Situation Update #6: The Ukraine Crisis
Foreign Policy Brief #150 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | March 28, 2022
Header photo taken from: Al Jazeera
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Photo taken from: The Sumter Item
Over a month into Russia’s assault on Ukraine, there still is no end. Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine has stalled and taken a much larger toll than many predicted. A lack of preparedness, supplies, and morale has caused a stalemate among ground forces. Yet as Russia’s advance has slowed, its air assaults have intensified. About 300 people are believed to have been killed in an airstrike by Russian warplanes on a theatre in the city of Mariupol. Ten million people have now fled their homes because of the invasion, with 6.5 million are displaced within Ukraine itself, and 3.5 million have fled to neighboring countries. The EU has granted Ukrainians fleeing the war a right to stay and work within the 27 member nations for up to three years. Refugees will also have access to social welfare, housing, medical treatment, and schools.
Russia has claimed it has completed the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine and would now focus on “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. The announcement appears to show that Russia may switch to more attainable goals because of fierce resistance to its incursion. Figures released from the Kremlin have put the number of dead Russian troops at 1,300 since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, 2022. NATO has put the estimated Russian death-toll at 7,000-15,000. Russian state news posted then quickly deleted an article that suggested 10,000 troops had been killed. Regardless of the disparity Russian forces have encountered huge losses. To mobilize manpower, Putin has appealed to foreign fighters from Syria, as well as private mercenaries, to assist Russia in its invasion.
Ukraine has accused Russian forces of taking Ukrainian citizens as hostages and sending them into Russia in a bid to get Ukraine to surrender. Russia has denied the claims and has said it is evacuating thousands of civilians of their own will.
Considering their setbacks, there is growing concern that Russia will turn to using chemical or nuclear weapons to break the stalemate its forces are currently in. Some members of congress have suggested that if Russia used either nuclear or chemical weapons in Ukraine and the effects of such weapons made their way into NATO states, it would be considered an attack on the alliance and force a response. Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island stated that “If a nuclear device is detonated, and the radiation goes into a neighboring country, that could very well be perceived as an attack against NATO”. President Biden, also on Friday after an emergency NATO summit, warned that were Russia to use chemical weapons it “would trigger a response in kind”.
President Biden last week went to Europe for a round of talks with allies, and to meet with refugees and US troops in Poland. Biden announced the US would take in up to 100,000 Ukrainians and provide an additional $1billion in food, medicine, water and other aid to Ukranian refugees fleeing the war. The president added that he would push for Russia to be removed from the G-20 group and not be allowed to attend the upcoming summit in Indonesia in October. He also issued a call for Putin’s removal.
Photo taken from: The Times of Israel
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Russia’s economy continues to suffer because of sanctions. it is expected to contract 15% in 2022, leaving its GDP back where it was 15 years ago. Even more than the immediate hit of sanctions, Russia’s economy will probably continue to suffer years into the future as an increased exodus of educated and middle class Russians leave the country. This is happening at the same time as foreign companies continue to end or postpone business ties with Russia. Its relations in the region and exports with neighboring Eastern European states are also likely to suffer for years to come.
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was prepared to pledge that Ukraine wouldn’t join NATO in a bid to broker a peace deal with Russia. So far Putin has rejected calls for dialogue between the two countries.
Also, in a criticized move, President Zelensky announced that Eleven Ukrainian political parties would be suspended because of their links and sympathies to Russia. One party held 44 seats in the 450 seat parliament. He also stated Kyiv would shut down three television networks that he claimed worked to spread Kremlin-funded propaganda and signed a decree to unite all Ukrainian national TV channels into one platform. Though some have criticized his actions, Zelensky claims these measures were necessary in light of their anguished situation.