In Other News – Russia’s Invasion in the Ukraine – 3/10/22

March 10, 2022

The war will go on, for now. As Russia’s offensive in Ukraine increases in brutality and scope, it appears that the Ukrainian resolve to fight back has augmented with equivalent fervor. A third attempt at negotiations failed, arguably with less areas of possible agreement than the first two.

The reverberations of Putin’s Ukraine invasion could have long term impact on the global order.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is reverberating in geopolitical dynamics concerning energy, trade, diplomacy, and security, with no end in sight. To win European support for a ban on Russian energy exports, the U.S. is making overtures to Russian allies as varied as Azerbaijan to Venezuela to broker deals that pair aid, trade deals, and sanctions relief in exchange for fuel. Negotiations on a renewed Iran Nuclear Deal are also advancing apace with Western hopes to secure Iranian oil sooner rather than later. Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett has proffered himself as a possible arbiter of the Ukrainian conflict in his own bid to ensure Israeli security imperatives that will potentially have to address a less constrained Iran and a beleaguered Syria on its borders. The conflict has further underscored diplomatic and strategic ambiguities of traditional U.S. allies – with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and India equivocating unexpectedly. How these complicated dynamics play out in the next few weeks could set the precedent for a new global order in years to come.

Fake News
Russia’s long-running information and propaganda war against the West is on display in full force over the invasion of Ukraine. All foreign media, including social media, has been banned or closed shop as reporting that veers from official narratives has been outlawed in Russia. Furthering the incongruous narrative that Russia has entered Ukraine to protect all Ukrainians from “drug-addled Nazi fascists,” Russia has promulgated fake stories about the discovery of chemical and biological weapons on the Eastern border of Ukraine. Interestingly, it seems that China’s strategic ambivalence continues in this area as well, as Chinese State Media shares many of these false narratives while simultaneously openly portraying the humanitarian plight of the Ukrainians at the hands of the Russian invasion.

Nuclear Conundrums
The IAEA reported that remote data transmissions for monitoring systems at Chernobyl have been lost since Tuesday, and the 210 staff, on-site since the war began, cannot rotate out of regular shifts. The critical nuclear site lost power on Wednesday, but the IAEA says there was no critical impact on safety. This follows reports that Russian forces shelled a neutron generator at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology. Western confusion as to why exactly Russia is targeting these sites adds to the alarm that Putin has ordered his nuclear forces into “special combat readiness.” Some believe Putin’s interest in these sites is mainly anchored in his desire to advance the narrative that he is protecting Russia from Ukrainian ambitions to develop nuclear weapons. Many argue that his dabbling in this nuclear space is focused mainly on messaging the West that he is willing to consider using nuclear weapons. One purported FSB Whistleblower assesses that Putin is unlikely to go for the nuclear route, and that the decision is not his alone. He notes further, there is not high confidence that the nuclear protocols would function properly having suffered from a lack of transparency in recent years, and it is unclear whether the plutonium fuel has been replenished in the past decade as would be required. At this stage, we assess that Putin is not seriously considering targeting a Ukrainian or European city or electrical grid with a nuclear weapon.