Conflict Alerts # 488, 2 March 2022
In the news
On 26 February, a group of leaders across the US, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Commission, came together to “condemn Putin’s war of choice and attacks on the sovereign nation and people of Ukraine.” The joint statement underlined their resolve to “continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies” and undertake the following measures: to ensure that “selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system” thereby disconnecting these banks from their global operation; to impose, “restrictive measures that will prevent the Russian Central Bank from deploying its international reserves,” so that the international sanctions are not undermined by Russia; to act “against the people and entities who facilitate the war in Ukraine and the harmful activities of the Russian government,” addressing wealthy Russians linked with the Russian government; to launch “a transatlantic task force that will ensure the effective implementation” of the sanctions; and, to coordinate “against disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare.”
On 26 February, the Russian news agency TASS reported the Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: “Immediate measures are certainly being taken in order to mitigate the damage from sanctions and ensure the unhindered operation of all economic sectors and systems…(Russia) has every possibility and potential to do that…Analysis will be required to determine the retaliatory measures that would best serve our interests.”
On 27 February, the TASS also reported a Russian defence ministry’s note on casualties on its side. According to the news, the TASS quoted the defence ministry report saying: “Russian servicemen are showing courage and heroism during the special military operation. But, regrettably, there are killed and wounded among them.” A Wall Street Journal report also claimed a Russian defence ministry source accepting “extensive losses in the seven days of war, saying that 498 Russian troops have been killed and 1,597 injured.” The same WSJ report also mentioned Ukraine’s version of the casualties, with the latter’s military having killed 5,840 Russian troops and placing the civilian death toll at about 2,000.
On 27 February, the British oil company – BP announced its decision to leave Rosneft, the State-controlled big oil company in Russia. Rosneft is a global company that has operations in more than 20 countries; BP has invested close to 20 per cent in the same. According to a statement by the BP chairman: “It has led the BP board to conclude, after a thorough process, that our involvement with Rosneft, a state-owned enterprise, simply cannot continue.” On 01 March, TotalEnergies, a global energy company of France, with a presence in more than 130 countries, made an official statement about not providing capital for any new projects in Russia. According to the statement: “TotalEnergies supports the scope and strength of the sanctions put in place by Europe and will implement them regardless of the consequences (currently being assessed) on its activities in Russia. TotalEnergies will no longer provide capital for new projects in Russia.”
On 2 March, the UN General Assembly had an emergency meeting over Ukraine. The resolution (supported by 141 states and 35 abstaining) deplored “in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of Article 2 (4) of the Charter.” It demanded, “that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and to refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State.” Only five countries voted against the resolution, including Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea. Earlier, on 27 February, the UN Security Council also met on the same question; it was decided to convene an emergency session of the UN General Assembly.
On 2 March, Kherson, a port city of the Black Sea, fell to the Russian forces invading from the south from Crimea. In the northeast, during the week, Russia has been bombarding Kharkiv and in north Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Issues at large
First, the political objective of Russia’s Ukraine war. One week after Russia having launched a military invasion, politically, the elected government of Ukraine led by President Zelenskyy has not been toppled. A primary political objective of Putin’s war in Ukraine is to change the government, considered pro-Europe and pro-West. The first week of the Russian invasion has instead united the Ukrainians to rally behind their President.
Second, the international support for Ukraine and condemnation for Russia. This could be seen in the UN resolution and the individual statements from capitals worldwide. There is widespread criticism against Russia and more considerable political support for Ukraine. The emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly was categorical in its resolution. While the international support has been substantial in supporting Kyiv, its condemnation of Moscow is insufficient to prevent Russia from changing its course. The first week could be described as a political stalemate, with neither Russia achieving its primary objective nor Ukraine losing the case.
Third, the military stalemate in Ukraine. While Russia has captured a key port city in the Black Sea, and in Ukraine’s south, and has been bombarding Kharkiv in the northeast, the first week of war has neither yielded success for the Russian advances, nor Ukraine’s security forces collapsed, as the Kremlin could have wanted.
Fourth, the new refugee situation for Europe from Ukraine. The Russian attack has triggered a new wave of refugees from Ukraine into Europe, mainly through Poland. Besides facing the military invasion of Russia into Ukraine and preparing for a political and military response, the EU is now faced with addressing the refugee question.
Fifth, the supply chain disruptions. An analysis in the New York Times analysis looked into what the war in Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia would bring. For example, the automobile industry would suffer, as “Ukraine and Russia are both substantial sources for palladium and platinum, used in catalytic converters, as well as aluminum, steel and chrome.” The NYT analysis also argues how the war and sanctions would affect other sectors: “Semiconductor manufacturers are warily eyeing global stocks of neon, xenon and palladium, necessary to manufacture their products. Makers of potato chips and cosmetics could face shortages of sunflower oil, the bulk of which is produced in Russia and Ukraine.”
First, the primary focus of the Russian invasion is in the south of Crimea. Perhaps Moscow’s political objective is to control the entire Black Sea and aim to build a land corridor along the coast from eastern Ukraine. Second, the primary response from the US and its allies in Europe is aimed at imposing economic sanctions but avoiding a direct military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Third the rising humanitarian cost for the people of Ukraine. Besides the direct fallouts of war, a refugee situation is likely to increase and become a multi-year question to address.