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.