Vladimir Putin, President of Russia looks on during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Beijing National Stadium on February 04, 2022 in Beijing, China.
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is backfiring spectacularly in more ways than one.
The Ukrainian army and ordinary citizens are putting up a fierce resistance and beating back Russian troops.
Putin's military assault has also united the West and devastated Russia's economy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's brazen decision to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine is shaping up to be a miscalculation of historic proportions.
Putin first announced what he characterized as a "special military operation" in Ukraine last Thursday morning, local time. In the five days since, Russian forces have waged an intense war on Ukraine, engaging in heavy shelling and missile attacks that have hit everything from residential buildings, an orphanage, kindergartens, and a children's hospital, according to the Ukrainian government.
The brutality of Russia's invasion, as well as its apparent disregard for distinguishing between military and civilian targets, sent shockwaves through the international community and has united western nations in unprecedented ways that have thus far resulted in the exact opposite of what Putin may have hoped for.
In the five days since Russia invaded Ukraine:
The US and European allies imposed harsh new sanctions on several Russian banks, financial institutions, and oligarchs.The US sanctioned Russia's central bank and froze $630 billion in assets to choke off Russia's access to international reserves it may have used to circumvent other sanctions and continue financing its war.The US, UK, and European Union announced sanctions personally targeting Putin and the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Only two other leaders have been personally sanctioned by the US before: Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, who is aiding Putin's efforts to topple Ukraine's democratically-elected government, and Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who oversaw a bloody civil war in his own country that has killed at least 350,000 people and displaced 5.5 million.Some Russian banks have been ejected from SWIFT, a neutral global banking system that serves as a communication platform for financial institutions. A few countries including Germany, Italy, Hungary, and the US expressed reservations about cutting Russia off from SWIFT given the potential costs to innocent Russians and other Europeans and Americans. But that hesitation waned as Russian forces continued trying to force their way into Kyiv over the weekend and decapitate the Ukrainian government.Germany reversed a yearslong policy of not sending weapons to conflict zones and said that it would send 1,000 anti-tank weapons and 500 "stinger" surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine as soon as possible.Sweden set aside a similar policy and said it would send military aid to Ukraine in the form of anti-tank weapons, helmets, and body armor.Switzerland, long known for its status as a neutral player, said it will freeze Russian financial assets in its banks. The announcement likely dealt a significant blow to Russia given that Switzerland is a go-to for Russian elites to stash their money.FIFA announced that it will ban Russia and its teams from the world-famous tournament, disqualifying Russia from playing in the 2022 World Cup.Finland, which shares a border with Russia, has moved closer to pursuing NATO membership than ever before. "Finland is not currently facing an immediate military threat, but it is also now clear that the debate on NATO membership in Finland will change," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Finnish lawmakers are now discussing the issue. In a major policy shift similar to recent moves from Germany and Sweden, Finland also announced it's sending weapons and ammunition to Ukraine.Norway announced it's sending weapons to Ukraine after previously refusing to provide arms because Ukraine is not a NATO member. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into whether Russia's actions in Ukraine constitute war crimes.
The sanctions on Russian entities alone have decimated the value of the Russian ruble and spell disaster for the Russian stock market. The Moscow Exchange will not open until March 5 in an effort to mitigate the financial consequences of Putin's decision to invade Ukraine.
Russia's central bank also announced that interest rates will more than double to 20%, which is the highest this century, according to The Guardian. The bank is also forcing major Russian exporters to sell 80% of their foreign currency revenues to help stabilize the ruble.
The ramifications, both current and projected, could be so severe that even some of Putin's closest allies have tentatively spoken out.
Mikhail Fridman, the founder of Russia's Alfa Bank, told staff in a letter over the weekend that he wanted the "bloodshed to end."
"I am deeply attached to Ukrainian and Russian peoples and see the current conflict as a tragedy for them both," the letter said, according to The Financial Times. Alfa Bank was among the Russian institutions who were targeted by sanctions last week that bar it from raising money through the US market.
Oleg Deripaska, a Ukrainian-born aluminum magnate who has close ties to Putin, also spoke out on his Telegram channel over the weekend, saying, "Peace is very important! Negotiations need to start as soon as possible!"
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has garnered global praise over his handling of the Russian invasion, announced on Monday that Ukraine was officially applying for European Union membership. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday expressed support for the move, telling Euronews that Ukraine is "one of us and we want them in the European Union."
In addition to facing global economic and political isolation, Russia also appears to be facing stronger resistance than it expected on the battlefield.
"The initial Russian operation was premised on terrible assumptions about Ukraine's ability & will to fight, and an unworkable concept of operations. Moscow badly miscalculated," Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at CNA, tweeted on Monday.
But Kofman warned that the fight is far from over.
"Russian military is suspending unsupported thunder runs, resupplying, and reorganizing," he tweeted Monday. "Ukraine's military has performed rly well, but I think we're going to see a different Russian approach moving forward."
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