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ussia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is just a handful of days old, but it’s already clear things haven’t gone the way most expected. Western officials say the Kremlin and President Putin are frustrated at the slow pace of the invasion, due both to Ukraine’s stronger-than-expected resistance and logistics issues experienced by Russian forces due to poor planning. Russia’s tactics and very mixed results have largely confounded Western analysts as well. 

Aside from the surprising (to many) state of things in Ukraine, over the past several days there have been a host of unexpected developments. In some cases, these are negative consequences for Russia that perhaps go beyond what the Kremlin bargained for. In other cases, these are unexpected silver linings that might just give us a bit of hope for the future. Today, Diplomatic Courier is bringing you a two-part miniseries that rounds up the unexpected developments as reported across the media landscape - all gathered together in one place and contextualized for easier digestion. Part one, below, surveys the unintended consequences. Part two, which you can find here, surveys unexpected silver linings. 

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, governments around the world are increasingly alienating the Kremlin. Does this economic and diplomatic fallout have the potential to turn Russia into a new, more dangerous pariah state like Iran or North Korea?

Economic fallout

The Kremlin certainly expected to be sanctioned and was prepared to face these sanctions, in part because it expected the West won’t have the will to continue sanctions long-term and in part because Russia’s currency reserves and booming oil and gas add resilience. As sanctions packages are revealed, however, analysts increasingly see long-term pain for Russia. The EU’s sanctions package will freeze around half of Russia’s foreign-currency reserves, and Switzerland’s announcement that it will also enact sanctions in line with the EU’s package likely came as an unwelcome surprise which will only increase that pain. The Biden Administration on Monday also announced new sanctions aimed at Russia’s central bank - freezing its assets in the U.S. - along with other measures targeted at making it more difficult for Russia to move assets.

The SWIFT ban on “selected” Russian banks imposed by the U.S. and EU - enacted despite warnings that Russia’s financial interconnectedness with the West means the ban could backfire - is expected to mean rapid and severe damage to Russia’s economy. The ban will make it more difficult for Russia’s financial system to interact with international partners and still leaves room for harsher measures to be enacted. 

These moves were definitely felt - Russia’s central bank doubled its interest rate Monday to support the ruble and shut down its stock market in response to the ruble’s crash. Yet the ruble as of 11:00am ET on Monday was worth less than $0.01, a plunge of around 30%. Russia’s stock market remains closed as of Wednesday - an extraordinary period of time which is the longest since late 1998.

But this might not be the worst news for Russia. Two of China’s largest state-owned banks have already restricted financing for Russian commodities purchases, and on Monday the Bank of China’s Singapore branch decided to stop financing deals involving Russian oil. In further bad news for Russia’s oil and gas industry, Shell and BP are exiting all their Russian ventures which involve billions in assets. Norwegian major Equinor is expected to follow suit.

Friendlies, Neutrals Distancing Themselves

World public opinion rapidly turned against Russia over the past several days, almost certainly to an extent well beyond what Putin expected. This shift in public opinion can be seen both inside and outside Russia.

Several countries generally seen as well within Russia’s sphere of influence have created distance between themselves and the war in Ukraine. 

Armenia is keeping a generally low profile, providing some support for Russia in multilateral institutions but indicating it will not recognize Donetsk and Lugansk as independent regions. Other South Caucasus states have been less reticent. Georgia said it won’t join in sanctions regimes, but widespread protests within the country against Russia’s invasion drew praise from Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskiy. Georgia, of course, has been the target of Russian aggression itself in the recent past and has a delicate balance to keep. Azerbaijan is trying to maintain relations with both Ukraine and Russia. While Azerbaijan hasn’t taken any public stance on Donetsk and Lugansk, there have been widespread demonstrations in support of Ukraine and the government has been supplying Ukraine with humanitarian aid. 

Kazakhstan - which recently received support from Russian troops to quell anti-government protests - has refused calls from the Kremlin to militarily support the invasion of Ukraine. The Kazakh government has also refused to recognize Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states. Uzbekistan, meanwhile, has emphasized its neutrality in a Facebook post by Uzbek Press Secretary Sherzod Asadov.

In Europe and further afield, many governments with ties to the Kremlin have been cautious in their response to the crisis. While few have outright condemned the invasion, Russia doesn’t have very many friends either. 

India has been reluctant to take a hard stand against Russia due to their close defense and trade ties. Yet India is sending humanitarian aid to Kyiv and, while has thus far stopped short of condemning hostilities, New Delhi has said that dialogue is the only answer to differences between Ukraine and Russia.

In Africa, many national governments have remained largely silent on Russia’s invasion. However, South Africa - a key Russian ally - has called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops. The African Union has expressed concern that Africans are being denied the right to leave Ukraine and seek safety by border officials - but it has also called on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty

Egypt, meanwhile, has called for the Council of the Arab League to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the Ukraine crisis. The United Arab Emirates - which is closely associated with Russia through OPEC+ - had been maintaining neutrality but on Monday condemned “the ongoing violence in Ukraine'' and called for an immediate ceasefire, while also highlighting the need to recognize sovereignty. 

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has not only refused to condemn Russia, he has refused to call it an invasion. Despite this initially pro-Russian stance, Brazil on Friday voted against Russia on a draft UN Security Council resolution that, had it passed, would have condemned the invasion. Brazil also voted against Russia on a UN Human Rights Council vote on whether to hold an “urgent debate” on Ukraine.

Even China has been edging away from Russia in the past few days. Chinese representatives have met with Ukrainian officials, leading Ukraine to ask that China help stop the war. While China hasn’t taken that extraordinary step as yet, it has further distanced itself from Russia by publicly calling for the first time for a de-escalation in Ukraine.

Serbian officials disagree over how to respond to the invasion - citing historical grievances, the need to protect Serbia’s national interests, and policy consistency - and are thus far maintaining strict neutrality

Greece has a long history of close relations with Russia - despite recent unease over Russia’s growing ties with Turkey. Yet Greece is fully supporting the EU’s move to send military supplies to Ukraine, perhaps in part because Greek citizens were killed by Russian forces in a bombing in the Donetsk region. 

Despite growing military ties with Russia - and also despite being a key member of NATO - Turkey was relatively silent on the invasion in its early days. On Sunday, however, Turkey acknowledged that Russia’s assault on Ukraine is a war and pledged to block Russian ships from entering the Black Sea through the straits of Darnadelles and Bosphorus - though this restriction cannot stop ships returning to their registered base, by treaty. 

All of this feels grim enough for Russia, and that doesn’t even take into account reports of widespread protests across dozens of cities in Russia - which have in turn led to thousands of arrests since Thursday. Domestic dissent isn’t confined to protests - the government of the Gagarinksy District has issued a statement condemning the war and calling for Russian troops to be recalled. Furthermore, several Russian elites - oligarchs Mikhail Fridman, Oleg Deripaska, Oleg Tinkov, Alexei Mordashov, and Alexey Kuzmichev - have made public statements (though of varying toughness) condemning violence and calling for an end to hostilities in Ukraine.  

Revitalization of NATO, New Push for Membership

Diplomatic Courier recently reported that sentiment in Russia in the past several months has shifted to view escalating tensions in Ukraine as the fault of the U.S. and NATO. This is, according to the U.S. Department of State (among other observers) the result of an intentional and targeted disinformation campaign carried out by the Kremlin to prepare public opinion for hostilities. One of Russia’s key demands has been that Ukraine distance itself from the West generally and NATO specifically

There may be disagreement over whether Putin actually believed Ukraine could become a NATO member, but he clearly considers NATO a threat and in some way this invasion is a message. Take, for instance, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s warning to Finland and Sweden last week that they should abandon their overtures toward joining NATO or face “serious military-political repercussions that would demand a response from our country.” If Putin hoped to undermine NATO with this invasion, however, the opposite appears to have been the outcome.

Officials say the crisis has forced NATO to focus once again on its core mission, and the alliance has redeployed considerable assets to its eastern boundaries.  The U.S. alone activated 14,000 troops in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday said more could be coming. Germany, meanwhile, has agreed to raise its defense spending to above 2% GDP in accordance with the alliance’s defense investment guidelines. This is a major reversal for Germany, which for years has resisted increasing defense spending. Germany also halted Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and agreed to supply Ukraine with weapons in response to suggestions it had been too dovish in the face of Russian aggression.

Russia’s apparent warning to Finland and Sweden against joining NATO appears to have backfired as well. Campaigns for membership in both countries have picked up momentum following the invasion of Ukraine. In the interim, Finland and Sweden are working more closely with NATO than ever.

About
Shane Szarkowski
:
Dr. Shane Szarkowski is Managing Editor of Diplomatic Courier and the Executive Director of World in 2050. A Marine Corps Veteran, he is an experienced editor and analyst with expertise in energy, security, and state failure. Follow him on Twitter @ShaneSzarkowski.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Ukraine Invasion: Unintended Consequences for Russia

Protesters holding "Stop Russia" sign with Ukrainian flags. Demonstration against a war, president Vladimir Putin and invasion on Ukraine. Photo by Adobe Stock.

March 2, 2022

Nothing ever goes exactly as planned in a war, but this appears to be especially true for Russia, with consequences for Russia's invasion likely to be far more severe than expected. W2050 & Diplomatic Courier's Shane Szarkowski surveys the media landscape for some of the most impactful consequences

R

ussia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is just a handful of days old, but it’s already clear things haven’t gone the way most expected. Western officials say the Kremlin and President Putin are frustrated at the slow pace of the invasion, due both to Ukraine’s stronger-than-expected resistance and logistics issues experienced by Russian forces due to poor planning. Russia’s tactics and very mixed results have largely confounded Western analysts as well. 

Aside from the surprising (to many) state of things in Ukraine, over the past several days there have been a host of unexpected developments. In some cases, these are negative consequences for Russia that perhaps go beyond what the Kremlin bargained for. In other cases, these are unexpected silver linings that might just give us a bit of hope for the future. Today, Diplomatic Courier is bringing you a two-part miniseries that rounds up the unexpected developments as reported across the media landscape - all gathered together in one place and contextualized for easier digestion. Part one, below, surveys the unintended consequences. Part two, which you can find here, surveys unexpected silver linings. 

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, governments around the world are increasingly alienating the Kremlin. Does this economic and diplomatic fallout have the potential to turn Russia into a new, more dangerous pariah state like Iran or North Korea?

Economic fallout

The Kremlin certainly expected to be sanctioned and was prepared to face these sanctions, in part because it expected the West won’t have the will to continue sanctions long-term and in part because Russia’s currency reserves and booming oil and gas add resilience. As sanctions packages are revealed, however, analysts increasingly see long-term pain for Russia. The EU’s sanctions package will freeze around half of Russia’s foreign-currency reserves, and Switzerland’s announcement that it will also enact sanctions in line with the EU’s package likely came as an unwelcome surprise which will only increase that pain. The Biden Administration on Monday also announced new sanctions aimed at Russia’s central bank - freezing its assets in the U.S. - along with other measures targeted at making it more difficult for Russia to move assets.

The SWIFT ban on “selected” Russian banks imposed by the U.S. and EU - enacted despite warnings that Russia’s financial interconnectedness with the West means the ban could backfire - is expected to mean rapid and severe damage to Russia’s economy. The ban will make it more difficult for Russia’s financial system to interact with international partners and still leaves room for harsher measures to be enacted. 

These moves were definitely felt - Russia’s central bank doubled its interest rate Monday to support the ruble and shut down its stock market in response to the ruble’s crash. Yet the ruble as of 11:00am ET on Monday was worth less than $0.01, a plunge of around 30%. Russia’s stock market remains closed as of Wednesday - an extraordinary period of time which is the longest since late 1998.

But this might not be the worst news for Russia. Two of China’s largest state-owned banks have already restricted financing for Russian commodities purchases, and on Monday the Bank of China’s Singapore branch decided to stop financing deals involving Russian oil. In further bad news for Russia’s oil and gas industry, Shell and BP are exiting all their Russian ventures which involve billions in assets. Norwegian major Equinor is expected to follow suit.

Friendlies, Neutrals Distancing Themselves

World public opinion rapidly turned against Russia over the past several days, almost certainly to an extent well beyond what Putin expected. This shift in public opinion can be seen both inside and outside Russia.

Several countries generally seen as well within Russia’s sphere of influence have created distance between themselves and the war in Ukraine. 

Armenia is keeping a generally low profile, providing some support for Russia in multilateral institutions but indicating it will not recognize Donetsk and Lugansk as independent regions. Other South Caucasus states have been less reticent. Georgia said it won’t join in sanctions regimes, but widespread protests within the country against Russia’s invasion drew praise from Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskiy. Georgia, of course, has been the target of Russian aggression itself in the recent past and has a delicate balance to keep. Azerbaijan is trying to maintain relations with both Ukraine and Russia. While Azerbaijan hasn’t taken any public stance on Donetsk and Lugansk, there have been widespread demonstrations in support of Ukraine and the government has been supplying Ukraine with humanitarian aid. 

Kazakhstan - which recently received support from Russian troops to quell anti-government protests - has refused calls from the Kremlin to militarily support the invasion of Ukraine. The Kazakh government has also refused to recognize Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states. Uzbekistan, meanwhile, has emphasized its neutrality in a Facebook post by Uzbek Press Secretary Sherzod Asadov.

In Europe and further afield, many governments with ties to the Kremlin have been cautious in their response to the crisis. While few have outright condemned the invasion, Russia doesn’t have very many friends either. 

India has been reluctant to take a hard stand against Russia due to their close defense and trade ties. Yet India is sending humanitarian aid to Kyiv and, while has thus far stopped short of condemning hostilities, New Delhi has said that dialogue is the only answer to differences between Ukraine and Russia.

In Africa, many national governments have remained largely silent on Russia’s invasion. However, South Africa - a key Russian ally - has called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops. The African Union has expressed concern that Africans are being denied the right to leave Ukraine and seek safety by border officials - but it has also called on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty

Egypt, meanwhile, has called for the Council of the Arab League to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the Ukraine crisis. The United Arab Emirates - which is closely associated with Russia through OPEC+ - had been maintaining neutrality but on Monday condemned “the ongoing violence in Ukraine'' and called for an immediate ceasefire, while also highlighting the need to recognize sovereignty. 

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro has not only refused to condemn Russia, he has refused to call it an invasion. Despite this initially pro-Russian stance, Brazil on Friday voted against Russia on a draft UN Security Council resolution that, had it passed, would have condemned the invasion. Brazil also voted against Russia on a UN Human Rights Council vote on whether to hold an “urgent debate” on Ukraine.

Even China has been edging away from Russia in the past few days. Chinese representatives have met with Ukrainian officials, leading Ukraine to ask that China help stop the war. While China hasn’t taken that extraordinary step as yet, it has further distanced itself from Russia by publicly calling for the first time for a de-escalation in Ukraine.

Serbian officials disagree over how to respond to the invasion - citing historical grievances, the need to protect Serbia’s national interests, and policy consistency - and are thus far maintaining strict neutrality

Greece has a long history of close relations with Russia - despite recent unease over Russia’s growing ties with Turkey. Yet Greece is fully supporting the EU’s move to send military supplies to Ukraine, perhaps in part because Greek citizens were killed by Russian forces in a bombing in the Donetsk region. 

Despite growing military ties with Russia - and also despite being a key member of NATO - Turkey was relatively silent on the invasion in its early days. On Sunday, however, Turkey acknowledged that Russia’s assault on Ukraine is a war and pledged to block Russian ships from entering the Black Sea through the straits of Darnadelles and Bosphorus - though this restriction cannot stop ships returning to their registered base, by treaty. 

All of this feels grim enough for Russia, and that doesn’t even take into account reports of widespread protests across dozens of cities in Russia - which have in turn led to thousands of arrests since Thursday. Domestic dissent isn’t confined to protests - the government of the Gagarinksy District has issued a statement condemning the war and calling for Russian troops to be recalled. Furthermore, several Russian elites - oligarchs Mikhail Fridman, Oleg Deripaska, Oleg Tinkov, Alexei Mordashov, and Alexey Kuzmichev - have made public statements (though of varying toughness) condemning violence and calling for an end to hostilities in Ukraine.  

Revitalization of NATO, New Push for Membership

Diplomatic Courier recently reported that sentiment in Russia in the past several months has shifted to view escalating tensions in Ukraine as the fault of the U.S. and NATO. This is, according to the U.S. Department of State (among other observers) the result of an intentional and targeted disinformation campaign carried out by the Kremlin to prepare public opinion for hostilities. One of Russia’s key demands has been that Ukraine distance itself from the West generally and NATO specifically

There may be disagreement over whether Putin actually believed Ukraine could become a NATO member, but he clearly considers NATO a threat and in some way this invasion is a message. Take, for instance, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s warning to Finland and Sweden last week that they should abandon their overtures toward joining NATO or face “serious military-political repercussions that would demand a response from our country.” If Putin hoped to undermine NATO with this invasion, however, the opposite appears to have been the outcome.

Officials say the crisis has forced NATO to focus once again on its core mission, and the alliance has redeployed considerable assets to its eastern boundaries.  The U.S. alone activated 14,000 troops in response to the invasion of Ukraine, and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby on Monday said more could be coming. Germany, meanwhile, has agreed to raise its defense spending to above 2% GDP in accordance with the alliance’s defense investment guidelines. This is a major reversal for Germany, which for years has resisted increasing defense spending. Germany also halted Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and agreed to supply Ukraine with weapons in response to suggestions it had been too dovish in the face of Russian aggression.

Russia’s apparent warning to Finland and Sweden against joining NATO appears to have backfired as well. Campaigns for membership in both countries have picked up momentum following the invasion of Ukraine. In the interim, Finland and Sweden are working more closely with NATO than ever.

About
Shane Szarkowski
:
Dr. Shane Szarkowski is Managing Editor of Diplomatic Courier and the Executive Director of World in 2050. A Marine Corps Veteran, he is an experienced editor and analyst with expertise in energy, security, and state failure. Follow him on Twitter @ShaneSzarkowski.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.