Where It Will Go From Here
March 3, 2022
Unfortunately, it does not look like Russia will be backing down anytime soon. On Monday, Lukashenko hosted the first meeting between Russian and Ukrainian officials since the Russian invasion began. However, the meeting was not helpful, as discussions broke down after Russia denied any wrongdoing. Russia is currently sending a convoy of tanks 40 miles long to invade Kyiv, yet today it looked like the convoy was slowing and shrinking due to issues with troop fatigue and desertion. Putin is also escalating his rhetoric, putting his nuclear reserves on high alert to threaten any country that dares to interfere.
It’s unclear what exactly may happen if Putin succeeds in taking over Ukraine. In a public statement by Lukashenko, he inadvertently revealed a map showing Russian troops moving into the former Soviet state of Moldova from the Ukrainian port of Odesa–an indication that Putin will continue his current trajectory of expanding his sphere of influence of force. Putin has said that only one thing will make him stop: if NATO returns to its 1945 borders, meaning that NATO would have to abandon member countries Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. And if Putin decides to use nuclear weapons, it seems that a World War would be inevitable.
However, the U.S. Treasury Department has seen success in freezing Russia’s central bank assets. “The unprecedented action we are taking today will significantly limit Russia’s ability to use assets to finance its destabilizing activities and target the funds Putin and his inner circle depend on to enable his invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement.
So what do these sanctions do? Basically, every US business is to cut ties with Russia by ending partnerships or freezing Russian assets (meaning that Russians can’t access money or other resources that are in control of American banks). These alone would hurt Russia’s weak economy (which is on par with countries like Panama and Cuba), but the sanctions from America’s allies have really affected Russia. The UN General Assembly voted today to condemn Russia’s attack. Germany, Russia’s largest trading partner, has stopped all supply lines into Russia and has donated all military equipment purchased from Russia to Ukrainian forces. Famously neutral Switzerland has made the unprecedented move of freezing Russian assets in the country. Even the Talibani government of Afghanistan has called for a cease-fire.
Corporations are also getting involved. Mastercard and Visa have cut Russia off from their services, and NATO’s decision to remove Russia from the SWIFT financial system has prevented most electronic payments. Russians have not only lost access to bank accounts but also other means of income: social media influencers in Russia can no longer get paid by Patreon, TikTok, and other services, and Russian gamers have found their accounts deleted and any purchased content is gone. On the flip side, many businesses are donating money or supplies to the Ukraine resistance. When Russia cut Ukraine’s internet, Elon Musk deployed his Starlink nodes to keep Ukraine connected (some critics argue that this is more about protecting his source of Tesla batteries than his care for the Ukrainian people).
This has all led to the Russian economy diving into freefall as intelligence agencies around the world are uncovering and seizing Putin’s hidden wealth. This, along with the inhumanity of the attacks, has Russia facing internal conflict from its citizens protesting the Ukrainian invasion. Over 6,800 Russian citizens have been arrested following protests in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities against Putin’s actions. Despite crackdowns on protestors, Putin’s main political rival Alexi Navalny has been calling for nationwide resistance in Russia from his Siberian jail cell (he was arrested on bogus charges once he returned to Russia after going to Germany to get medical treatment after Putin’s men poisoned him).
The Russian invasion of Ukraine will also have a deep impact on the US economically and politically. Oil prices have been rising since the beginning of January, but since the talks of invasion, the price of oil per barrel has gone up 24%. The stock market has also been more volatile, as wars make market security unpredictable. His handling of the Ukraine crisis has also led to a small improvement on Biden’s approval rating: most Americans wanted us to do something about the invasion without putting our soldiers on the ground, and that’s what we’ve done.
Only time will tell if that was the right solution. Until then, there is only one thing we do know, as summarized by a sign a Ukrainian protester held up during the invasion: “If Russia stops fighting, there will be no more war. If Ukraine stops fighting, there will be no more Ukraine.”
We will continue to update this article as more news becomes public over the next couple of weeks