One of the most difficult things in both politics (and political journalism) is to admit that some problems don’t have a solution – or at least one that can be discerned in advance. The West is more or less united in the conviction that Ukraine must win the war brought about by the Russian invasion. Victory is usually defined as the complete withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian soil followed by a Nuremberg-style trial of war criminals. There is also talk of massive reparations extending far into the future and, of course – the icing on the cake – the arrest or assassination of Vladimir Putin. The United States, Europe and the UK are together on this. Dissenting voices have been drowned out. So let us imagine that the West’s desired solution has come about. It is late-winter 2023 and Russia has been defeated. What remains of its armies limp back across the border. It is like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, only in reverse.
New research has put a figure on the price of war – a tab Russia has made the world pick up.