“”Under an amendment adopted on 4 March, any Russian or foreign person can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for spreading ‘false information’ about the Russian armed forces,” Reporters Without Borders notes. “Under another law passed on 22 March, ‘false information’ about the activities of ‘Russian state bodies’ operating abroad – including the presidency, executive, parliament, national guard and Federal Security Service (FSB) – is also punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”
So, war gave Russian authorities expanded leeway to muzzle dissidents and prod a public already inclined to rally around their leaders. But if war arouses tribal instincts among the aggressors, it does so no less among the aggrieved. Under existential threat, Ukrainians understandably lose patience for those in their midst who are sympathetic to Russia or are suspected of undermining defense efforts.
“Eleven Ukrainian political parties have been suspended because of their links with Russia,” The Guardian reported last month. “The country’s national security and defence council took the decision to ban the parties from any political activity. Most of the parties affected were small, but one of them, the Opposition Platform for Life, has 44 seats in the 450-seat Ukrainian parliament.”
The Opposition Platform for Life had reportedly denounced the invasion, but it was undoubtedly pro-Russian in its sympathies and highly suspect in a situation where Ukraine’s continued existence is at risk. It was suspended under the provisions of martial law, which was extended on April 21 through May 25, and can probably be expected to remain in place throughout the war.
But it’s not just lawmakers. As open warfare became increasingly likely, the Ukrainian government banned media suspected of sympathizing with the enemy.
“Three pro-Russian TV channels have gone off the air in Kyiv after pro-Western President Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed a Ukrainian security council decree imposing sanctions for five years on eight media and TV companies,” Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported on February 5.
Then, in March, the Ukrainian government forcibly merged all TV stations under state control.
“The move means the end, at least temporarily, of privately owned Ukrainian media outlets in that country,” Deadline observed.”
“The point of sanctioning is that, if we don’t, the norm against territorial incursions will collapse. Preserving this norm — and working to prevent similar abuses in the future — is worth the cost of sanctioning. But why is norm collapse an inexorable consequence of failing to sanction? Fortunately, a bit of game theory can help us answer this question.
Let’s call this the Repeated Sanctions Game, which has two players. In each round of the game, Player 1 (i.e., an adversary such as Putin) chooses whether to transgress, then Player 2 (i.e., NATO) chooses whether to sanction. Transgressing benefits Player 1 (Putin would like to annex Ukraine) but costs Player 2 (NATO would prefer that Ukraine be free). As in real life, sanctioning is costly not just to Player 1 but also to Player 2, who might prefer not to, for example, suffer higher prices or lose revenue from Player 1’s products and businesses as a result. Then Player 2 plays the game again and again — perhaps with the same Player 1, perhaps with another (Putin now, maybe Xi next time).
For Player 2 to deter future transgressions in this game, she would have to threaten to sanction Player 1 whenever he transgresses. This threat has to be credible, otherwise Player 1 will simply call Player 2’s bluff. Player 2 must, if called upon, reliably follow through on her threat.
How can this be worth it for Player 2, given that, as already acknowledged, sanctioning is costly? To see, we must factor future expectations into the cost-benefit calculation. When a transgression isn’t met with sanctions, everyone would reasonably expect that future transgressions may also go unpunished. This is the norm collapsing. So long as Player 2 cares enough about the costs of all those future transgressions, she’ll prefer the collateral costs of punishing the transgressor today to increasing the likelihood of future transgressions. It’s not preventing or stopping the current transgression that’s motivating Player 2 to sanction, it’s the fact that without sanctions as a response, there will inevitably be more transgressions.”
“what the international community is really trying to avoid is other, more rational actors, such as Putin’s eventual successor or Xi, inferring that future invasions will not be punished.”
“So, yes, it’s true that sanctions will hurt our economy, and it’s true that they may even push Putin to further escalate Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. That’s all really bad, but it’s not as bad as a future where national sovereignty is not respected. For the norm against territorial incursion to survive, everyone must forever know that we are willing to pay the cost to sanction.”
“The United States and its allies imposed unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia in the wake of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The swiftness and intensity of the penalties crashed the ruble, forced the Russian stock market to close, and sent Russians to line up at ATMs to withdraw dollars from their bank accounts.
The Russian economy was in free fall. Until it wasn’t, exactly.
The country’s central bank responded by sharply hiking interest rates to 20 percent and imposing strict capital controls. Those interventions, along with Russia’s still-intact ability to sell its oil and gas abroad, helped create a buffer against the economic chaos after the initial sanctions shock. The measures were “straight out of the country’s economic crisis playbook,” said Adam Smith, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, who worked on sanctions during the Obama administration.
The economic crisis playbook did its job, and calmed the immediate crisis. The ruble stabilized. That allowed Russia to declare victory over the sanctions onslaught. “The strategy of the economic blitz has failed,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in April.
At least, that is what Russia would like to claim. Russia’s efforts to shore up its currency mask the profound economic disruptions and transformations that sanctions are unleashing within Russia right now. The West’s sanctions are isolating Russia, cutting it off from key imports that it needs for commercial goods and its own manufacturing to make its economy work. That means high-tech imports like microchips, to develop advanced weaponry. But it also means buttons for shirts.
Right now, there is “this false sense of stability,” said Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Russia is facing a deep recession, one the Bank of Russia says will be “of a transformational, structural nature.” The Finance Ministry has predicted the Russian GDP will shrink by about 8.8 percent in 2022. Inflation is expected to clock in as high as 23 percent this year. Russia is looking at a looming debt default. All of this will mean hardship for ordinary Russians, who are already seeing their real incomes shrink. Some tens of thousands have tried to flee, especially those in tech, prompting a potential “brain drain.” And these are the things we know; Russia will cease publishing a lot of economic data, a tactic, experts said, Moscow has used before to obscure the effects of sanctions.
These sanctions, said Yakov Feygin, a political economy expert at the Berggruen Institute, are pushing Russia — a modern economy, integrated around the globe — back decades and decades.
“They’ve stabilized it, they’ve taken emergency measures. That was to be expected. But that’s not going to help them in the long run,” Feygin said of Russia. “You’re not going to see people queuing for food for quite a bit. But with the current course of things, it’s still very possible.”
The US and European allies have continued to pile on more penalties, refining and sharpening the sanctions, all in an effort to ratchet up the pressure on Moscow. The EU has proposed a phase-out of Russian oil products, and depending on the final details, that might further erode the Kremlin’s lifeline. And the US could take additional steps, like threatening secondary sanctions that go after countries like China or India, to deter them from buying cheap Russian energy. That comes at a cost, and not just for Russia.
Even without more escalation, the sanctions regime against Russia is one of the most aggressive in history, untested on an economy of Russia’s size and as entangled in the global financial system.
Whether the sanctions are “working,” then, depends on what they are intended to achieve. One thing is clear: Over time, these sanctions will likely make it harder for Russia to rebuild its tanks, manufacture cruise missiles, and finance a war. It will also make it harder to produce food and make cars. And it still may not stop Russia from pursuing its campaign against Ukraine, all with unpredictable consequences for the rest of the world.”
“Genocide is not merely a word for mass killing in general. In international law, per the 1948 Genocide Convention, it refers to any of the following five acts if they are “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Under this definition, not every act of violence against civilians qualifies as an act of genocide — nor does every such act motivated by racial, national, or religious hatred. Instead, it is an act of genocide when it is part of a plan to “destroy” the target group — that is, to annihilate not just individual members but the group as a collective.
In the Russian case, establishing that Russian soldiers intentionally killed Ukrainian civilians is not enough to prove genocide. It wouldn’t even be enough if the soldiers said they did it because they hated Ukrainians. Instead, you would need to show that the killings were part of an intentional effort to wipe out the Ukrainian people.”
“The U.S., the U.K. and Australia will start joint work on hypersonic missile technology and electronic warfare capabilities under the umbrella of the AUKUS security pact.
The decision, announced Tuesday by the leaders of the three governments, is the latest move in an international race for hypersonic weapons, which can travel up to 10 times the speed of sound, making them much harder to detect.
It is also a further example of the deepening security partnership between the U.S., Britain and Australia, after their creation of AUKUS last September scuppered a mega submarine deal for France, souring relations between Washington and Paris. Developing hypersonic missiles represents a long-term aim for Canberra, which is seeking to step up the long-range strike capabilities of the Australian Defence Force.”
“In March, Russia said it had used a hypersonic missile to strike an ammunition warehouse in western Ukraine. Last year, China reportedly tested two hypersonic weapons, causing alarm at the Pentagon.
The U.S. successfully tested a hypersonic missile in mid-March but did not announce it for two weeks to avoid increasing tensions with Russia, according to media reports.”