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.