What Game Theory Can Tell us about the War in Ukraine, by Declan Hayes

It may not be game theory, but in war, a country that’s captured territory and is winning doesn’t generally give up. From Declan Hayes at strategic-culture.org:

Though peace will come to Ukraine, it will be peace with justice and dignity for the country’s Russian speakers, irrespective of the day dreams of the LA Times and NATO’s other organ grinders.

What game theory can tell us about the war in Ukraine, a recent LA Times op-ed by two American academics, has to be the worst exposition of game theory in times of war that has ever seen parchment since Thucydides discussed the Melian Dialogue 2,500 years ago in his History of the Peloponnesian Wars we previously discussed.

When the Athenian envoys politely explain to the Melians why they, a neutral island, should submit, the Melians equally politely rebuff their arguments, whereupon the Athenians slaughter their men, enslave their women and colonize the island. The Melians obviously miscalculated, as perhaps did the Athenians who eventually had to surrender Melos to Sparta.

Fast forward to Ukraine and the LA Times sees an overly simplified, one dimensional chess board. All NATO has to do is look at Russia’s limited array of end moves and work backwards along a binomial tree to see what NATO must now do to thwart the evil Rooskies. The solution, NATO’s arms industries will be glad to hear, is to pump ever more volumes of advanced weaponry into Ukraine “to make [Putin] believe that there is no way that he can possibly win six months down the road”. Once NATO brings overwhelming force and steely resolve to bear, then Russian resolve will crack.

If NATO don’t up the ante now, they might have to send in troops later on when the Ukrainians are a spent force, when NATO have literally fought to the last Ukrainian and things then would quickly escalate, perhaps into nuclear war. Further, if “Putin” conquers Ukraine, then the keys to Vienna, Vilnius and Venice will all be his and it will be as if The Golden Horde has returned. The proof of all this is that little Lithuania has been forced to tool up, all with borrowed money it must pay back at some future time. Given that Ukraine is but the first in a line of dominoes that will fall to Russia in these “nightmare scenarios …. the [NATO] alliance must act now to strengthen Ukraine’s defense. Only when Putin has no hope of victory in Ukraine will peace in Europe ever be secure.”

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