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Does Ukraine Have a Worthwhile Future Once the Ongoing War is Over?
As some of you might remember, just over a year ago I wrote a few articles about the war in Ukraine (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4 and link 5) which began in Feb 2022. Not surprisingly, my predictions have validated by the subsequent course of events. For example- the Russian economy is doing just fine, most of the world had decided to simply ignore the West’s position on that war, Ukrainian army has consistently failed in every battle where it faced actual opposition, Ukrainian casualties are much higher than Russian ones and all those supposed western “wonderweapons” have not turned out to be duds. In other words, Russia is winning this war through attrition and is doing so by inflicting disproportionately large damage on the Ukrainian economy (or whatever is left of them) and its armed forces.
So now let us move to to the next logical question- does Ukraine have a worthwhile future after this war is over? To be brutally honest, I don’t think they have one and the rest of this post will list the many reasons for my conclusions. Some of you might also remember that I have briefly listed some of these issues in previous posts, but this is the first post which will focus on that topic. With that out of the way, let us talk about the first issue- depopulation.
1] The population of Ukraine has been going down since its peak at 52 million in 1991. While most of the decrease prior to 2014 can be attributed to emigration, that country also had a very low fertility rate. Now factor in all that excess mortality caused by economic troubles in the first decade after dissolution of USSR and you will realize that the demographic future of Ukraine has been pretty dark for a couple of decades. As some of you might also know, the USA-supported coup in 2014 and subsequent discrimination against ethnic Russians caused even more people to move to Russia. Then there is the issue of Donetsk and Luhansk regions being effectively not part of Ukraine since 2014. In other words, Ukraine probably had a population of about 35-38 million before the current conflict started in 2022.
Since then, about 6-8 million more people (mostly women, children and younger men) have left Ukraine for other countries such as Poland, Romania, Russia etc. Also, the most populated regions of two more provinces are no longer part of Ukraine. In other words, the real current population in territory under actual control of Ukrainian regime is probably about 25-28 million. Most Ukrainians who had the money, chance or job skills to move has already done so. The population left behind is older, missing a lot of men and women of reproductive age and generally lacking those with jobs and skills necessary for a somewhat prosperous economy. It is very likely that people who have already left Ukraine are not going to come back to that country. Neither are the people in the provinces annexed by Russia- and this brings us to the next issue- huge ongoing casualties among the Ukrainian armed forces.
2] Even though the Ukrainian regime pretends it has suffered very modest casualties, any reasonable estimate of the real total based on number of new graves in cemeteries, counts of abandoned bodies in the war zone and huge Russian advantage in artillery suggest that the actual number of dead Ukrainian soldiers is north of 250k with 350k being a good estimate. Once you add those crippled by war injuries, the number is of casualties (dead and crippled) is over 500k. While this number is already pretty high for any country with that similar population numbers, the combination of adverse trends listed in previous section makes the loss of over half million working-age men especially disastrous. Russia, in contrast, has casualty numbers about 1/7th to 1/10th of Ukraine- even though its population is now over five times larger. This is not a sustainable ratio and the end result cannot be good for Ukraine.
Furthermore, Ukraine has already run out of most of its soviet era artillery, shells, tanks, AFVs, aircraft. It has also burnt through all of the surplus soviet era equipment, ammo and vehicles supplied to it by USA via neighboring countries. As things stand right now, Ukraine is almost totally dependent on meager supplies of western weapon systems and ammo. It is no secret that the deindustrialization of West over the past two decades has left it unable to produce weapons and ammo at levels comparable to Russia. Now imagine what is going to happen in a few months from now when Ukraine has lost even more soldiers in failed offensives and burnt through even more western weapon systems and ammo. Not a pretty picture, isn’t it?
3] Even though most of the physical damage from the ongoing conflict has occurred in the regions being fought over, Russia has damaged a significant part of Ukrainian power infrastructure. While the extent of this damage is hidden by the much lower usage and loss of population which has occurred during this war, it does not take a genius to figure out that Ukraine does not have a power infrastructure adequate for pre-2022 demand levels. And let us be realistic about something else, it is not going to be properly repaired anytime soon. There is also the issue of Ukraine becoming a dangerous place for foreign companies to do business and setup factories as long as the conflict with Russia is ongoing- which might be for many months more. My point is that even something as basic as restoration of economic activity in Ukraine to pre-2022 levels is now basically impossible- and it sucked even then.
The loss of resource rich provinces in Donbass region and likely future loss of more adjacent provinces also removes a lot of resources and population which could help in the post-war recovery. No amount of western aid can make up for the loss of a large percentage of natural resources, factories and the electricity to run them. To put it bluntly, the area left as Ukraine after this war will have a very adverse demographic profile, lots of dead and crippled young men, few resources and little electricity. This is not the makings of a country with any hope of a normal future- let alone a bright one. Do they intend to be perpetually dependent on western financial assistance, since I cannot see any other path for anything approaching self-sufficiency let alone decent economic growth. And how long will the West keep on pumping billions of dollars every month to prop up Ukraine? This does not look good.
What do you think? Comments?