Observations after Reading Around About Ukraine

Observations after Reading Around about Ukraine:

“There can be a catastrophe, even when Russia is not fully invading Ukraine.”  Ukraine World Podcast

William Cohen, CNN, 1/21/22

  • Diplomacy is unlikely to succeed. 
  • Putin knows exactly what he wants to do.  He wouldn’t put troops on the border and then withdraw because of threats.
  • Putin is going to get something out of this.
  • You don’t put 100,000 troops on the border for a training act.
  • Cohen thinks that Putin is thinking: “Now would be the time to take action.”
  • The West is not in a good position to respond.
  • Putin is also counting on Donald Trump to come back into power.  Whatever sanctions the U.S. imposes will be undone then.
  • Putin wants to have a “boot on the neck of the Europeans” when it comes to energy.
  • The Russians “export trouble.”

“Expert” on corporate news:

  • Russia might “take a little bit more territory” but not go as far as Kiev.
  • The attack might be “just cyber…not an actual military incursion.”
  • NYT Pentagon Reporter Helene Cooper: Defending Ukraine is not in the “strategic interests of the United States.”

Sanctions: Excluding Russia from the SWIFT system.

  • Last week there were reports from Handelsblatt (quoted by Bloomberg) that Biden and the EU were no longer considering using as a sanction for a Russian invasion the removal of the Russians from the SWIFT international payments system.  This was, for some reason, not picked up by the corporate press in this country.
  • The U.S. and the EU were said to be considering “targeted penalties” against major Russian banks instead.
  • Germany was reported to be seeking exceptions from even those penalties to ensure oil and gas payments remained possible.
  • Note: Garry Kasperov blasted Germany today on MSNBC, claiming that corruption in the Germany government was rife and that they had put economic gain above democracy.
  • Shortly after these reports from Handelsblatt, the U.S. press started publishing articles quoting “experts” who said that the exclusion of Russia from SWIFT would not be that effective or damaging.
  • Ukraine has called for Russia to be removed from SWIFT.  Evidently, the Ukrainians think that removal would help.
  • Those now supporting a backdown on the SWIFT exclusion maintain that the move could destabilize financial markets and encourage a move to the Russian version of SWIFT.
  • Other sources point out that the Russian version of SWIFT only includes one Chinese bank.  The rest of the users are in Russia.  Using this alternative system would require convincing others to sign up to the Russian system and face the severely limited communications possibilities and the fact that the Russian version is only open during business hours (unlike the SWIFT system which is open 24/7).
  • Most sources, however, agree that the chance of excluding Russia is slim. 
  • The probabilities of excluding Russia may be low, but the severity of this as a sanction is a different question entirely.  I have no way of evaluating the severity of the sanction.
  • Before the reports in Handelsblatt, this exclusion was quoted as one of the powerful sanctions being considered.  Since then, the tide of evaluation in the U.S. has been that the sanction would not have as much an effect as previously thought.  This makes me suspicious of the later evaluations.
  • Garry Kasperov, on MSNBC today, noted the SWIFT exclusion as one of the most powerful sanctions.
  • The director General of the Kremlin-aligned Russian International Affairs Council compared the potential move to detonating a financial “nuclear bomb.”

Ukrainians

  • The Ukrainians have been noticeably absent from the high level negotiations between the U.S. and the Russians.  There have been calls for nothing to be decided about Ukraine without Ukrainians.
  • While the Ukrainians are happy to see the reinforcement of NATO countries in the region, they also do not want to become a “no man’s land” or a buffer state. 
  • Rep. Michael McCaul has also noted the frustration in Ukraine about sanctions being threatened after an invasion, not before.  It was noted that sanctions could be implemented and then the Russians told that sanctions would be lifted if the troops on the Ukraine border were withdrawn.

Weapons

  • The Washington Post (1/24/22) is reporting that the Defense Ministry of Belarus said that Russian troops continued to arrive in that country.
  • Video has surfaced on social media of Russian military convoys and trains loaded with military equipment moving across southern Russia and Belarus.
  • Germany has ruled out supplying Ukraine with defense weapons.

Ian Bremmer (Gzeromedia, 1/18/22)

  • There have been cyber attacks against a number of websites in Ukraine within the past week.  These direct malware attacks against a number of government agencies is almost certainly done by Russia.
  • The Russians are sending troops to Belarus for sudden and unannounced military exercises right on the Ukrainian border.
  • They are also moving Russian personnel from Russia’s embassy in Kiev.
  • If Putin is not given something significant, he will escalate.
  • Cyber attacks could be devastating to Ukraine.  Previous attacks took 1% of the GDP off of Ukraine and people died in hospitals when they suddenly lost their ability to have data and connectivity.
  • The president of Belarus is planning to change the constitution in February.  Belarus would no longer be formally neutral and no longer a non-nuclear state.

Quotes:

Zelensky

“There are no minor incursions…”

Ian Bremmer

“Don’t expect full-on invasion, but Putin isn’t bluffing.”

The U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan was “a debacle.”

Wilfred Jilge, historian Center for International Peace Operations, Berlin

“It’s a challenge for all Europeans.”

“There can be a catastrophe, even when Russia is not fully invading Ukraine.”

Sources:

Financial Times (1/17/22)

Moscow Times (4/20/21)

CNN

MSNBC

Ukraine World Podcast (#64)

Washinton Post (1/24/22)


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