In Other News – How the World Has Changed in the 6 Months Since Russia Invaded the Ukrained – 8/25/2022

August 25, 2022

How the World has Changed in the six months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. The strategic positioning of Ukraine has evolved from a seemingly indefensible target, to admirable resistor in the first months of the assault, to besieged victim of a long war in the East and South, to a clever asymmetrical opponent with its focus on retaking portions of Kherson and targeting strategic military installations in Crimea, to potentially a successful defender. But in this short time period, the geostrategic landscape of Europe and the West has also changed. An expanding NATO and other Western allies are sharply focused and galvanized regarding the security threat that Russia poses and other territorially aggressive autocratic states. The required shift from Russian energy sources, and carbon-based fuels more generally, is now more acutely understood and the irreversible divestment from Russia has taken on a new urgency. Widespread sanctions are having a punishing effect on the Russian economy and there is unease among Russia’s elite.

As Ukraine celebrates its flag day and 31 years of independence, the region is on tenterhooks, as most pertinently illustrated by the drama and instability at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, but also with the credible prospect of Russian targeted assaults to pointedly punish Ukraine for the audacity of asserting independence. On the battlefield though, much is stalemated, and both sides are preparing for a long cold winter in the trenches. Europe is frantically stockpiling fuel, and pundits are speculating on whether a tough winter and a series of elections could weaken Western resolve (the likely posture of the new Italian government is the first sign of this). Still, thanks in large part to Turkey, Ukrainian grain is flowing from its ports, and there is hope that the U.N. might be able to intervene to diminish tensions and shelling in Zaporizhzhia. Ukraine, with its previously underestimated intelligence capabilities, new Western armaments and training, and recent strategic strikes behind enemy lines, is taking a real initiative to perhaps change the dynamic even before the winter sets in. As Autumn approaches, there may be more in store in the coming weeks than is presently apparent.

The downstream effects of the war continues to reverberate across the world, whether it be Russia seeking to use Iran as an exporter as a means to circumvent sanctions, the successful, if controversial, outreach by the US to increase Saudi oil production, the boon for UAE as sanctioned Oligarchs flock to its ports, the specific attention paid to Taiwan and the presence of American politicians on the island, or heightened tension on the Kosovo-Serbia border. Although Turkey’s tenuous position as chief negotiator in the conflict is now in question following its diplomatic spat with Russia over Ankara’s ambitions in northern Syria. In many respects, the war in Ukraine is an inflection point that has prompted or accelerated profound realignments, even as the war’s outcome remains uncertain.