Situation Update: The Ukraine Crisis #10
Foreign Policy Brief #141 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | July 12, 2022
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As fighting continues to rage in Ukraine’s East, Russian President Putin on Monday, July 4th, 2022 declared victory in the region of Luhansk, only one day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from their last remaining bastion of resistance in the province, the city of Severodonetsk, which is now in Russian hands.
A Ukrainian military assessment earlier last week noted that Russian forces will “now almost certainly” switch full gear to capturing the second Eastern breakaway region of Donetsk to complete their takeover of the Donbas, which Putin had promised to “liberate” as the pretext for war. The OHCHR now confirms that 4,889 civilians were killed in the five months of fighting, with the true number likely to be far higher.
Two weeks ago, both the G7 and NATO summits were held and the war in Ukraine loomed large over both gatherings. NATO heads of state came together on June 30, 2022, in a rare wartime meeting to present a unified front against Russia and in support of Ukraine. Turkey dropped its opposition to Finland and Sweden joining and both were formally invited into the alliance, increasing NATO’s border with Russia by 830 miles.
President Joe Biden announced that the United States would establish a permanent military base in Poland. This marks the first time the US has created a permanent a base anywhere on NATO’s eastern flank, which until now has only had a rotating troop presence. NATO also invited the leaders of Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia to the summit for the first time to engage in consultations against what they see as the growing threat of China.
Later that week, G7 leaders met to confront the global economic fallout of the pandemic and the war. Leaders promised up to $29.5 billion for 2022 to help Ukraine ease its financial gap brought on by the war and committed to tighter sanctions on Russia.
Five months into the war and there is still not an end in sight. To plan for the future, it is an important question to ask as we continue to analyze the current situation, What are the likely future consequences for Russia and Ukraine?
Russia’s invasion has undoubtedly caused tension in the international community, pitting great powers against each other and forcing countries in the global south to take sides in a war between common trade partners. During the G20 summit late last week, the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was received coldly by Western leaders who refused to meet with the Russian minister, even refusing to be in a group photo with Lavrov in it.
The Russian minister later left the G20 meeting after being accused of sparking the global food crisis. Russia throughout the war has had to contend with political isolation, everything from private businesses to governments cutting ties, and unanimous global condemnation at the UN.
Ukraine conversely has been welcomed by the international community, and reached the first step of its goal to join the EU since it’s 2014 revolution that overthrew the then president Viktor Yanukovych who shunned the EU. Additionally both Sweden and Finland were formally invited to join NATO. The addition of an 800 mile border between NATO and Russia is likely to leave a thorn in Russia’s side long after the war.
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The expansion of NATO was a key issue for Putin. He sought assurances from the alliance before the invasion as a pretext to avoid the war. Now his biggest fear has come to pass. This will undoubtedly cause more tension. As NATO expands, so will Russia’s anxieties. It has already announced that it will seek to move ‘powerful’ weapons closer to the US and has moved closer to China to help rival the US and NATO.
Though Ukrainian leaders have stated they would regain all stolen territory it is unlikely that Ukraine will retain its Eastern Donbas region and the Crimean peninsula. Both territories are likely to be used as concessions by Ukraine and the West for an end to the war, and as trophies for Putin to present to a wary Russian public.
The cost of the war is not only measured in the square miles conceded but the number of lives lost, so far nearly 4,900 civilians are known to have been killed. Those who come after, the children of this war who may have lost their parents, their homes, or both, will not soon forget the aggression committed against them.
We can assume a future in which movements are led by Ukrainians who seek to regain their lost territories, and to bring Russian war crimes to justice on the international stage such as at the International Criminal court. Russia’s image has been stained by the war, not only by those who condemn it, also by those who once saw it as a great global military power that now cannot defeat the civilians taking up arms against it.
Similarly the hardship faced by Russians due to sanctions and war if not only projected onto their government will also be directed at the West, leaving behind an increasingly polarized Europe. Regardless of the near-term outcomes of the war, animosities between the two countries and two peoples are likely to continue to remain escalated for years and decades to come.
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Economic contraction is a certainty for both countries in the near future. Thus far, the West has kept up economic pressure against Russia and is making plans to ween Europe off of Russian energy. Though sanctions have not yet helped bring an end to the war, they have taken a heavy toll on the Russian economy and will do so for some time.
Russia has benefited from the recent spike in price of oil, yet still in late June, it defaulted on its external sovereign debt for the first time since 1918. Though Russia has the money to pay, it lacked the ability to do so due to sanctions. This economic isolation coupled with double-digit inflation and the worst recession in years paints a clear image to us that Russia’s economic future looks turbulent and harsh which may endanger Putin’s rule, something the West has hinted that it hopes comes to pass.
The Ukrainian economy is also understandably fairing poorly, it is predicted to shrink by nearly 50% this year and so far the war has cost Ukraine up to $600 billion. However, on June 23, 2022 Ukraine was awarded with EU candidate status, which comes with the promise of joining the large and powerful EU single market. Additionally, at the G7 summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for a ‘Marshall Plan for Ukraine’ to aid reconstruction during the post-war period. He stated, “Just like war-scarred Europe then, Ukraine today needs a Marshall plan to rebuild”. So even though Ukraine’s near term future will most certainly be bleak, there are glimmers of hope at a future in a post-war reconstructed and peaceful Ukraine.