Putin planned to capture Ukraine’s economic resources and use these resources to invade Baltic states

Capturing Ukraine would enrich Russia tremendously. This new, richer and more powerful Kremlin would be well-equipped for future aggression and economic blackmail of the West. Russia’s gas blackmail in the wake of the full-scale invasion is a good indicator of what’s to come if Putin gets his way.

The shock waves of Russia gaining total control of Ukraine wouldn’t just be felt in the immediate aftermath. They would unfurl over years and decades, touching every corner of the earth, and wreaking havoc on the global economy as we know it.

Let’s look at the short-term first. The immediate impact if Russia came to dominate all of Ukraine would go something like this: Russia takes full control over the country’s Black Sea Ports, through which grain capable of feeding 400 million people is exported. (When Russia launched its invasion, it blocked these very ports, provoking alarm that the most vulnerable on our planet would face famine and starvation).

All of the grain harvested by Ukrainian farmers and slated to be sent out of those ports would now belong to Russia. The Kremlin could take it for itself or send it to its allies. It has already sent stolen grain from occupied territories to its friends around the world.

Don’t support Russia’s complete occupation of Ukraine? Get in line or watch as your people suffer from a lack of food. Russia would find other willing markets for the grain.

Another consequence of a seized Ukraine is that Russia would have full access to the military-industrial complex Ukraine has been building up over the last more than two years. No, not just the Western weapons Ukraine’s detractors criticise, but the impressive weapons Ukraine itself has been developing. Its 200 or so domestic drone companies that have revolutionised the battlefield, its homegrown Bohdana howitzer, its sea drones that have devastated Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and all of the other tightly held state technological secrets that help Ukraine fight Russia.

All of that would belong to Russia – who, since they have captured Ukraine, are literally at the gates of the EU. Russia and its cronies could sell the weapons and their parts to nefarious actors around the world. And if they felt like using it against Nato, they have that option too.

Oh, and all of the Western assets in Ukraine? They too would now belong to Russia. There is little reason to believe that Putin would respect the property of Western companies, many of whom exited Russia and have thrown their support behind Ukraine.

Just look at the asset seizure threats the Kremlin is making against Western companies still operating in Russia if the West seizes Russia’s frozen Central Bank assets.

Putin would have access to the assets of Ukraine’s domestic agricultural and steel giants’ – Ukraine is the 20th largest steel producer in the world. Along with the Western companies’ assets, his loyal servants would pick up the spoils of war. There is a line of brand-new oligarchs in Russia waiting to be paid back for their loyalty in propping up the Kremlin’s war machine, as Putin has initiated a new strategy of “de-privatisation”, seizing assets across all important sectors of the economy.

“The project is intended to redistribute wealth to a new generation of less powerful individuals – and shore up the president’s position after the shock of the (Yevgeniy) Prigozhin mutiny and the failure to prevail in the country’s war on Ukraine,” in the words of Chatham House consulting fellow Nikolai Petrov.

Ports, check. Grain, check. The military-industrial complex and the demilitarisation of Ukraine, check. Physical assets, check. On to Ukraine’s vast and rich natural resources, which would now also belong to Russia and will be of global strategic importance for decades to come.

Ukraine has vast deposits of critical minerals needed for everything from high-tech consumer goods like cell phones and hard drives to necessary components in green technologies like wind turbines and other renewable energy applications. Indeed, the country has 117 out of 120 of the world’s most commercially used industrial minerals and more than half of the raw materials identified by the EU as critical.

For instance, according to Ukrainian researchers, Ukraine possesses an estimated 500,000 tonnes of lithium reserves—the largest in Europe—a critical component of electric vehicles. The start of lithium mining was interrupted by the war. Russia would now have an untapped resource to enjoy.

The World Bank estimates that demand for critical minerals could increase 500 percent by 2050, largely due to the move toward low-carbon economies. To reach its green transition goals, the EU will be a big driver of this demand, and without Ukraine, it would be hard-pressed to source these minerals.

Worried about Russia and the Kremlin-friendly China, one of the world’s largest producers of critical minerals, having an upper hand in the race for these desperately needed minerals? They just got a huge start.

A victorious Russia, already an energy giant, is also now sitting on Ukraine’s massive gas reserves and four nuclear power plants. It has already occupied the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, since the start of the full-scale invasion, with Russian forces militarising it and threatening Europe’s nuclear safety for more than two years now.

And then, most importantly, there’s Ukraine’s population: an important source of human capital that would now be subservient to Russia. If the war hasn’t killed them, those who have stayed will become increasingly isolated from a world they have grown accustomed to working with since the Euromaidan Revolution when Ukraine turned westward.

According to UN figures, nearly six million refugees fled Ukraine after the start of the full-scale invasion. Current estimates put Ukraine’s population at anywhere between 30 and 40 million. Millions, if not tens of millions, of those people will try to leave. I hardly need to tell you what kind of pressure such an influx of refugees would put on states and economies.

Giving up on Ukraine would be giving Russia a gift of epic proportions: a depopulated agricultural bastion replete with some of the world’s most coveted resources.

Each delay in aid, each kilometre gained by Russia on the battlefield in its push westward, brings the Kremlin closer to that ultimate reward.

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