Monday, September 25

Russia, toxic brand

Russia has become a toxic brand. Western companies get rid of links with their Russian counterparts. The disbandment is general. It affects technology companies (Apple), container transport, sportswear (Nike and Adidas), furniture stores (Ikea) and several oil companies, among others. Many sell their solidarity with Ukraine with the same fervor with which they declare themselves friends of the environment. The colors – green or blue and yellow – change according to interest.

The sanctions have been tougher, deeper and more unanimous than the Kremlin could have anticipated. Putin is a man increasingly isolated from reality, as was Joseph Stalin. Telling the truth to a satrap costs his life. His narrowest circle has been reduced to half a dozen advisers who militate in a suicidal nationalism and tell him what he wants to hear.

On the diplomatic front, things are not going well either. The UN General Assembly this week condemned the invasion of Ukraine by 145 votes in favour, five against and 35 abstentions, including China’s. Putin has as unbreakable allies Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria. The Kremlin is alone, but with nuclear warheads.

The crash of rublewhich traded at historic lows, the inflation and the increase in interest rates will take the price of war into the pockets of all Russians. The expulsion of the Swift exchange banking network affects the network of oligarchs who support the president. These are measures that will not stop the invasion, but will raise the cost of warthe only way to force a real negotiation, if this is still possible.

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There are sanctions that will not have a significant economic impact, such as the exclusion of Russia from international sports competitions, including the Qatar World Cupor expulsion from Eurovision Song Contest, but they help reinforce the feeling of complete isolation.

Inform the Russians

The great battle is to get the information from what happens in ukraine reach the Russian population. Most feed on the dominant propaganda in all media. Getting out of the script written by the Kremlin is paid with the closure or jail. The official account does not mention the war, reduced to a “special operation”. There is no Ukrainian resistance, no shelling of civilian areas, and hardly any casualties of their own. Only Nazis and drug addicts in the Kiev Government. So it is difficult for them to ask how it is possible that the protection of Russian speakers go through the bombardment of Kharkiv and Mariupol, two cities with majority Russian-speaking population.

Putin maintains a tight control of your media and of social networks. The protesters who take to the streets of St. Petersburg and Moscow are a minority. Behind black out a break is taking place between young people who manage to get information and their parents and grandparents who believe in the regime, because believing in power is a tradition of the tsarist and Soviet Russias. East informative drip It will take several months to sink in.

The EU and US sanctions on the Russian oligarchs who support Putin are difficult to apply. More than half of the fortunes of the richest 0.01% of Russia are abroad, mostly in United Kingdom and Cyprus, and in tax havens where they share a hiding place and business with the mega-rich Westerners. Will we go for both? Hiding the money in a network of opaque companies and shell accounts in which there is no trace of the millionaire makes it difficult to seize. As much as possible act against their most ostentatious luxuries: real estate and yachts. And sell that we are being relentless.

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The EU and the US trust that this economic fence turn the oligarchs against Putin and open the possibility of one bullet revolution, which does not require assassination, it would suffice to replace him with someone capable of stopping the war and negotiating a solution that respects the integrity of Ukraine and addresses Russia’s security concerns. This path is the most unlikely of all.

iron resistance

To the sanctions and international isolation must be added the reality on the ground. There has been no military parade, nor has the Ukrainian people, as Slavic as the Russian, received them as liberators. There is stiff resistance in the cities, progress is slow and problems of supply. But one fact should not be forgotten: Russia has not yet used all its military power. He barely mobilized aviation.

What does Putin want? Will Kiev raze the way it razed Grozny in the second Chechen war? Will he just surround the capital without risking a costly street-by-street conquest operation? What is his model? Sarajevo 1992-1995 or Stalingrad, one of the Soviet myths against Hitler? Does he intend to give a symbol to the Ukrainian resistance?

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There is catastrophic scenario, which we should not rule out: the dropping of a tactical nuclear bomb on Ukrainian soil. They can choose one small town or open country. The goal would be to create a mini Chernobyl near the Polish border, for example, on a day when wind forecasts protect Moscow from radioactive effects. It would surrender Ukraine, as the US surrendered Japan with Hiroshima; it would also be a checkmate to a West that is unwilling to unleash the First World Nuclear War.

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The unthinkable is already possible. We are between the revolution of a single bullet and a atomic holocaust. Not bad as a way out of a pandemic that has killed almost six million people worldwide and has had us on pause since February 2020. Any hope? Yes, let China, the great beneficiary of the crisis, say that the game is over.

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