22:00, 26th February
Many different countries have responded to the invasion by issuing sanctions, and listing all of their statements would be both tedious and inconsequential. The major players in this field are America, Germany, and NATO, while the UK deserves a mention. Japan has also issued sanctions.
Germany has suspended the certification process of the Nordstream II pipeline, preventing the direct import of large quantities of natural gas from Russia. Sanctions against Russian fossil fuel imports are expected to cause energy prices to skyrocket throughout Europe and the UK; the region’s reliance on expensive sources of clean energy and its phase-out of nuclear power currently constitute a major strategic weakness.
The West has also issued a series of severe financial sanctions against Russia, including against several high-profile Russian individuals. At the time of writing, they have yet to suspend Russia from the SWIFT international electronic banking system, which would cause seismic ramifications for the global economy. However, international pressure do do so is mounting, and it is likely that SWIFT access may be revoked within the next 48 hours. We will explore this issue deeper in subsequent analyses.
America has issued a series of sanctions against Russia, but has yet to sanction Russian energy imports. The USA is less dependent on these imports than Europe.
The UK has pledged to sanction key Russian individuals and take action against the ‘dark money’ of Russian foreign investment in UK assets and property. These steps were taken in response to Putin recognising the sovereignty of Donetsk and Luhansk, on the eve of war.
Markets have reacted negatively to news of the invasion, with many investors jumping ship to ‘safe haven’ investments such as gold or the Japanese Yen. The conflict and ensuing sanctions are expected to create a strong inflationary pressure. With annual inflation rates already at approximately 5.5% (UK) and 7.5% (US) following two years of stringent public health restrictions, the economic pressure on Western citizens may be severe. (It is worth reiterating here that inflation is effectively a stealth tax, which rapidly redistributes wealth towards the immediate recipients of government spending).
In an interconnected global economy, the shockwaves of this economic disruption will affect many people and businesses worldwide. Crop futures are reportedly trading high, with observers speculating that the war will significantly disrupt Ukraine’s grain harvest this year. Asian markets have rallied since an initial fall prompted by the invasion.
As a minor aside, Russia has been stripped of hosting rights for the 2022 Champions League Final and the Russian Grand Prix. They have also been removed from the Eurovision Song Contest, which must be a great relief for embattled Ukrainian conscripts.
On live radar maps of warplane deployments, NATO’s response to the Russian invasion was reminiscent of a wasp’s nest after a sturdy kick. Hundreds of planes took off for rolling patrols, including allegedly 97 British Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets and many French, German, Eastern European, and American planes.
In addition, we believe that several B-52 Stratofortresses have taken off from NATO bases in the UK and Europe to loiter in EU airspace on a rolling basis, starting on day one. This is particularly significant since these planes are nuclear bombers; it is unknown whether their current payloads are nuclear or conventional. A fully armed B-52 can carry up to 20 nuclear cruise missiles.
A significant redeployment of B-52 strategic bombers to Europe has been taking place over the preceding weeks, with four of the enormous planes arriving in RAF Fairford on February 10th.
Thousands of US and NATO troops have arrived in Poland, as well as the Baltic states, all of which are members of NATO. The US currently claims this deployment to Poland is in order to process the Ukrainian refugees fleeing Kiev.
Turkey, a NATO member, has not closed the Bosphorous Straits to Russian warships. According to observers, according to international law it cannot prevent warships from returning to their home ports.
According to reports, NATO warships have been sent to the Baltic states in order to strengthen the alliance’s eastern flank.
The Western media is fully in support of Ukraine, to an extent which might be called ‘propaganda mode’. Even before the conflict started, British journalist Peter Hitchens lamented the one-sided coverage of the BBC:
The generation that kept the BBC relatively impartial is fast dying off. Those who remain have accepted a large number of contentious opinions as facts.
One of these opinions is the ridiculous cartoon idea that Russia is like Mordor in Lord Of The Rings, an utterly evil country ruled by a Dark Monster. And that Ukraine, its current enemy, is by contrast a shining Utopia, pluckily defending itself against the orc-like hordes of Moscow.Peter Hitchens, Daily Mail
Western media and the information ecosystem is saturated with pro-Ukrainian and anti-Russian messaging — this is to be expected, since Ukraine is fighting a defensive war against Russian aggression. However, it is extremely important to retain a sense of balance. Exposure to one-sided messaging over a long period, combined with selective footage of battles and atrocities, will inevitably tilt the Western public’s attitude in favour of a NATO military intervention.
In a one-sided information ecosystem, anyone speaking out against military intervention will be confronted with a wall of gruesome footage of dead civilians. The implication is that to oppose intervention is to support death, war, and the murder of children.
The West does not want involvement in this war. An early survey of the American public revealed that just 16% were in favour of intervention in the conflict, with 55% opposed.
The public mood in Russia is, as always, harder to gauge. Large-scale demonstrations have taken place in cities across the country, with as many as 1,700 protesters arrested, according to claims from the BBC. On the other hand, a number of interviews by foreign press (including Japanese press) have found Russians largely sympathetic to the war, with some saying ‘it should have happened much sooner’.
Having followed Western public messaging closely over the last two years, I think it possible that some form of military intervention against Russia may have already been decided upon in the event that Ukraine’s defence collapses. Public messaging creates opinion in order to justify policy in advance; this is known as ‘manufactured consent’. When policy has not been decided, the media messaging tends to be more even-handed.
The summary of today’s fighting will be published at 10:00 tomorrow morning. Currently Russia does not seem to have made significant gains on any front, although its occupation of the souther coastline appears to have extended across the Dnieper River.