In Other News – Putin Waits Out the West – 6/30/2022

June 30, 2022

Time Is No One’s Friend in Ukraine. While murmurings of peace talks seem to have all but disappeared, all sides seem to be playing the clock. Resolve is hardening on both sides and even the recent prisoner swap of 144 Ukrainian soldiers, many of whom defended the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, feels less like an advance towards peace and more as a harbinger of the entrenchment of a long war.

Russia intent to wait out the West with its brutal and indiscriminate campaign in the Donbas seemed ever-more misguided this week as it defaulted on its foreign debt and G7 leaders reiterated in word and deed their united resolve to support Ukraine and punish Russia. Then at the NATO Summit, members took measures to both expand NATO by supporting the applications of Finland and Sweden and announcing a decision to boost its numbers of deployed troops seven-fold. Moreover, reports on the dearth of semiconductor exports to Russia indicate that there will be severe impact to its military and commercial aviation sectors. These are strategic realignments that will have reverberations for years to come, but while these shifts occur Ukraine continues to be assailed relentlessly.

Putin appears unmoved by any of it as indicated by the launching a rocket into Kiev at the start of the G7 meetings to underscore his doggedness. The negotiations to release Ukrainian grain stores at a critical time to make room for the summer harvest also seem at an impasse as the global food shortage serves Russia’s strategic aims. Putin is counting that he can break the West with soaring inflation and energy costs and a possible influx of refugees into Europe. Eventually, he hopes a protracted war will weaken popular support for Ukraine and create cleavages in the Western alliance. In the interim, Russia seems to have taken aim at Europe’s new primary gas provider, Norway, as Russian-based criminal elements launched a series of Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber-attacks against a slew of Norwegian public institutions.

However, U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Putin’s campaign in Ukraine has profoundly degraded his forces and while he still would like to take the whole of Ukraine, he probably will only be able to make incremental gains like the recent advance on Severodonesk. And even those gains are ephemeral as illustrated by Russia’s retreat today from the strategic and symbolic outcrop of Snake Island in the Black Sea. This tug and pull will endure for the foreseeable future.
June 30, 2022

Time Is No One’s Friend in Ukraine. While murmurings of peace talks seem to have all but disappeared, all sides seem to be playing the clock. Resolve is hardening on both sides and even the recent prisoner swap of 144 Ukrainian soldiers, many of whom defended the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, feels less like an advance towards peace and more as a harbinger of the entrenchment of a long war.

Russia intent to wait out the West with its brutal and indiscriminate campaign in the Donbas seemed ever-more misguided this week as it defaulted on its foreign debt and G7 leaders reiterated in word and deed their united resolve to support Ukraine and punish Russia. Then at the NATO Summit, members took measures to both expand NATO by supporting the applications of Finland and Sweden and announcing a decision to boost its numbers of deployed troops seven-fold. Moreover, reports on the dearth of semiconductor exports to Russia indicate that there will be severe impact to its military and commercial aviation sectors. These are strategic realignments that will have reverberations for years to come, but while these shifts occur Ukraine continues to be assailed relentlessly.

Putin appears unmoved by any of it as indicated by the launching a rocket into Kiev at the start of the G7 meetings to underscore his doggedness. The negotiations to release Ukrainian grain stores at a critical time to make room for the summer harvest also seem at an impasse as the global food shortage serves Russia’s strategic aims. Putin is counting that he can break the West with soaring inflation and energy costs and a possible influx of refugees into Europe. Eventually, he hopes a protracted war will weaken popular support for Ukraine and create cleavages in the Western alliance. In the interim, Russia seems to have taken aim at Europe’s new primary gas provider, Norway, as Russian-based criminal elements launched a series of Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber-attacks against a slew of Norwegian public institutions.

However, U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Putin’s campaign in Ukraine has profoundly degraded his forces and while he still would like to take the whole of Ukraine, he probably will only be able to make incremental gains like the recent advance on Severodonesk. And even those gains are ephemeral as illustrated by Russia’s retreat today from the strategic and symbolic outcrop of Snake Island in the Black Sea. This tug and pull will endure for the foreseeable future.

In Other News – Invasion of Ukraine Renews Focus on Political Alliances – 6/23/2022

June 23, 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered renewed focus on political alliances with an eye towards physical, economic, and energy security. While fierce military battles continued in Ukraine this week, international heads of state have been convening to address the many serious knock-on effects of the conflict. Since the onset of the war, there’s been a renewed interest in securing and strengthening political alliances. We’ve seen this most overtly though a reinvigorated NATO replete with new membership bids from Sweden and Finland, and through heightened attention on security alliances like the Quad and AUKUS. Much of the renewed collaboration initially focused on physical security, but the alliances are also proving valuable to strengthen economic and energy security, especially now that energy’s been clearly deemed a national security interest.

At the BRICS summit this week, leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are meeting virtually to reignite their effort to curb the influence of the US dollar. While Putin was quick to emphasize that Russia’s presence in the BRICS is rising, reflected by the sizable increase in Russian oil exports to India and China, it was Chinese President Xi who has been exploiting the global economic crisis to elevate Beijing’s standing, calling upon the BRICS nations to use their collective economic clout to advocate for leadership over the global financial system. Xi also heavily criticized “the abuse” of international sanctions.

China is now reportedly looking to expand the BRICS alliance to include nations like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. But India, who is a thorn in Beijing’s side, is likely to oppose any further expansion that could elevate China’s status within the group. Brazil is also relatively cautious of China. Russia’s already been reaching out beyond the BRICS to try to secure its financial future, and this week Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is in Iran attempting to “reconfigure” economic relations to operate outside of the Western system.

Meanwhile, while BRICS and friendly nations try to collaborate, NATO and allies are doubling down on their own alliances and security initiatives. The EU is currently determined in its resolve to support Ukraine, and just today granted Ukraine candidate status. Moldova was also granted candidate status in a further show of unity. The G7 is also scheduled to meet this weekend and while the climate crisis was a big topic at last year’s event, energy security is likely to headline this year. The critical need to secure energy for Europe that isn’t dependent upon Russian supplies has sparked new conversations and strategies.

While some EU members are likely to revert temporarily to coal, especially if supplies aren’t sufficient during the colder months, EU and allies are taking a multipronged approach to energy security. The EU and Norway just announced that they would increase collaboration to ensure additional short and long-term gas supplies from Norway, and the EU recently signed an MOU with Israel and Egypt to explore increasing natural gas sales to EU countries. The United States is also at the forefront of the effort to ensure LNG reaches Europe, and Canada has also stated that it’s open to speeding up gas projects that could supply Europe in just a few years. These are just a handful of myriad initiatives underway, including reevaluating the role of nuclear power and simultaneously increasing the viability of alternative energy sources and technology. As the reconfiguration of energy sources continues for the EU, BRICS, and much of the world, further innovative solutions and novel political partnerships are likely.

In Other News – Russia and Ukraine Are a Microcosm of the Broader Geo-Political Landscape – 6/16/2022

June 16, 2022

This week’s events in Russia and Ukraine are a microcosm of the broader geo-political landscape. Russia is currently hosting its annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, themed “New Opportunities in a New World”, yet the program makes scarce mention of the war in Ukraine. Putin is scheduled to speak on Friday, but earlier in June he addressed forum participants via Telegram where he blamed the West and NATO allies for widespread economic issues like inflation, supply chain disruption, and the ensuing food crisis. Although the program will seek to address how Russia should adapt to the new economic conditions, Putin is expected to take no responsibility for inciting said conditions. Instead, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is only anticipated to be explicitly discussed in a session on “Fake news in the era of globalization.”

While the St. Petersburg forum was initially launched as an outreach effort to encourage foreign investment back in 1997, this year’s event is primarily comprised of Russian attendees. It’s ironic that just last week Putin likened himself to Peter the Great, who sought to open Russia to the West, and yet this year foreign investors from the United States and European Union will be largely absent. According to one of Putin’s foreign policy advisors, the largest delegation and “guest” delegation of honor will be from Egypt. Turkey also sent a representative from the Ministry of Energy, indicating that Ankara still hopes to have a foot in both worlds. Other notable attendees will be representatives of the Afghan Taliban and a minister from Myanmar’s military apparatus.

Chinese President Xi, who vowed on Wednesday to firmly support Moscow’s “sovereignty and security” in a shift from his previous stance of supporting the sovereignty of all nations, is scheduled to address the forum via video call on Friday. Chinese participants and attendees will also hold a Russia-Chinese business dialogue, in line with the Kremlin’s recent statement that “Foreign investors are not only from the United States and European Union.” While Russian officials are towing this line, participants and topics of the forum will largely focus on Russian self-reliance, discussing how businesses and consumers can support Russian-made products and how the nation can boost its industry, including oil and gas. This seems to be a tacit admission that Russia is under strain from international sanctions and cannot easily pivot to other markets.

Meanwhile, as the limited version of the forum is underway, the German Chancellor, French President, Romanian President, and Italian Prime Minister are meeting with President Zelenskyy on their first visit to Kyiv since the onset of the war. After coming face-to-face with the destruction in Irpin, German Chancellor Scholtz tweeted that “Irpin, like Bucha, has become a symbol of the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war, of senseless violence”, a sentiment that was corroborated by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court who described the country as a crime scene. Ukraine is actively calling upon the visiting heads of state to “increase pressure” on Moscow, including a Russian gas embargo, and the leaders have responded by promising more long-range artillery and backing Ukraine’s EU candidate status.

As NATO and allies continue to display a unified stance against Russia, and atrocities pile up while Putin simultaneously points fingers and deflects blame, the world continues to feel the repercussions of the conflict. The head of the UN refugee agency has reported that the food security crisis prompted by the Ukraine war will likely cause more people to flee their homes in poorer countries, making already record levels of displacement even higher. But while much of the world watches and winces, Russia mistakenly seems to view the chaos as another weapon in its arsenal, hoping to wear down the world’s patience and put Ukraine under pressure to surrender. While Putin is incorrect to think that he can starve the world to capitulation, a war of attrition will not only challenge endurance on the battlefield but test the durability and strength of old and new geopolitical and economic alliances that are on full display this week.

In Other News – Russia Makes Some Battlefield Gains – 6/9/2022

June 9, 2022

On the heels of Davos and in the weeks before the NATO summit, Russia makes some battlefield gains but it’s unclear how far that will take them. This week, there was fierce fighting in Severodonetsk, where reportedly over 10,000 Ukrainian civilians are now trapped, and at a court in the Russia-backed self-declared breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic three foreign fighters serving with the Ukrainian armed forces were handed death sentences for being “mercenaries” for Ukraine. Further, while the UN and Turkey have tried to convince the Kremlin to allow grain exports from Ukrainian ports, there’s no sound deal in sight and Moscow continues to blame the global food shortage on financial sanctions.

Western nations and allies continue to stand firmly behind Ukraine, newly committing to send weapons packages and aid, but as the UN recently reported, “the war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe, and speeding up.” On Wednesday, President Zelenskyy called upon the West for tougher sanctions against Moscow and regional Ukrainian officials have emphasized the critical need for more Western long-range artillery, replacement parts, and training. But getting the materials into the right hands is logistically challenging and it needs to happen quickly. Indeed, as the fighting continues in the Donbas, it’s a race for supplies and Zelenskyy has noted that the battle for Severodonetsk, a strategic industrial hub, could decide the outcome of the east.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s also taking measures to assert Russian control of the occupied Ukrainian south. According to the Russian defense minister, the military and Russian Railways have now repaired over 700 miles of track that will allow traffic from Russia to reach Crimea and Kherson via Ukraine’s eastern Donbas. Putin is trying hard to solidify Russian bureaucratic and social control by appointing proxy leaders, elevating the Russian language, and granting the ruble official status for citizens of occupied Ukraine. On the 106th day of the war, Putin delusionally likened himself to Peter the Great in their shared mission to “reclaim” Russian territory, and he shows little sign of changing course.

But a war of attrition wears down both equipment and the individuals serving in the armed forces. In the battle for Donbas, Russia’s losing many of its elite fighters and they can’t be quickly or easily replaced. And while claiming a victory might be good for Putin’s propaganda purposes, Ukraine will still be able to replenish its stock of weapons from the west and right now NATO remains strong in its resolve to help supply Kyiv. While the battle is grinding and Russia’s war crimes pile up, motivation will be an important factor during the upcoming phase of attrition, and Ukraine is fundamentally motivated by the will to survive or even prevail.

In Other News – Can the Ukraine Withstand Russia? – 6/2/2022

June 2, 2022

A wide range of weapons will be essential for Ukraine to withstand Russia in the next phase of battle. This week, in a video address to the Luxembourg Parliament, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy stated that Russia is currently occupying about 20% of Ukraine. Noting the uptick in Russian gains, and the immediate need for Ukrainian rearmament, the United States and NATO allies have made fresh pledges to send sophisticated weapons to Kyiv. On Wednesday, President Biden announced a new $700 million weapons package for Ukraine, including artillery rocket systems capable of hitting targets up to 50 miles away, and Germany has promised anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems. The UK has also pledged sophisticated medium-range rocket systems and Sweden has promised anti-ship missiles and anti-tank weapons. And in a distinctly modern twist and show of solidarity, Lithuanians crowdfunded nearly $6.45 million to purchase a T2 advanced combat drone from Turkey to send to Ukraine, but Turkey decided to donate the weapon for free and the funds will reportedly be redirected for humanitarian aid.

Given the physical circumstances of the conflict, these type of anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons have been key to Ukraine’s defense thus far and will remain critical in the days and weeks ahead. But Ukraine and allies are simultaneously leveraging economic weapons and the punishment is getting worse. Despite disagreements with Hungary, the EU has approved new sanctions on Russian oil and agreed to cut off Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, from the SWIFT international transaction system. New US sanctions aim to prevent Russia and Belarus from obtaining US or foreign-made products derived from certain US technology or software, and Russian oligarchs, yacht companies, and Putin-friendly elites are all being targeted. Notably, Taiwan has also banned the export of modern chips and materials for chip production to Russia or Belarus, which will limit Moscow’s ability to keep up with emerging technologies.

While these efforts will start to make things more difficult for the Russians, the knock-on effects of the war continue to make life more difficult for many. OPEC+ has agreed to a larger increase in oil supply than planned for this summer, which might provide a bit of financial relief, but it’s notable that many African and the Middle East nations, who will be hurt the most from food and supply chain shortages, remain some of Putin’s staunchest supporters. Recognizing this, Ukraine is trying to get these nations to put some pressure on Putin to lift the blockade of Ukrainian exports, but Putin seems wise to this dynamic and Russia has sent Syria about 100,000 tons of stolen Ukrainian wheat since the war began. As Moscow continues to weaponize energy and food, a combination of physical, economic, and diplomatic weapons will remain essential components of the Ukrainian arsenal.

In Other News – Ukrainian’s Remain Optimistic – 5/26/2022

May 26, 2022

Ukrainians remain optimistic in the fight against Russia, but as the war enters its fourth month Ukrainians, Russians, and many of the world’s citizens are feeling the human and economic toll. Over the past several weeks, Moscow has shifted its focus to eastern Ukraine and with 40 towns in the Donbas now under Russian fire, the region is facing extensive devastation. Outside of Kyiv and in the north where Russia has withdrawn, mass graves continue to be discovered and it’s increasingly clear the Russians see civilians as ready collateral. According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, there are more than 11,000 ongoing war crimes cases in Ukraine with 40 suspects already identified. This week, the first Russian soldier who was tried for war crimes in Ukraine was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian. This sets a precedent for what’s to come and demonstrates Ukraine’s critical effort to document the violations and secure an accurate historic narrative for the world to see.

But Putin is trying hard to control the narrative and continuously blames the West for the disaster he’s created. As a global food crisis looms, Putin’s blaming sanctions for the shortage even while preventing Ukraine from exporting some 22 million tons of grain via the country’s Black Sea ports- many of which are reportedly heavily mined. US Secretary of State Blinken has repeatedly stated that food, fertilizer and seeds are exempt from sanctions, but this week Putin demanded that sanctions be lifted before he’ll make any changes. International pressure to get the ports open is increasing, but North Africa, the Middle East, and Africa, regions anticipated to suffer the worst from the shortage, are home to many of the same countries supporting Putin on the global stage. There’s a political misalignment happening, and if the situation isn’t resolved soon, the Ukrainian summer harvest will also be wasted, exasperating the global shortage and further plummeting Ukraine’s economy.

Further, China and Russia continue to show an overtly united front against their mutual adversaries. On Tuesday, the two nations held joint military exercises over the seas in northeast Asia while President Biden was visiting the region and meeting with Quad Security Dialogue members India, Australia, and Japan. Putin and Xi were likely trying to make a statement that they’re still strongly aligned, which is further corroborated by the consistent regurgitation of Russian propaganda throughout official Chinese state media channels. Regardless of these official efforts, the Russian narrative is a shaky one, and we’re starting to see dissent in some of the Russian military and diplomatic ranks. And while specific estimates vary, the significant number of Russian casualties since February could lead to a serious morale issue among troops, and cause increasing public dissatisfaction with the war back home.

In Other News – Ukraine Rebuilds as War Rages On and Putin Has His Own Spin to Russian Citizens – 5/19/2022

May 19, 2022

Mariupol is a hard fought and pyrrhic victory for Russia because by all accounts the war is going poorly for Putin and further entrenching him with the consequences of his strategic blunder. While vigorously celebrating its control of Mariupol, Russia has publicly scaled back its ambitions once again and is now trying to secure only a portion of eastern and southern Ukraine rather than the whole of it. By reliable accounts, Russia has lost nearly a third of the forces that it originally committed to this “special operation”, which have been plagued by poor moral, equipment breakdowns and malfunction, inadequate training, and dysfunctional command and control. At a wider level, more and more companies are withdrawing permanently from Russia – including McDonalds, Siemens, and Renault. U.S. and European Central Banks seem poised to allow Russia to default on its debt for the first time since 1917 and as time passes the effects of massive sanction efforts are taking hold. Whether Hungary’s Orban keeps the EU bloc hostage from imposing a bloc-wide ban on Russian energy, nearly all E.U. countries have begun their transit away from Russian energy. And Finland and Sweden have now formally applied to join NATO, which despite Erdogen’s sturm und drang will move forward.

Ukraine is taking steps to rebuild even while the war rages on. This week the US Senate voted to deliver more than $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and the US Embassy reopened in Kyiv nearly three months after American diplomats were withdrawn. Ukrainians are making efforts to start rebuilding Kharkiv and Bucha, areas devastated by the Russian military in recent weeks. In addition, thousands of Ukrainians are reportedly returning to Kyiv after fleeing during the early days of the war. This enthusiasm to recover is not tempered by senior US officials’ caution that Moscow’s shift to the Donbas could be temporary.

Indeed, it looks like Russia may be doubling down on its information war to caste its own version of events to its citizens that remains untethered to reality. While the stalwart soldiers from the Azovstal Steel Plant are carted off for a show trial in Russia to advance Putin’s narrative that he is de-nazifying Ukraine, the facts on the ground reveal the reality. Even this effort will be hard to sustain as at the same time, Ukraine has begun its own war time war tribunal and Human Rights Watch reports that they have independently verified myriad reports that Russian soldiers have perpetrated a series of war crimes including summary executions, unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture. Also the head of the UN Food Program has said that Russia will be weaponizing food if Putin does not allow the reopening of Ukrainian ports where tons and tons of food are languishing and millions across the world could die. Nevertheless, Putin is likely to continue to persist in Ukraine to his own detriment.

In Other News – Putin’s Victory Day Speech – 5/12/2022

May 12, 2022

Putin’s Victory Day speech carefully avoided any indication of escalation, but also didn’t mention any end to the fighting. Putin’s much-anticipated Victory Day speech on Monday revealed nothing new to thousands of Russian servicemen in Red Square and the rest of the world watching for escalatory language. The speech, which focused heavily on Russian operations in Donbas, espoused the same propaganda and rhetoric that Putin’s been using for years, wrongfully asserting that the people of Donbas needed Russians to rescue them. What he didn’t say revealed that Putin has no clear plan on an exit strategy. Instead, this week Russian troops were still trying to claim Mariupol, diverting European gas for their own use, and retreating from the region of Kharkiv to redeploy elsewhere ‒ a tacit admission that Russia is finding it exceedingly difficult to occupy Ukrainian cities.

Moscow continues to blame the United States and NATO for Russia’s incurring losses, with the former president of Russia warning that NATO military assistance for Ukraine increases the likelihood of a “direct and open conflict between NATO and Russia.” But this threat hasn’t deterred those who stand against Russian brutality, and Moscow’s atrocities are further solidifying its opponents ‒ especially as Ukrainian prosecutors prepare to launch the first war crimes trials of the Russian conflict. Notably too, this week Finnish leaders announced they’d seek NATO membership for their nation right away, and Sweden could be next.

The United States and its European allies will continue to provide Ukraine with aid and certain intelligence regardless of Moscow’s disdain. EU nations have taken a hard stand against Russian oil, but Hungary is preventing an EU Russian oil ban. It’s also uncertain how China will continue to respond and there are reportedly rumblings among policy makers within China questioning the value of a weak Russian partner.

As the war drags on, further grinding down Ukraine and Russia, the trajectory of global energy costs, food shortages, and general economic instability will influence how countries respond to Moscow’s aggression and force them to reassess their own geostrategic positioning. This strategic ambiguity is prompting widespread and often indirect system effects, as evidenced by recent political conversations regarding a restructuring of international oil markets around a cartel of consumers, as well as the near collapse of the Egyptian, Sri Lankan, and Lebanese economies.

In Other News – Russia-Ukraine War Impact on Global Geopolitical Order – 5/5/2022

May 5, 2022

While the short-term outcome of the Russia-Ukraine war remains uncertain, the extent of atrocities committed by the Russian military, the strength of the Ukrainian resistance, and the war’s impact on the global geopolitical order have already been established. Russia continues to make some advances in Ukraine, including taking over the communication airwaves and switching the currency to the ruble in the Donbas, but Moscow is suffering heavy losses in personnel and equipment, and most likely morale. Russian military advances remain slow, and they’re regularly thwarted by Ukrainian air defenses and missile attacks where Russian missiles seem to be failing at alarming rates.

Moscow is now blaming its military failures on the United States and NATO, noting the impact of Western intelligence transmitted to the Ukrainians, and has “warned” NATO that transport carrying weapons to Ukraine are a target. But this doesn’t indicate a policy shift and only serves to demonstrate how inept Moscow’s been at hitting these targets thus far. Springtime conditions are also anticipated to be more difficult for the Russians, replete with muddier terrain and less energy dependence for heating Europe.

Indeed, the longer the war draws on, the harder it’s going to hit the Russian economy. This week, the European Commission proposed a ban on Russian oil and oil products by the year’s end, and Russian production could become seriously stifled as finding alternative markets is logistically lengthy and costly. Further, international sanctions against Russian businesses, leaders, and banks are continuing to multiply and their effects are starting to settle in.

As Russia’s Victory Day approaches on May 9, it’s uncertain if Putin will take the opportunity to try to declare a false victory in Mariupol or instead pronounce a full declaration of war that would allow him to mobilize Russian military reserves. While the reserves are estimated at about two million, the number of actively trained or prepared soldiers is likely only in the thousands, and a movement to mobilize reserves, or draft or extend conscription for those currently serving, could backfire and send the message to the Russian public that Putin’s operation isn’t going according to plan.

Either way, outside of the immediate region, the war has already reconstituted political alliances and will have a longstanding impact on geopolitics. On Thursday, South Korea’s spy agency became the first Asian group to join NATO’s Cyber Defense Group, seemingly disregarding any retribution from China on the collaboration. Israel might consider shifting from a neutral stance due to blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric coming from the Kremlin, and Turkish arms sales in places like the Philippines are surging.

The evolving, knock-on effects of the war are also impacting international business operations and elevating the importance of risk-assessments. Notably, countries in the Asia Pacific are boosting defense expenditures at the same time investors are trying to understand how defense purchases fit into the Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) framework. Given the unstable and unpredictable operating environment surfaced by Covid-19 and exasperated by the Russia-Ukraine war, resiliency is a key concern for both the private and public sectors.

In Other News – No Easy Victory in Sight for Putin in the Ukraine-Russia War – 4/28/2022

April 28, 2022

No easy victory in sight for Putin as the Ukraine-Russia war reverberates across the world. Russia was likely hoping to secure all of Donetsk and Luhansk and its holding of a land bridge from the Donbas to Crimea before Moscow’s annual commemoration of World War II on May 9th, but the Ukrainians continue to challenge Russian progress. Thus far, Moscow’s military gains have been below expectations, and effective resupply efforts and offensive measures by both Ukraine and Russia will be paramount to success in the regional battle. At the same time, other fronts of the war are becoming apparent. Russia may be preparing a potential action in Transnistria and the Ukrainians have likely made tactical strikes on mainland Russia by bombing a fuel depot across the border. Reports of Russian cyberattacks on critical infrastructure have also intensified in coordination with the military’s kinetic attacks. Further, the war is intensifying beyond the frontline.

Earlier today, President Biden asked Congress to approve $33bn in additional money to support Ukraine, a significant funding increase. NATO countries are also strengthening their resolve to eliminate their dependence on Russian gas. Germany has made cuts to its reliance on Russian oil sufficient to make a full embargo “manageable” and Washington is hard at work to come up with alternate suppliers. This week, after Poland and Bulgaria refused to pay for Russian gas in roubles, Moscow cut off their natural gas supply in a move that the EU referred to as “blackmail.” As the West and NATO allies grapple with how to best support Ukraine given the direct economic ramifications for their nations, the knock-on effects of the war continue to impact nations all over the world through food shortages, rampant inflation, protective trade restrictions, new political alliances, and the uptick in armament of multiple nations.

As the West and NATO allies provide heavier arms to Kyiv, Moscow threatens to escalate the conflict. Since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, the United States, NATO, and allies have provided Kyiv more than $3bn of military aid, much of it defensive like anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons. But as the conflict has continued, and shows little sign of waning, the West has shifted to equip Ukraine with heavier artillery. Notably, Germany’s parliament just overwhelmingly approved the transfer of heavy weapons to Ukraine, and the latest package announced by President Biden includes howitzers and weapons like Switchblade drones that will require Ukrainians to receive US training to use. Unsurprisingly, the increase in heavy artillery has outraged Moscow, and the Kremlin has warned that any attempt to “interfere” in Ukraine threatens security of the continent and will be met with a “lightning fast” response. But given the Russian military’s performance to date, the effectiveness of this threat is questionable.

In addition to ramping up Ukraine’s supply of heavy weapons, the West has also been more actively vocalizing support of Ukrainian offensive actions against Moscow. Russian propagandists are increasingly presenting the nuclear option as a defensive posture for Moscow, and it’s likely that Putin’s close advisors will increasingly blame the West for any ensuing struggles that the Russian military faces. According to the editor in chief of Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik, the West’s “overt backing” for Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil will not damage Russia but instead lead to the complete destruction of Ukraine. But this propaganda-laden approach is likely to end on hollow ground in the West, and there are signs that even within Russia Putin’s approval rating has begun to waiver.