At 5.30 am Moscow time President Putin announced “a special military operation” that is supposedly designed to disarm Ukraine by destroying airfields, command, control and communications, which was preceded yesterday by cyber warfare and the evacuation of the Russian embassy in the capital, where diplomatic staff were seen outside burning files. The Russians also closed the areas close to Ukrainian borders to all air traffic.
The invasion is apparently not intended as long term occupation. But, even if this is to be believed and we have had our fair share of lies from Moscow, then military action carries its own logic, and it is hard to believe that the population is going to tolerate this passively. The speech, evidently pre-recorded, was an hour long. It was carried on television and simultaneously published in Krasnaya zvezda. It sounds very much like the declaration Putin gave at the Russsian Security Council; the heavy breathing evidently from tension was equally evident as before. The long and short of it is that for many years Moscow had asked that Ukraine give up its intention to join NATO, no one listened, and Russia has no intention of allowing it to happen: thus after interminable attempts at negotiating the problem away, force is required to make it impossible. The open question, given that the situation has continued for so long, is why now? The European members of NATO have been dragging their feet on the admission of Ukraine for years and even the Americans under President Biden appeared willing to delay the matter.
If this is indeed a limited operation, it is hard to see that it has self-contained limits. Despite their president’s call for calm and to stay at home, the main road out of Kiev is choked with traffic as people flee the city. Once all Ukrainian capabilities have been wiped out and supposedly Russian forces leave, would not Ukraine rearm and re-establish its military power? The only way this could be prevented is if those Russian forces remain in place. And if they remain in place, are we really to expect that 44 million people will accept occupation by foreign troops, particularly given the insults levied at them? And what of Putin’s declared intention to bring “to justice” those he accuses of the coup d’état in 2014? Is that likely to make the invasion any more acceptable? Moreover the rebel “republics” will doubtless attain what they seek in the form of an enlarged takeover of the entire Donbass, presumably expelling ethnic Ukrainians in the process. One does not need to know much history to guess that it will therefore not be long before liberation fighters begin targeting civilians collaborating with the invading forces as well as the forces themselves, even if the regular army is crushed.
The tension is naturally reflected on the exchanges, where the rouble now stands at 90 to the dollar and 100 to the euro. The central bank is working to stabilise the rouble. The Russian stock market closed but reopened at 10.00am Moscow time. The RTS plummeted nearly 50%. Gazprom lost more than 50% of its value, along with Russian oil companies despite the pop in the oil price on world markets. The only good news for Moscow is that gold has risen to a peak for the year and China refuses to call it an invasion, but its leaders cannot be entirely enthusiastic about it unless they intend a flanking movement to take Taiwan. In which case Biden would face the perfect storm.
Путин объявил «спецоперацию» в Украине. Онлайн
Армия России подтвердила, что наносит удары по военным объектам в Украине
03:26, 24 февраля 2022«Новая газета», редакция