“One death is a tragedy: one million deaths are a statistic.”-Josef Stalin
On February 24, Russia launched a devastating attack on Ukraine, a European democracy of 44 million people, prompting a mass exodus of refugees.
For months prior to the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied he would invade his neighbor.
In a pre-dawn TV address on February 24, Putin declared Russia could not feel “safe, develop and exist” because of what he claimed was a constant threat from modern Ukraine.
Pre & Post Invasion Conditions
In 2014, after months of protests against his rule, Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted. Putin retaliated by seizing the southern region of Crimea.
In late 2021, Putin began deploying troops close to Ukraine’s borders, while repeatedly denying he was going to attack.
After the February attack, Putin put his nuclear forces on high alert, warning the West with “consequences the like of which you have never seen” if it stands in his way.
Thousands of anti-war protestors in Russia have been detained. Independent Russian broadcasters have been taken off the air.
Reaction Of The West
NATO countries have provided weapons to Ukraine and the European Union (EU), for the first time in its history, is buying and sending arms to Ukraine.
The West is targeting Russia’s economy, financial institutions and individuals in a number of ways:
(1) Cutting off key Russian banks from the International Swift payment network
(2) Shutting off airspace to Russian airlines
(3) Germany has halted approval of a Russian gas pipeline
(4) Russia’s state-run media, Sputnik, is banned across the EU
Russia Under Putin
After the resignation of Yeltsin in 2004, Putin became president.
In 2020, Putin signed a bill giving lifetime prosecutorial immunity to Russian ex-presidents.
In 2021, Putin signed into law constitutional amendments that would allow him to extend his presidency to 2036.
Under Putin’s leadership, Russia has shifted to authoritarianism. Political opponents are jailed, the press is suppressed and there are no fair elections.
Economic Fallout From Invasion
The U.S. Congress has revoked Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status, a formal step to severing economic ties with Russia. Separately, Congress banned the import of Russian oil.
The World Bank says Ukraine’s economy will shrink by 45 percent this year because of Russia’s invasion, which has shut down half the country’s businesses and damaged a vast amount of critical infrasturcture.
Ukraine plays a major role as a global supplier of agricultural exports such as wheat.
Unprecedented sanctions imposed by Western allies are plunging Russia into a deep recession.
Top diplomats and U.S. officials who oversaw post-Soviet negotiations with Russia over Europe’s security in the 1990’s knew that if NATO ever expanded to Russia’s borders, it would likely lead to war.
Ukraine’s defense ministry claims that Russia fired almost all its guided missiles during the first 20 days of the war. A U.S. defense official said that Russian forces had fired more than 1,080 missiles since February 24, a significant percentage of Russia’s pre-war inventory.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an outspoken Putin critic, was once Russia’s richest man. He was arrested in 2003 on charges of fraud and tax evasion, a move he has said was politically motivated. He was imprisoned for nearly a decade until his release in 2013.
Putin had hoped for a decisive win within days of the February 24 invasion. What he is getting is more like the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1979, a brutal mess.
Putin made the following miscalculations:
(1) Ukraine’s heroic resistance
(2) The West’s willingness to arm Ukraine
(3) The West’s shutting down much of Russia’s economy
Photo by Vincent Biker Galera