With over 50 days passed the onset of the battle, the sides to the conflict in the Ukraine crisis are trying to improve their positions in both the hard and soft campaign. News of the Moskva battleship sinking (worth of $1 billion, and with 500 forces on board, of whom 450 died) has driven Russia’s approach towards more intense attacks, because the attack was a big blow to Russia’s military prestige and identity. It is worth noting that the sinking of the battleship was the result of a hybrid and complicated operation in two specialized sectors of missile weapons and cyber tools, and it is not baseless that Russia has accused and threatened Elon Musk of helping sink the huge defense asset of its country and “right” after the pivotal incident some Russian analysts began talking of the start of the third world war.
However, the western countries, more than ever, have mobilized their logistical and military support and sent financial and consumable aids to Ukraine, and dispatch of weapons from western countries has increased more than ever. According to the statement of the US Defense Department, the country has sent an eye-catching amount of military equipment to Ukraine since the outbreak of the war up to now, and in its talks with Zelensky has promised to dispatch over $3 billion worth of equipment to Ukraine. At the same time, European authorities like von der Leyen and ministers from several European countries including Germany, Poland, and Czech have stressed the necessity to speed up sending military equipment to Ukraine. In formal letters of protest to 24 Nato member states, Russia declared the steps as intervention in the war and reserved the right to retaliate.
Another significant development was the presence of volunteers from around the world in Ukraine. According to Major General Konashenkov, Chief spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, around 7000 foreign fighters are fighting in Kiev, more than 1500 of whom from America, Canada and Romania. It seems, the Ukrainian army showed a stiff resistance against the Russian army by support received from Europe and America’s advanced weapons, but the situation in the eastern regions is to some extent different, considering the intensification of Russia’s aerial and land attacks, and Russia is trying to occupy Mariupol in the least possible time. According to the Ukrainian, Russian and some impartial parties’ officials , so far , more than 5000 civilian and military people have been killed, more than that number wounded, and over 5 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Europe and elsewhere around the world.
Another chief issue is the lukewarm mediation by some European countries like Austria and Italy. Following talks with Putin over phone and in person, the leaders of these two countries expressed their disappointment over reaching a peaceful solution and end of the war. It seems Putin and the Russian armies are determined to continue clashes until reaching the planned goals. However, it is not much clear what Moscow’s defined scenarios for the war in Ukraine are. Alongside the above topics, also in the issue of sanctions, the pressure is mounting day by day; some important designations are as follows:
1-Sanctions on the individuals, especially the affiliates of the high raking Russian figures. In this between, sanctions against Putin, Peskov, and Labrov’s family members are to be noted. Up to now, more than 300 Russian figures and oligarchs have been designated in the west’s list of sanctions, many of whom are billionaires having tens of thousands of buildings and companies in western countries.
2-Another notable issue is that with optimism about effectiveness of harsh sanctions the EU has prepared a sixth package of sanctions to be approved and enforced. On this, von der Leyen has said that continuation of the sanctions shall bankrupt Russia, because the impact of the sanctions is felt stronger week after week. As stated by her, the Russian exports to Europe have so far plummeted by 70%. And another development is that the European countries have banned Russia’s trade navy entrance into their ports. Over the last few days, the Baltic countries, Bulgaria, Romania, and Italy have prevented Russia’s trade ships from using their ports.
3-This war has with it another unexpected war, concerning globalization of financial affairs, which should be noted. Russia had saved over 600 billion euros in the form of gold, foreign government bonds, and foreign currency from the revenues of energy and minerals exports, in case the country came under western sanctions, it would have a source of support. But, Russia has apparently forgotten, in a connected world today, that its country has deposited the bulk of the resources as usual in the western and Chinese banks. According to the report of the Atlantic Council Geo-economic Center, the main 6 countries string Russia’s foreign currency reserves include China with 17.7%, France 15.6%, and Japan 12.8%. Germany with a 12.2% share, US with 8.5%, and the UK with 5.8% are the next. It has to be noted, each of these countries, except for China, have now blocked those reserves, and based on the statement of the Atlantic Council, about $330 billion has been inaccessible to Putin.
4-The outflux of western companies from Russia, a great number of which totally having a man force of more than 200 thousand, is another outcome of the sanctions. No doubt, departure of these companies will seriously mar the trend of foreign investment in Russia, because in recent years, over 70% of foreign investment has been by the western countries.
5-In the heat of the Ukraine war, west’s intelligent rivalry and cyber-war play a crucial role, chief among them, is the activities of a twitter account named ANONYMOUS. This cyber group, active in the shadow, is waging a soft asymmetric war against Russia. This account has a following of 8 million around the world ( almost 8 times the total number of Russian army forces), and is responsible for inactivating the outstanding governmental and news websites and companies affiliated to Russia, and revealing the information of Russian institutes like Roskomnadzor, Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. It is worth noting ANONYMOUS has managed to attract another 500,000 followers since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
6-In contrast, Ukraine’s GDP for 2022 is predicted for $200 billion and even if Russia manages to occupy the whole Ukraine and maximally exploit the Ukrainian economy, it can control just $50 billion of the Ukraine economy. According to the prediction of the World Bank, if the war continues, the Ukrainian economy may reduce by half, a figure for compensating of which Ukraine can be hopeful of west’s aids, but the situation for Russia is quite different and the country lacks considerable resources for makeup, and no doubt, Russia’s trend of development and economic growth, which now ranks 11th globally , will seriously be damaged. Of course, it is obvious the continuation of war will render the rich land of Ukraine into a burnt-out geography, the reconstruction of which will impose hefty sums on the country’s people.
Generally, what can be seen from the evidence is that the western countries stress their approach to squarely stand behind Ukraine, and Russia has no immediate plan for reaching an agreement through negotiations, at least in the short term. In other words, it has to be said that Ukraine has become the battlefield of the west and Russia‘s soft and hard confrontation, and the two countries influential in the conflict, that is the US and UK, are still hitting the drums of war at least until the end of 2022. Some believe the goal of the US and UK is weakening Russia in this strategic region of the world. Some others believes the goal of the UK’s government is ending the Putin era.
However, the negative consequences of war are palpable on the various dimensions of the economic life of both countries, especially Russia, and though Moscow has potentials on its side to push back, no doubt, Putin’s target of making Russia the 5th economic power of the world and promoting other indexes of growth, development and technology will be seriously damaged, and the war will make them virtually impossible. Whatever the outcome of the efforts of the two sides in the war, it will be to the loss of the people and national interests of the breadbasket of Europe and the largest country of the world.
Ali Beman Eghbalizarch, senior expert of Europe
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)