External effects Russia Ukraine

(To Gino Lanzara)
23/05/22

The Russian invasion kept attention on the most immediate and spectacular aspects; remained in the shadow of Hollywood, for the West, the war far from its borders was for almost 80 years a problem to be rejected outright, as if denying the existence of a disease were used to eradicate it.

We will try to be concise, but without losing sight of the purpose of arousing interests and questions, starting from the assumption that nothing occurs by chance, but according to precise dynamics.

Paraphrasing Zafon, if we have reached February 24 it is not because the facts had not manifested themselves, but because the lazy Western minds did not want to see the concentric circles created in the pond of international relations; so let's take the waves of return that will characterize the international context for a long time.

Neo-imperialism in Moscow was opposed to the policies of the border countries which, open to the outside, restricted the space reserved for Russia, a nation brought to us alone against all. Reduced resources and poor governance capabilities already highlighted in the fight against Covid, associated with often unclear political initiatives, have reduced the Kremlin's field of action, reaching out in an attempt to re-attract the former colonie within its influence; an almost impossible undertaking both for the capabilities of the Eurasian competitors, both for the lack of soft power, and for the fragility of security, a crystal too delicate for the Russian bear, as Georgia and Ukraine teach.

The important thing is not to overestimate the Russian capabilities; the Armenian-Azerbaijani clashes have shown that the ability (and the desire) to settle conflicts that are ready to explode are not in the Kremlin's ropes.

The relevant elements are 2: social discontent capable of bringing stability to suffering even in Eurasian autocracies; Western inability to understand the Caucasian and Eastern peculiarities that make universal approaches unsuitable for countries that cannot antagonize China ineffective, which with its soft power is credited as a holder of co-optation and attraction, nor Russia, unsatisfied, aggressive and perennial power strategic depth research.

On the USA, geography, which multiplies the regional effects of the Russian tractor beam, requires a realistic strategy that aims at selective balancing according to the country to be approached; Washington has more interests in Eastern Europe and the Southern Caucasus, and therefore should not only facilitate political-economic reforms by improving deterrent capabilities, but also take care of defense support from hybrid tactics.

Already since 2014, the shock of the first aggression against Ukraine has raised apprehensions in Georgia, Kazakhstan1, Moldova, and the Baltic Republics2, intimidated by Russian nationalism in search of plausible justifications for the annexation of Crimea; with the economic slowdown, accompanied abroad by fake news on the effect of the sanctions, Putin's intervention generated a political legitimacy in need of military success.

Russian foreign policy has become more assertive in areas neglected in the post-Cold War years, in particular MO, Northeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, with Europe a historical reference for the Kremlin's ambitions and insecurities, conditioned by simplistic visions for which the Old Continent remains an American extension, and for which the principle of the sovereignty of others has no raison d'etre. While in the west, politics softens Russian insecurity with the economy, fears and memories of hard occupations remain in the east.

The Kremlin does not like ideologies: he uses them thanks to characters like Dugin, Malofeev, but realistically aims to conquer power; offering something concrete is more important than believing in abstractions, and the Orthodox Church itself is nothing more than an amplifier of government lines. Russian political activism is evolving, and the fault in relations between Brussels and Moscow has caused frequent interference in European affairs with political polarizations capable of influencing national management.

Russia wants a divided West: if NATO and the EU are committed to fighting each other, they cannot promote anyone regime change in Moscow which, intolerant of multilateralism and sclerotic over the encirclement syndrome, forgets the hostilities towards the EU, only now careful to rearrange me concretely and far from the theories of strategic compass, to trespassing of submarines and airplanes, to espionage activities: Moscow treats only on its terms considering individual national priorities3, not the collective ones, cultivating personal relationships, recruiting Western elites functional to the success of his businesses.

At the moment, the aggression against Ukraine has led Russia to a strategic deterioration of its European position, succeeding in re-assembling NATO, albeit net of the Levantine haggling of some shareholders, and leading through the ranks blue countries that, by political choice or war constraint, had made neutrality the basis of their policy.

The end of the European security architecture, and the Russian propensity not to accept the status quo, will increase both destabilization and intimidation based on the assumption - all to be demonstrated - that, as happened in Ukraine and Syria, NATO or the USA will not intervene, both the concrete threat of a Russian asymmetric war in the gray area West.

Of course, it will be a cognitive war with many hypotheses, given the Ukrainian ability to respond to the Moscow masters of disinformation, for which it seemed more important to pay attention to Azovstal rather than to the entrance atlantic di Sweden e Finland4, which lengthen the critical limes and complicate the Russian future in the Arctic. It should be remembered that the air and naval forces of the Northern Fleet engaged the Atlantic alliance in the north and east, increasing the maritime and air presence near the Danish and Norwegian territories.

The Finnish entry in Sweden will change the security situation of the entire Baltic region, so that all coastal states will wear NATO blue. The statements of Dmitry Medvedev about a Russian strengthening in the Baltic also with nuclear warheads if Helsinki and Stockholm were to join the Atlantic Pact forget that Russia already deploys atomic weapons in the Kaliningrad oblast.

But it was not only the strengthening of Kaliningrad that led Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership, nor the simulated nuclear bombing of Sweden during the 2013 exercises, including Gotland Island, or the cyber attacks; it was the Russian attacks on Ukraine that persuaded the abandonment of non-alignment policies, also given the still vivid memory in the Finns of the Russian attack in the 1939 Winter War.

The confrontation between Russia and NATO will therefore develop along the meridian that unites Norway, Poland e Greece and against the Trimarium countries (Baltic, Black Sea, Adriatic) along the Russian vertical Kaliningrad-Tiraspol. The agreement, also defensive, signed by Sweden and Finland with the UK, undertook to intervene in the eventual defense of Helsinki and Stockholm. It is in this context that the American hypothesis of being soon faced with one is inserted Germany hegemon not only economic but also military, after the Merkel era dedicated to creating a Russian-German interdependence.

False Russian narratives no longer find their usual place in the media, and attempts to justify the invasion have been rejected. Tactically the use of social made the Ukrainian people more cohesive, allowing to locate enemy troops thanks to specifications App, and allowing Russian crimes to be exposed by shaking Western public opinion: the Ukrainian tactic is not suited for cross-border wars, but is suitable for self-defense, and creates a parallel with Taiwan, sure object of a US defensive intervention.

The Ukrainian command system is supported by integrated aerial intelligence that allows small units to flexible attack while avoiding frontal battles; combat becomes asymmetrical, fragmented and inexpensive but with a technologically advanced base5. Ukrainian soldiers faced the challenge supported by a people operating in a context of infowar. In this respect the problem for Russia is political rather than military, given that the management of the Kremlin, as well as creating further fog of war, seems to have become entangled in his own propaganda, so much so that he offers more than practical solutions, paradoxical scenographic parades in television appearances, techniques already seen on the occasion of the mission in Italy, in Bergamo, during the first pandemic phase: modest scientific contribution, inordinate diplomacy virus.

The Russian problem was that of having found in the field a population different from its own, passive and apolitical; this without counting both the use of private mercenary companies - however expendable6 and already operating in Syria e Sahel -, both the war crimes committed during the operations, an indelible stain for an army which has been made compulsory to read Putin's essay "On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, Which denies Kiev's right to political existence.

Separate speech for the Libya, where the Turkish contrast has helped to cool the Russian momentum, a wake-up call for a management that has not treasured the lesson learned, which is undergoing considerable debacles on traditional domains and which, to plug the Ukrainian flaw, is demobilizing Syria from de facto delivering it to Tehran.

The economic war centered both on oil energy supplies, whose price increases have benefited the Gulf countries, careful to modulate a production that could otherwise cause revenues to fluctuate downwards, and gas carriers; there are two notations to consider: the political relevance of the effects of the JCPOA (worrying for Saudi Arabia and the UAE) which could constitute the only lever for an increase in the quantities of crude extracted, and the controversy over European payments in rubles on Gazprombank accounts for the gas supplied, given the indications provided by an EU without a shared foreign policy, and in the light of the financial excommunication operated by the Washington sanctions, ready to take over the supply of Russian gas with its own shale gas.

In fact the default7 Russian is on the cutting edge of JPMorgan and on the table protruding from the shipboard of Moody's, given the interest to be paid to international investors and the extraordinary authorization of the US Treasury, which allows holders of Russian debt in America to collect coupons and capital in derogation from sanctions8. In the first two months since the invasion began, Russia has earned 65 billion dollars from energy exports by exploiting the increase in prices and, if the trends continue, it will earn about another 321 billion dollars over the course of 2022; the trend of the technological sector is different, more restricted and controlled, but with the incursions of the usual known area of Democratic Republic of Congo and North Korea.

With all these paradoxes, Lewis Carroll with his Alice, on the other side of the mirror, would smile, also because between exceptions on the use of which currency to use, on time frames and on the Chinese position, which qualified the freezing of Russian currency resources as a violation of sovereignty, the financial future of an immense country, with an underpowered GDP, a poorly diversified economy, and an atomic arsenal will be at stake oversize.

While forced default raises practical doubts about the ability to hinder Russian military action, there is no doubt that the global economy will have to deal with both a recessionary crisis resulting from slow growth - on which will be weighed down by restrictive monetary policies - and rapid inflation9, with impacts on real consumer incomes and with outflow of capital from emerging markets, and with the shortage of wheat and cereals close to causing a famine that will affect about 47 million people in 81 countries with low-income economies especially in theMENA area (Middle East and North Africa, ed), where Russia tries to cultivate competitive advantages10 but it suffers from reputational deficiencies11, in that Sub-Saharan,Latin america,Central Asia or with pre-existing vulnerabilities as in Pakistan e Sri Lanka. Also noteworthy is the shock due to the macroeconomic destabilization of the economies linked to Russia12 and the restriction / prohibition of exports. The war highlighted the need for a global safety net and regional agreements to protect the local economy.

The Indo Pacific, on the other hand, is a separate case, where the geopolitical importance is attributed to its Chinese neighbor13, which has not yet conceded anything significant to Russia, but where theIndia, in open competition with Beijing, it arouses even more of an economic-military interest in Moscow, recently prodded by Tokyo for the Kuril Islands. What should be emphasized is that, since the beginning of hostilities, the Western message against Russia has not been received, except for the historical US allies.14, while strategically India and above all China are interpreting the crisis as the key to achieving a multipolar global order in order to take away the domination of the system from the West; on the whole, the set of Sino-Russian benefits remains more attractive than the Western one.

Despite the approaches to Washington, New Delhi, worried about the consequences of the conflict on its economy, does not cultivate true alliances but places itself in an instrumental position for its purposes, blocking exports of cereals, refraining from condemning Moscow, which remains the main supplier both of arms and crude oil, assuming agreements to exchange currency from rupee to rubles.

The interposition of three political subjects is significant: Japan, Pakistan e North Korea, the first, in open antagonism with China, ready to remind India of its antithetical position to that of Beijing; the second, for its role in the BRI and in the openings towards the Taliban regime in Kabul, as one more reason for New Delhi not to reject the advances of Washington which, already in 2006, certified its nuclear status without imposing any accession to non-proliferation treaties; the third as the Sino-Russian nuclear shore.

The ongoing clash sees the silent diplomacy Indian committed to balancing the Russian and Western world, given that it had neither the opportunity to prepare countermeasures to the consequences of the war, nor to calibrate relations with Moscow, increasingly tied to the Chinese antagonist, aimed at expansion into the Indus Pacific.

The Russian vertical of power presents itself more assertively in the South Caucasus, but it faces a complex landscape, given the external actors on the scene: Turkey15, which subtracted some of the Russian deterrent effect with support for Baku; Armenia, Georgia, the satellites Abkhazia e South Ossetia, and not brilliant results before, and marked by the utmost caution after the invasion of Ukraine. The states of Central Asia (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan e Uzbekistan) have a high political-economic dependence on Russia, challenged by the ongoing conflict that led to the artificial appreciation of the ruble16 and with the suffering of individual currencies against the dollar, with a fall in remittances, an increase in prices and the suspension of projects financed by Moscow, which will allow China and, perhaps, Turkey17, to open up commercially strategic paths18 in the region but unable to tear the Asian countries out of Russian limbo.

The further protraction of the war will force Moscow to close its borders with Central Asia, damaging trade relations and economic stability; indicative the Kazakhstan which, neglecting to commemorate the Victory Day, distanced himself from post-imperial relations in Moscow, against which he did not take political action, even though he sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine; Nur Sultan, in fact, did not recognize the independence of the separatist republics in eastern Ukraine.

Do not overlook the Chechnya, fearful that an unfavorable outcome of the war could compromise, with the cessation of aid from Moscow, the economic and social stability already threatened by both the independence expressed by the Chechen battalions19 fighting for Kiev, both by Chechen jihadists fighting in Syria, with the intention of ousting Kadyrov.

The Russian intervention in Libya and Syria, to be framed in a static context with the West from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and from North Africa to the Arctic, brought Moscow back to the hottest scenarios of the eastern Mediterranean, which confirmed the overestimation of its economic capabilities not supported by diversified trade, foreign direct investment, development assistance; the Russian presence is therefore aimed solely at undermining the cohesion of NATO and the EU by strengthening dependence on energy sources; the relationship with Israel is more complex, in the face of the statements by Minister Lavrov about the alleged Jewish ancestry of Adolf Hitler, which was then followed by the reception of Hamas; Putin's remedial intervention is dutiful in the face of utterances indicative of a deeper geopolitical malaise regarding strikes20 Israelis in Syria and the Iranian attempt to exploit the Ukrainian impasse to consolidate itself in Damascus by proposing a tactical and strategic dilemma to Jerusalem, namely how much can Moscow be trusted by accepting an unpredictable evolution of Russian-Iranian relations, especially if the JCPOA were to satisfy Tehran.

Taking the Isis slogan as a paradigm the Islamic State remains and expands, Russia in the Eastern Mediterranean intends to remain and expand by increasing pressure on the southern flank of NATO, establishing a parallel with the Ukrainian theater and placing it on the same line of friction with the West as it manages operations in Idlib and north of Aleppo, crossing with Iran, which keeps open the passage that leads from its interior to the Mediterranean, up to the point of conditioning the Lebanese political dynamics.

We conclude. The factors that determine the duration of a conflict are many; in itself the breadth of the battlefield indicates the possibility of a long protraction. Ukraine is large and its army has fought tactically from mobile local positions, making it difficult for the Russians to locate a center of gravity; Kiev did not create vulnerable command centers but units to be used in relation to the tactical opportunity.

Moscow on its side has attempted to impose a costly war of attrition where Ukrainians enjoy American technological advantage, with Washington wishing for the failure of Moscow which, with a Ukrainian capitulation, would come face to face with NATO as the acceptance of the only a ceasefire would impose too high a political cost. The Ukrainians will thus maintain their strategy, forcing the Russians to sacrifice power and credibility by prolonging indefinitely a conflict that recalls the Korean War of 50 and the invasion of Afghanistan in 79.

The Russian leadership remained autocratic, and associated with a logistics that weakened unmotivated troops and a society not ready for a long war. War in Ukraine, triggered by fake news21, it can generate a domino effect all over the world, from Taiwan to the Baltic, to arrive at a division Korean of Ukraine, up to a trade war with the West.

From now to 2030, Eurasia will remain the unstable strategic center of gravity of a technologically transformed world that will not allow for hegemonic approaches, considering that the challenge posed by Russia, despite its intentions, is essentially military, and which Moscow is unable to articulate. convincing propaganda. War will necessarily have to reconfigure both Silk Roads, given that China had identified the best possible route for Europe in the Russia-Ukraine-Belarus-Poland route, as well as the connections with the 17 countries of Central Eastern Europe, already put to the test by US sanctions. The strengthening of sea routes and the bypassing of Russia passing through the Caspian, Iran and Turkey are inevitable, thanks to the twenty-five-year Sino-Iranian collaboration.

The Russian weakness will make Chinese centrality in economic transactions inevitable and Unionpay will become the only alternative in the sector; it is not so abstruse to hypothesize an absorption of the Russian economy into the BRI and the Chinese system.

For China as long as there is war there is hope thanks also to the analysis of Western tactics and strategies to be transposed into the framework of the hypothesized invasion of Taiwan. China seeks self-sufficiency and, despite its assertions of principle, is trying to avoid American sanctions by preserving foreign exchange reserves, which suggests that it has not shelved the plans on rebel Taiwan, but rather that it has relaunched with the agreements close to the Solomon Islands, a move that balances AUKUS. In short, the understanding without limits with Moscow prone to bring more instability than solutions, it is limited to peacetime22, and aimed at bringing Russia into Chinese orbit without Beijing being exposed, becoming a distraction for Washington, diverted from the Indo Pacific.

Finally, Russia has placed itself on the slide of the Western and Chinese military. Beijing will undoubtedly be interested both in the use and difficulties of the battalions, on which it has modeled the Army, and in the use of drones in anti-tank function.

According to China (..., ndd) the USA are the only real winners of the Ukrainian war, with Russia close to a crisis in Central Asia, with France and Germany forced into an anti-Russian version, with Western expansion into the Indus Pacific, and with the sale of energy resources at higher prices.

1 Ukraine and Kazakhstan have received assurances but not guarantees, from the US and UK, as signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in exchange for the renunciation of the Soviet nuclear weapons allocated on their territory.

2 The same day the invasion of Ukraine began, the staff of the EUFOR mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina was doubled, due to the deterioration of the international security situation and it has the potential to spread instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina

3 See the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, where Moscow appealed to German national interest by offering cheap gas by recruiting European companies to finance the Gazprom-owned project.

4 Finland shares a border with Russia over 1300 kilometers long, from the Gulf of Finland to the Barents Sea. With Finnish accession to NATO, the shared border with Russia would be 2500 kilometers

5 We remember the social work of President Zelenskyy, Foreign Minister Kuleba, Minister for Digital Transformation Fedorov

6 2018, assault on American positions in Deir ez Zor in Syria; 2019 anti-insurgency employment in Mozambique

7 The last Russian default on its foreign debt was after the October Revolution. The 1998 bankruptcy affected the debt denominated in rubles; Unlike in 1918, bankruptcy would not be caused by debtors but by creditors, through the imposition of sanctions.

8 In order to have a concrete effect, the sanctions should be imposed unanimously, providing for secondary sanctions with which to hit the countries that decide to entertain relations with the sanctioned in the sectors affected by the sanctions of others.

9 Russia and Ukraine are among the main producers of raw materials; the disruptions caused global and food prices to rise.

10 This implies the possibility that Russia acquires military bases (air in Libya or naval in Egypt, Libya or Algeria.) Capable of improving the power projection capacity in the Mediterranean and towards the African interior.

11 See example of the Covid Sputnik V vaccine, subjected to prolonged testing according to procedure until July 2021 when Nigeria adopted Western-made WHO-approved vaccines, cheaper than Sputnik V. The Russian diplomatic and mercantilist failure on vaccines, despite a aggressive marketing, highlighted the lack of strategic thinking and inattention to local dynamics.

12 See Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan which depend on remittances generated by migrant workers in Russia.

13 The measures taken by Moscow have angered the Chinese government

14 Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan

15 The conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the limits of the ambitious Turkish strategy, which would be worth a partial return to the Alliance. The friction between the US and Russia reveals the risks of Turkey's equilibrium, forced to make precise choices in light of the worsening of its economic crisis. Turkish involvement in the Ukrainian conflict would expose the limits of Ankara, unable to integrate with China, Iran and Russia, restricting its room for maneuver.

16 The rise of the ruble is artificial because the central bank has only allowed transactions that benefit it.

17 However, Turkey is dependent on Russian oil and gas and is a customer for nuclear and weapons systems, the same means that brought Russia to Egypt and Algeria.

18 Ukraine has Turkish Bayraktar Tb2 combat drones; the Bayraktar Akıncı, is powered by the Ai-450T engine produced by the Ukrainian Ivachenko Progress.

19 Mansur and Dudaev battalions

20 Notable is Israel's refusal to send several Iron Dome defense system batteries to Ukraine, despite a US request. 

21 Analyzes of an alleged Ukrainian gas attack showed that it had been shot previously, as was previously the video in which the two presidents of the separatist republics declare the evacuation of the refugees.

22 China has not given official support to the Kremlin's operations on Ukrainian soil, and has not recognized the independence of the republics of Donetsk and Luhans'k, calling for respect for the integrity and sovereignty of each country