Ukraine pushes Europe to the brink

Author: Mr Karoli Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law and an Advocate.

What you need to know:

  • As Ukraine rages, all the little wars will be erased from the media. Even the Taliban presiding over a big humanitarian catastrophe have receded from the news.  

In two weeks, Russia has massed 190,000 troops inside Ukraine. The boots on the ground infantry campaign has met a number of tactical setbacks. First is nearly universal resistance from the locals who are physically resisting the Russians even where they have taken over key installations or local control. Second is physical fighting using small weapons which may dictate final outcomes in urban areas. Third, many young Russian soldiers are reluctant to take out the Ukrainian Slavs. 

In war-time, Ukrainians have rallied around Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a young 44 year old former comedian, whose image has been beamed in global capitals. So has one of his predecessors in a battalion in Kiev. 

It turns out Ukraine is a major higher education hub, an agricultural base and major source of industrial inputs in the West. Production of the popular BMW mini in England has stalled because supply parts have run out partly due to the war. 

Ukraine has tapped into demand for science, medicine and engineering courses recruiting heavily from African countries whose higher education standards and capacity have fallen. It is sad that African students have run into war tide racism as they sought to flee the war just like any of the other two million people who have already crossed the border mostly into Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Moldova, Romania, and Hungary. 

Pressure continues to mount on Western corporations doing business in Russia to completely disengage. The oil corporations led by Shell are announcing divestment from Gazprom and Rosneft yet reality is that they must continue purchasing Russian crude otherwise their refineries go dry and bust in Europe. 

The Americans have found it easier to cut off Russian fuel, which is only 3 percent of their daily consumption. Cancelling the Nordstream pipeline saved by the Germans for 15 long years has now cast the light on German elder, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who negotiated the deal and sits on lucrative boards in Russia. His political party, SPD, now in power after 18 years wants to expel him. The British have announced new anti-money laundering measures but by the time they take full effect 18 months from now, most Russian money would have left anyway.

Russia’s survival in the global financial system now hinges on CIPS, the Chinese payment and clearing house and cryptocurrency. 

Cryptocurrency exchanges are divided on whether to freeze Russian accounts. Crypto-philosophy anyway is a response to state control over private property. 

So far Putin is holding steadfast. In 2004, he watched the United States ignore a UN Security Council veto and march into Iraq in pursuit of “weapons of mass destruction”, a development that dented American credibility. At home Putin is strangling the alternative press that has operated alongside the authoritarian political system. 

Already known for stricter content regulation, western news websites and social media are now blocked as the country proceeds further on a war footing. Russia is insisting on delivering on its oil crude contracts but has alarmed Asia even more than Europe which is standing just miles from its borders. The Asian markets have been more volatile as the Brent price of crude continues to jump reaching a record $134 bbl on Monday.  This same crude was trading at $76 bbl in January 2021.  

The IMF is already warning high oil prices may lead to a post-pandemic collapse of the global economy. Already the IMF is facing pressure to freeze Russia’s SDR credits issued to weather the Corvid pandemic. 

War is expensive. Strained for resources, the Europeans are looking at the Americans for an immediate resource jolt into the war effort. Congress is already tackling proposals for $30 billion or more into war materiel and war relief. 

As Ukraine rages, all the little wars will be erased from the media. Even the Taliban presiding over a big humanitarian catastrophe have receded from the news. In this wall to wall coverage, another hotspot may snap. 

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate. 

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