Ripples of War | Six Months Since Russia’s Invasion into Ukraine
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Six months have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine and began a full-scale war throughout the country. Since then, the world has shifted dramatically and the impacts of the war for sanctions, global governance, energy, and security have continued to shift. The Kennan Institute analyzed what has transpired in the six months of war thus far, and what might lie ahead, featuring insights from panelists and contributors to the Wilson Quarterly’s latest issue, the Ripples of War.
"What has been lost after this invasion? Putin has emphasized national sovereignty, but the consequences of this war have been devastating in terms of Russia’s global exposure and global access to international institutions. So Russia no longer is a part of the Council of Europe, it’s no longer part of the European Court of Human Rights, it has been suspended from the Arctic Council and the OSCE, it is no longer a part of the Bologna process, which was an attempt to make Russia degrees available and recognized in the European Union. And the list goes on. So I think what is important about this war is that it essentially took, I would argue, two week to destroy and eliminate all the things that Russia had achieved in the past 30 years."
"Obviously, there has been a long debate about how to describe the former members of the Soviet Union, and the most convenient was this notion of 'post-Soviet.' But clearly Ukraine now not only does not consider itself post-Soviet, it has fought for and is in the process of becoming European. So as we look at this notion of memory and how it plays in the region, I think it is important to understand that Ukraine after this war will not be a post-Soviet country, it will be a European country, or at least that’s what its intention is. And that will also cause ramifications for Russia, who wants to make sure that Ukraine stays part of its sphere of influence."
"I think that what this war also demonstrates is that Russia still doesn’t understand its own human capital, and doesn’t take advantage of its human capital. Bruce has talked about sanctions, but the brain drain will be a significant loss for Russia going forward. So I‘m looking at how does Russia recover from the sanctions, and the brain drain, and its isolation from the rest of the world."
"What this war has done to Europe is change its threat perception fundamentally. And it’s worth keeping that in mind that what Russia did by a full-on invasion of Ukraine was to show that it would not respect any of the rules-based norms, any of the agreements, and of the strictures that were put in place that European countries view as essential to their peace and security. And while it might have been possible for them to say prior to this invasion that there was a manageable process of dialogue with Russia, that is no longer the case. They see that the threat perception has changed, and that they must respond quickly to it. And they have. This is also redefining Europe itself and its institutions—the institutions that were so important to keeping peace. You now see the EU deciding to offer candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova. You see NATO saying, right, we’re going to take on Sweden and Finland, who changed decades of their neutrality in order to join an alliance to deter further action, to strengthen that alliance. So what you see then is Europe has a new threat perception, it’s changing to meet it, and individual countries are changing to meet it. To look ahead, this is the part where they need to double down on many of the things that they’re doing to effect that change. Not only to support Ukraine, and to continue their support to Ukraine, but also to make the fundamental changes that they need in order to continue that support and to strengthen their own security at home."
"Right now, what you see in many European countries is they know the tactic that Putin is using. They see it. And it is surprising to some who thought, wait, Russia was a dependable partner even in the Cold War. I heard this a lot. “Oh, but during the Cold War, even when we had these major differences, Russia was a reliable energy supplier.” They have seen now that for Putin, energy is a weapon. They also see that energy security for Europe is really a whole-of-Europe discussion. Because you’ve seen the discussions at the EU, where they talk about how to reduce dependence on Russian oil, and what might be needed for Russian gas as well. So, all of that is very visible: that Putin’s tactic is to wait them out, and try division when demand is most high."
"In Germany, they remembered another anniversary this week, and that is that yesterday was the anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin pact. And they're looking at that and thinking yes, that was an effort to divide up, essentially, Eastern Europe, and they see Putin’s efforts now as part of that. So, I think that as long as they have that wariness, it will be very difficult to have any kind of relationship within these international institutions. And frankly, the latest strategic concept for NATO recognizes that the relationship with Russia has fundamentally changed."
"There’s no question that sanctions had an impact. These are the most extensive sanctions pretty much ever imposed, other than ones that were imposed through the United Nations. Even companies—over a thousand companies have either been getting out or cutting back on their business, and frankly that’s not what companies usually do. On a lot of our China sanctions, American and other companies try to go around them. They’ve had an economic impact. But Putin has managed to contain those costs in a variety of ways. Where we are now on that… is there’s really a war of economic attrition going on now. Putin has kind of jiu-jitsued with his counter-sanctions, particularly cutting the supply of natural gas to Europe, which is affecting industry, which is creating scenarios of possible rationing of home heating as we get into winter and the like. And the question of whether or not European solidarity will get worn down by that is an open question."
"The costs [of sanctions on Russia] have been significant in terms of GDP projections. The projections of the GDP now are like they were in the early 1990s chaos that Russia went through then. Some of the measures they’ve been using are temporary. It’s affected the battlefield, because one of the most effective sanctions has been on semiconductors. There are reports that Russians—I think almost over 2,500 armored vehicles have been lost, largely through the bravery and skill of Ukrainian resistance and US and NATO aid. [Russia has] fired over 75%, by one Pentagon count, of their precision-guided missiles, and they’re taking semiconductors out of refrigerators and dishwashers, which, you know, probably aren’t designed the same exact way. So the economic impact is there. But there was a study that came out the other day that called it “driving them into economic oblivion.” The Washington Post had an article yesterday that said we haven’t crashed the economy yet. That’s really dangerous strategic thinking. Economies don’t get crushed to the point that you have to say “uncle,” and the crucial thing is converting that economic impact into policy change."
"There are a couple scenarios for what can happen here. One is that the war grinds on, subject to all sorts of risks that it escalates intentionally or unintentionally. That may be the one that seems the most likely at this point. The other is that it escalates, whether it's to another country—Moldova or a NATO country—or it starts to go up that nuclear ladder. A third is some sort of agreement. And it won’t be [Russia] saying “uncle.” It just won’t happen."
"And so there you wonder internally, [...] you know, you do hear reports of discontent out there. We’re not looking at a Gorbachev rising, or protests in the streets bringing down a government. But even deeply nationalistic Russians, including from the siloviki, from the military and intelligence establishment, they’re seeing what this is doing to their military. They’re asking for volunteers from North Korea. I mean, how can a proud Russian really want to do that? And whether or not there is pressure to try to come to some sort of agreement, it’s the only scenario to me, other than grinding on so-called frozen conflict—and this one won’t freeze like in other parts of the world—or escalation. And there, the United States, and the West, and the Ukrainians have to really be thinking about how do we use the strong hand we bring to those negotiations? And what would we think is an acceptable settlement, both on the ground policy-wise, and politically in Europe, in Ukraine, and at home?"
"I’m sure that in the long-term, Russia will lose their position of energy dominance, especially in Europe. And I’m sure that the European course of energy transition will not be changed. However, we do see already more attention to coal usage, more attention to nuclear, and maybe Russia will, with blackmailing, achieve the goal of selling more energy to Europe than Russia expected. But in the long term we’ll see a dramatic change in European and global energy markets."
"We shouldn’t forget that Putin’s favorite game is blackmailing. It’s like blackjack, the way he’s raising bets and just waiting for others to be frightened and step back. He has some pain regarding the [Cuban missile crisis], and he’s sure that the Soviet Union lost that battle… and now he tries to do something very similar. I believe that the situation with nuclear terrorism at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is something that he may try to use in this game. That is something that we - the whole world- should prevent, because it is going to be a disaster for the whole of Europe."
Director, Energy Program, Ukrainian Institute for the Future
William Preston Few Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Political Science, Duke University
Robin S. Quinville
William E. Pomeranz
The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the surrounding region though research and exchange. Read more
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