with the British TV station Sky News on November 19, Deputy Defense Minister General Volodymyr Havrilov expressed optimism that his country’s forces would reach Crimea by the end of next December, and the possibility of ending the war inside Ukraine by the first half of next year. However, he also admitted that the war could drag on for some time from a military point of view, in light of the Ukrainian army’s need for a longer time to raise its efficiency on the one hand, and Russian military supplies and sending new forces to the battle fronts on the other hand, but the statements generally reflect the leader’s optimism. Ukrainian that the recovery of more areas by his forces is a “matter of time”, with the “black swan” scenario being raised in Russia, whose effects are reflected in the military operation in a way that may enable Kyiv to accelerate the process of restoring lands, which raised questions about what is meant by the “black swan” scenario. What was put forward by the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense, its potential occurrence, and its effects on the course of the war.
The “black swan” theory goes back to a Western assumption that all swans were white, before black swans were discovered in Australia. This assumption was transferred to political and strategic analyzes to refer to unexpected events or changes that significantly affect the course of events. Although the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense did not specify in detail what he meant by the “black swan” scenario inside Russia, and the indications that led him to think about the possibility of this happening, this scenario can be dealt with as follows:
1- A Ukrainian predicted the possibility of unexpected political developments: The statement of the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense, in which he referred to the “black swan” scenario, involves a Ukrainian speculation about the possibility of unexpected political developments that may affect the Kremlin, such as the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin from the political scene in any way, or losing control of the forces. located in Ukraine. This scenario, in the mind of the Ukrainian leader, is most likely linked to the end of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rule, given the feeling of disappointment in Russia with the course of the war. This gives Ukraine the opportunity to continue its victories and achieve more progress.
2- Ukraine’s refusal to facilitate a negotiated withdrawal for Putin: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky refuses to present the option of withdrawal and negotiation at the present time. Where Kyiv puts five conditions that make Putin’s agreement to negotiate excluded, or its acceptance affects Putin’s standing in Russia and raises the possibility of losing control of matters or overthrowing him as Kyiv desires as difficult or “humiliating” conditions as described by some reports, namely: restoring territorial integrity, Respect for the Charter of the United Nations, compensation for all damages caused by war, punishment of every war criminal, and guarantee that war will not be repeated.
The Ukrainian president also ruled out the idea of approving a “short truce,” considering that this would relieve its forces and give them time to efficiently restore the offensive force. This Ukrainian position indicates Kyiv’s attempt to intensify pressure on the Russian leadership, and that the progress achieved by the Ukrainian forces prompts Kyiv to invest in this and export more pressure on the Russian regime. According to Kyiv’s perspective, the refusal to facilitate a negotiated withdrawal gives it the opportunity to continue its victories in a way that may affect the stability of the Russian regime, or the Russian leadership’s resort to accepting concessions that also affect its position.
3- The succession of Russian military withdrawals: The path of the Russian war in Ukraine is witnessing several successive failures, through the withdrawal of Russian forces from the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the failure to control it, then the withdrawal from Kharkiv, and finally from Kherson. These three military setbacks, less than 9 months after the start of the war, represent a bad sign of the Russian army’s failure and retreat on the ground. Reports indicate that Russia has lost 100,000 victims, and about 50% of the lands it previously controlled; This raises doubts about the effectiveness of the military leadership and the feasibility of the war, as well as the feasibility of the victories that Russia previously achieved and then retracted. These withdrawals prompted Russian elites to consider that Moscow could not make more concessions than that. This makes Kyiv press in the direction of forcing Moscow to more military withdrawals, as an attempt to exacerbate discontent and anger at the Kremlin’s management of the war.
4- The threat of war is the status of “Putin” among the Russians: Russian President Vladimir Putin is widely regarded as the country’s leader, and a “symbol” of the strength of Russia’s rise after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin was keen to link his image in the imagination of the public, and even politicians, to the image of a strong intelligence and military man capable of bringing his country back to the ranks of parity and polarity with the West, and restoring Russia’s international standing. Military objectives, and the length of the war than what was planned as a military operation; He threatens to shake Putin’s image among the Russians, and that the war will disillusion the Russians with the strength and ability of their leader to manage matters. This threatens the stability of the Russian regime, and harms the years of the process of building the symbolism and political image of Putin in Russia, in a way that may threaten his standing among ordinary Russians, as they no longer see him as the leader who restores Moscow’s glories.
5- The overthrow of a number of senior leaders of the Russian army: The Ukrainian war removed a number of senior leaders of the Russian army; At least 8 commanders have been dismissed, reappointed or sidelined, and at least 10 other Russian generals have been killed in action. And after General Aleksandr Dvornikov was appointed, last April, as commander-in-chief of military operations in Ukraine, he was removed from his post after nearly seven weeks in response to heavy losses and strategic failure.
Colonel General Andrei Serdyukov was also stripped of his position as Commander-in-Chief of the Elite Airborne Forces, after the Airborne Divisions suffered heavy losses, while Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlev, head of the Western Military District responsible for Kharkiv, was sacked after the Russian retreat in the region. These dismissals raise hopes among the Ukrainians that they will cause the anger of the senior Russian military leaders towards the Russian political leadership, with the current leaders feeling distrustful of the political leadership.
6- The Ukrainian bet on the growing state of popular discontent in Russia: Ukraine and Western countries are betting on the growing popular discontent within Russia as a result of the protracted war. In this regard, many Western reports have promoted the growing state of popular dissatisfaction with the course of the Ukrainian war, and that it does not enjoy the support of large sectors of the Russians. This affects the ability of the Russian leadership to push more forces to be recruited to the battlefield, which also appeared from the negative reaction by some towards the partial military mobilization decision announced by the Russian President last September.
7- Relying on increasing the division in the ranks of the Russian elite: Since the start of the Russian military operation, it seems that the Russian elite does not take a unified stance towards the war. For example, last February, two of Russia’s richest and richest businessmen expressed their opposition to the war waged by Moscow on Ukraine. They are: Mikhail Friedman and Oleg Deripaska, in addition to a small group of prominent Russian celebrities, including actors, musicians, and TV presenters, as well as some political elite, such as Arkady Dvorkovich, former Russian deputy prime minister, who last March criticized the decision to go to war against Ukraine, He said in an interview that “his thoughts are with Ukrainian civilians,” and Anatoly Chubais, who resigned in the same month from his position as international envoy of the Russian president.
Thus, Kyiv hopes that the defeats and the recent Russian military retreat will increase the division in the ranks of the Russian elite, and accuse Putin of implicating the country in that war, especially since creating division and anger in the ranks of the Russian elite is one of the goals of imposing economic sanctions on members of that elite.
8- Possibility of exacerbating the pressure of Russian nationalists on President Putin: Although the Russian president worked to employ the Ukrainian war to raise his shares among the Russian nationalists, whose political discourse he employed in that war; The Russian withdrawals, the increasing military losses, and the failure to achieve the objectives of the military operation that began last February, are angering this camp, which is calling for more firm measures. Hence, the Russian propaganda promoted by the Russian president to justify his war on Kyiv represents one of the tools that put pressure on him to complete the war and achieve gains, and the current course of the war may lead them to lose confidence in the Ministry of Defense and the government in general, while demanding punishment for the leaders who caused the defeat and retreat of the forces. Russian; This prompted Western intelligence estimates to warn that the option of a coup against the Russian president, if it takes place, could be in favor of a more extremist figure from the Western perspective.
In conclusion, although the “black swan” scenario, by the nature of its definition, is an unexpected scenario, surrounded by many factors that make it an unusual or unlikely scenario; If it occurs, Kyiv is counting on accelerating its military progress, in a way that differs according to the mechanism and form of its occurrence, whether this scenario is implemented in the form of a Russian retreat as a result of economic, military, international and local pressures, or in the form of a political struggle within the Russian ruling class, or in the form of an overthrow scenario. Putin, which was covered by Western media, or otherwise.
Accordingly, Kyiv is betting that any sudden and unexpected event will facilitate its field progress and the recovery of all its lands, including Crimea. The response of the Ukrainian official to the question in the interview about the reason why he confirms the time range he announced for the withdrawal and defeat of the Russian forces indicates that it is just a “hunch”. However, the “black swan” scenario put forward by the Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrilov is nothing more than an expression. About just Ukrainian hopes for sudden unexpected developments and events.
Although the scenario of Russian retreat is matched by other counter-scenarios that push Moscow towards progress again, or at least not defeating it in that war, preserving some gains, and not losing the gains it made about 8 years ago by annexing Crimea as expected by the Ukrainian deputy defense minister, The developments of the war during the current winter – however – are likely to contribute greatly to shaping the features and scenarios of the future of the Ukrainian war, especially in light of Moscow’s reliance on putting pressure on the Europeans with the gas card, and that the prolongation of the war will discourage them from continuing to provide support to Ukraine.