What you need to know:
- In the decades past, war was covered mainly through state broadcasters, heavily censored. This had the effect of blinding major catastrophes like push-back of locals against the Iraqi invasion.
Vladimir Putin has made a big play, a game of Russian roulette into Ukraine. Russia has been preparing for this moment for sometime. Putin has played on a strong nationalist card, a rich and sentimental history and sound finances.
In the last few years, Russia has accumulated $60 billion in reserves and benefited from a steep rise in oil prices in the last one year. Brent jumped from $63 bbl. to $78 bbl. between January 2021 and January 2022 and in the last few weeks have jumped to $103 bbl. Russia is OPEC’s second largest producer and even though Russian cargoes are now heavily discounted, the current sanctions have not touched oil as a matter of fact. In fact, the United States still relies on imported Russian oil. Several European refineries are customized to process Russian crude. India and China process a lot of Russian crude oil anyway and noticeably are observing the Ukrainian putsch on the sidelines.
In the decades past, war was covered mainly through state broadcasters, heavily censored. This had the effect of blinding major catastrophes like push-back of locals against the Iraqi invasion. Disabling television towers is of little effect as communications are dispersed. Second the local population is pushing back, surprisingly ready to fight and not give in to Russian aggression. Ukraine’s infamously fractured politics and corruption post-Soviet Union have united the country.
At the same time, the sanctions by the West have slowed down but not disabled the Russians. One week after exiting Russia from the SWIFT global payments system for wire transfers, the Russians migrated to CIPS, a Chinese payment system. After a number of Western corporations announced divestiture from Russia, the Moscow Stock Exchange shut down the bourse.
In another twist after announcements from a number of European countries sending military aid to Russia another reality set it in. Some countries like Slovakia that have Russian aircraft, just like Uganda they use Russian crews for their maintenance. Europe is angry with itself as Putin blames NATO expansion to its borders as an existential threat to Russia’s survival. This could be no further from the truth as Russia, a huge landmass that stretches from Central and Northern Europe to Far East Asia and the Arctic pole is capable of defending itself.
In fact, the challenges the Russians have been facing in relatively better economic times are demographic. First was the exodus of Jews after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Second was the surge in overseas adoptions by Caucasian parents in Europe and North America that emptied Russian orphanages and foster homes as Russia became a major destination for prospective adoptive parents. Russians’ have also retained great skills in mathematics, chess, science and analytics and powered alongside Indians and Chinese, the global technology revolution. Unfortunately, this knowledge base is headquartered in the West. But its backbone remains in Russia and countries of the former Eastern bloc like Romania and Bulgaria.
Another small detail, Russia has taken advantage of its vast territory and rich farmlands to enter a second agricultural revolution driven by mechanization and concentration of capital. German farmers have been recruited from the EU to farm vast farms some as big as 50 square miles to produce milk. The Steppes are a major producer of Wheat. In fact according to some studies, Ukraine has 25 percent of the world’s black soils not to mention various other strategic minerals including uranium. Russia already produces 10percent of the world’s wheat today.
The effects of this conflict will be felt for decades to come. First casualties after the human toll in theater, will be trans-Atlantic military relations through NATO. Europe has not felt as vulnerable as it is today save for the Brexit debate that rocked the EU for five years after Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016. Second, the forces for retrenchment and rationalization of American military power partly reflected in an ambitious domestic social agenda will fade away for good as early as the 2022 mid-terms. America will retreat to the familiar build large ships, double defense expenditures as it did to bankrupt the Soviets. This may have some effect short to medium term but cannot be sustained long term as America after closing off immigration due to identity issues is going to start the reality of social spending as its population ages. One of the outcomes of immigration retraction (popular in both parties) is that American population remained flat in the last decade 2010-2020 at 330 million people.
Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate. [email protected]