Article

The West responds to Russia

Vladimir Putin wishes to strengthen Russian influence or control over an arc of countries on his western borders. He is more likely to attack or subvert countries that are not members of NATO.

| 5 min read

Scenes of tragic loss of life and damage to Ukraine’s cities have evoked a wave of sympathy for the country and people under attack. There is widespread international rejection of Russia’s actions.

NATO issued a strong statement of condemnation. It stressed that there are no NATO armed personnel in Ukraine and it will not be committing forces to the battle. It also stressed that under Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, any attack on a single NATO country is regarded as an attack on all, and there would be a large NATO response to any such attack.

Many fast jets and warships are standing ready to defend the borders of NATO in Europe. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have asked for an Article 4 consultation over their defence as they feel the need for clear NATO protection today given their proximity to Russian forces. Mr Putin who says he sees NATO as a threat to him should read Article 1 of the founding Treaty which makes clear the alliance will “refrain from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the UN”. The Russian leader claims to be acting under Article 51 of the UN Charter, the right to self-defence, which is not what it looks like to Ukraine. It looks as if we can continue to rule out any NATO/Russia war.

Dealing with the Russian bear

Attention now turns to the government of Ukraine. President Zelenskyy is rallying his people to fight against the Russian invaders. He tells Russia that Ukraine has not attacked Donbas or Russian interests, whilst now encouraging his military to respond firmly to the Russian action. There are western media reports of civilians arming themselves to add resistance to the substantial armed forces of Ukraine. The weight of Russian fire power from missiles, artillery, aerial bombardment and tanks is formidable, making the task of defence difficult. Russia has concentrated the bulk of its entire military might close to Ukraine to try to overwhelm quickly.

Russian policy is clearly the work of President Putin himself.

He says he wants a neutral Ukraine with no suggestion of eventual NATO membership under a government that would be closer to Russian views and influence. Various pro-Russia Ukrainian politicians have been mentioned as possible candidates to run a pro-Russian government in Kiev were the current government to fall.

It is possible the elected President Zelenskyy will rally his people well, unite them behind the defence of their country and make the invasion task more difficult and more damaging to both sides as Russia is held up. It is also possible the government would reach the point where it could no longer govern, with resistance crumbling, where the question of how to choose a successor and who that might be would become the issue. It is also possible the government unites the country for a fight, but Russian power proves too much for the defence. If Russia takes over the main places and installations of the state it would then try to dictate terms for the future government.

Buffer against the west

Mr Putin wishes to strengthen Russian influence or control over an arc of countries on his western borders. He is more likely to attack or subvert countries that are not members of NATO given the strong reiteration of NATO’s intention to engage fully in the defence of any NATO member. Moldova to the west of Ukraine already has an eastern strip with some who look to Russia. Georgia has been the object of Putin’s attention in previous military action, and Belarus now seems to be a loyal state to Russia. Russia showed its willingness to use force to annex territory in South Ossetia in 2008.

It will drive Russia closer to China and move the NATO allies to more exclusion of Russia and China from supply chains, technology transfer and investment.

All this points to continuing disruption to the east of Europe, and to continuing uncertainties about energy supplies, banking arrangements and trade between the western democracies and the autocratic regimes of Russia and China. It will drive Russia closer to China and move the NATO allies to more exclusion of Russia and China from supply chains, technology transfer and investment. The West has now decided on its latest round of sanctions. These are much tougher than before, especially in technology areas. They do not stop trade in energy or bar Russia from the Swift system of settlement, but the banking controls will impede trade and the movement of money.

In the short-term, energy prices and wheat prices have risen strongly given the importance of Russian and Ukrainian supply. Longer term pricing of wheat will be affected by whether there is more lasting damage to future crops and to the general trading and settlement arrangements. Europe is likely now to draw up plans to lessen its dependence on Russian energy, but this will take time to implement.

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The West responds to Russia

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