Europe’s borders have been miraculously stable since World War II. With the threat of nuclear war and the complete eradication of our civilization, the appetite for war and conquest has not been very high. We have seen glimpses of a different order in the Yugoslavian conflict, and more recently in Ukraine. Where parts of Donbass and the Crimean peninsula have joined the Russian community and participated in a long and bloody war against the Kiev regime that has tried to keep the country together.
You can think what you like about secession, i.e. withdrawal from a state formation, and I have written about it before. But this is the reality today, parts of Ukraine will become part of Russia, and the longer the war goes on, the more likely it is that more territory will be captured, as the Russian special operations force turns into an occupying army.
Now, however, there is a certain saturation of the Russian bear as well; they are unlikely to occupy western Ukraine, where there are few Russian speakers, and hostility towards Russia is compact. On the other hand, incorporating large parts of the southeast into Russia is not an impossible scenario.
However, these conquests could destabilize the European geopolitical order. We can already see that the Poles are yearning for their old lost territories in the east, and they may well end up under the Polish flag, depending on the winds. The Russians who are most unpopular in those particular areas might decide to leave the problem to the Poles in diplomatic exchange for something?
We also have Ruthenia or Transcarpathia where there is a significant Hungarian minority as well as Ruthenians who often consider themselves a separate ethnic group within the Slavic sphere.
In addition, there is also a historical opportunity to form a Greater Moldova from the various parts that are now beyond separate borders. This could contribute to the dissolution of Romania. And if Romania dissolves, there will be at least three separate countries, Wallachia, Moldova and Transylvania, which historically belonged to Hungary and where ethnic Hungarians also live.
It may be that Hungary emerges victorious from this strange confluence. But we must not forget Germany. If Poland gets back territories in the east, why shouldn’t the Germans be entitled to Pomerania and Silesia, which were occupied by the Red Army in the final stages of World War II and then incorporated into Poland? It sounds like we are playing chess, but this discussion could become a reality, especially if a more nationalist-minded government comes to power in Berlin.
In addition, there are further possible claims for Poland in Belarus, and Germany may also be looking for Alsace-Lorraine in France and Köningsberg in Russia, also formerly part of the German Reich. However, these claims are not directly linked to the Ukraine conflict, but could nevertheless flare up in a larger geopolitical dispute.