by Matthew Volfson
February 25, 2022
After British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement in 1938, he said, “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.”1 After a press conference with Joe Biden in 2021, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany stated, “We are cooperating with our allies in NATO and [the European Union], and with the United States, on the question of how to react to this threat to Ukraine that is coming from Russia.”2
At first glance, these quotes seem quite different. The first claims peace when a German autocrat musters preparations for war; the second implicitly pledges that a nation shall work with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to protect Europe from Russian revanchist claims. However, they share striking similarities. Both Chamberlain’s and Scholz’s claims are fragile. Both were and are wishful thinking. Chamberlain thought he could bring to peace a continent preparing for war. Scholz thinks that he can wage war with Russia, in cooperation with NATO, when half of his country depends on Russian gas.3
That’s all well and good, but why focus on Germany? Scholz’s Germany is the nexus of NATO’s European wing against Russia. Germany is the nation with the largest economy in Europe. If Germany stands to lose on crucial energy reserves, NATO’s energy would be sapped, both literally and metaphorically. Germany is a crucial building block for American forces to assemble their full force against the Russians.
Scholz’s claim is fragile, but Russia’s war-making abilities are also severely limited, which bodes well for Scholz, NATO, and Ukraine. If Putin decides to do a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he would most likely have to deal with a protracted guerilla war with Ukrainian insurgents sponsored by Americans, ruining the Russian military and economy.
It is more likely that the conflict will be localized and similar to a civil war, where Russian-backed separatists are given more aid by Russia against Ukraine. Brandon Drapeau ‘23 agrees, saying, “[There would be a] much bigger cost for Russia to invade Ukraine than [to invade] Crimea; war would be a detrimental situation for both sides.” Of note, Russian ambitions to invade Ukraine have predated the current conflict: in 2014, Russian troops moved into Crimea with few casualties, successfully invading the peninsula that had been part of Ukraine.4 Russia’s success here was most likely due to the fact that a majority of Crimeans, fifty-eight percent, were ethnically Russian even before the Russian occupation, so they were more likely to welcome Putin.5
It is far from clear that Russia is really preparing for war. Most men in Russia who would be conscripted in the war effort hold favorable views toward Ukraine.6 In addition, Russia is too dependent on gas revenues it makes from European markets, which provide forty percent of the money in Russian coffers.7 The economic tolls for Russia would be high, although Putin would most likely be indifferent to those, as Russia has gone through plenty of recessions and suffering already.8
Even if Putin ignores Russian suffering, invading Ukraine would confirm Russia’s foes’ expectations and constant warnings of attack, which would expose the Russian foreign office’s denial of invasion as a lie and cover-up.9,10 Essentially, the most likely scenario, with the least negative effects on Russia, might be for Putin to increase aid to Russian-speaking regions in Ukraine, though one never really knows what will happen until Putin makes his next move.
1 Patrick Corkery, “Peace for Our Time,” The Irish Times, October 8, 2013,
2 Quint Forgey, “Germany’s Scholz Warns Russia Would Pay ‘Very High Price’ for Invading Ukraine,” Politico, February 7, 2022,
3 Kate Abnett and Vera Eckert, “Factbox: How Much Does Germany Need Russian Gas?” Reuters, January 20, 2022,
4 Jonathon Cosgrove, “The Russian Invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, 2014-2015,” Johns Hopkins University, 2020,
5 Ivan Katchanovski, “Crimea: People and Territory before and after Annexation,” E-International Relations, June 4, 2016,
6 Victor Jack, “How do young Ukrainians and Russians feel about another war?” Al Jazeera, February 7, 2022,
7 Christophe-Alexandre Paillard, “Russia and Europe’s Mutual Energy Dependence,” Journal of International Affairs 63, no. 2 (2010): 65–84,
8 Marshall I. Goldman, “Russia: A Petrostate in a Time of Worldwide Economic Recession and Political Turmoil,” Social Research 76, no. 1 (2009): 55–70,
9 Vladimir Isachenkov and Yuras Karmanau, “Russia Denies Looking for Pretext to Invade Ukraine,” AP News, January 17, 2022,
10 Caroline Nyce, “The Atlantic Daily: America Sounds the Alarm on Russia-Ukraine,” The Atlantic, January 19, 2022,