March 1, 2022


Last Thursday, “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky dialed into the [emergency EU summit] via teleconference with a bracing appeal that left some of the world-weary politicians with watery eyes. In just five minutes, Zelensky — speaking from the battlefield of Kyiv — pleaded with European leaders… Before ending the video call, Zelensky told the gathering matter-of-factly that it might be the last time they saw him alive… Zelensky’s personal appeal overwhelmed the resistance from European leaders to imposing measures that could drive the Russian economy into a state of near collapse…

“The actions culminated on Saturday, when the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union announced they would bar several major Russian banks from the global financial messaging system known as SWIFT, crack down on Russian oligarchs, and prevent the Russian Central Bank from bailing out the domestic economy.” Washington Post

“As far-reaching Western sanctions on Russian banks and other institutions took hold, the ruble plummeted… In Moscow, people lined up to withdraw cash as the sanctions threatened to drive up prices and reduce the standard of living for millions of ordinary Russians… Russian forces shelled Ukraine’s second-largest city on Monday, rocking a residential neighborhood, and closed in on the capital, Kyiv, in a 40-mile convoy of hundreds of tanks and other vehicles, as talks aimed at stopping the fighting yielded only an agreement to keep talking.” AP News

Both sides agree that the invasion has thus far backfired on Putin and praise Zelensky’s efforts:

“Putin isn’t the first brutal dictator to make himself an international pariah. As far as I can tell, however, he’s the first to do so while presiding over an economy deeply dependent on international commerce — and with a political elite accustomed, more or less literally, to treating Western democracies as their playground. For Putin’s Russia isn’t a hermetic tyranny like North Korea or, for that matter, the old Soviet Union. Its standard of living is sustained by large imports of manufactured goods, mostly paid for via exports of oil and natural gas…

“This leaves Russia’s economy highly vulnerable to sanctions that might disrupt this trade, a reality reflected in Monday’s sharp plunge in the value of the ruble despite a huge increase in domestic interest rates and draconian attempts to limit capital flight… Putin may well take Kyiv. But even if he does, he will have made himself weaker, not stronger. Russia now stands revealed as a Potemkin superpower, with far less real strength than meets the eye.”
Paul Krugman, New York Times

“Even Trump’s critics were forced to admit the truth of his critique in 2017 when he complained that too many members of NATO, Germany most notably, fail to pull their weight by spending the recommended two percent of GDP on defense. Our friend in Moscow has now forced our allies to see the light, with Scholz pledging a few days ago to spend more than two percent going forward. It’s essential that Europe takes greater responsibility for its own defense against Russia as the U.S. inevitably pivots to the east to contain a rising China. Thanks to Putin’s historic blunder, that’s now — finally — in motion.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis writes, “Zelenskiy has been using every communication skill he learned as a performer to great effect… In addition to his words, his physical presence has been key — appearing in the media from locations in Kyiv to demonstrate that he isn’t fleeing. Immediately after the invasion, he shed his business suits in favor of hunting-type gear, a powerful symbolic shift. It’s an effective approach, although he must be careful to balance the reward in terms of morale with the risk of being captured or killed. The West should be providing him the highest-grade intelligence, cyber overwatch, high-tech communications gear and reliable ground transport to be able to stay on social media and ahead of the Russians…

“​​Zelenskiy has also proved to be a quick learner of the logistics of war. NATO and the EU can best help by providing a tsunami of combat materiel. We should have sent far more over the past few years, but there is still time to get additional Javelin anti-armor and Stinger anti-air missiles into the hands of the Ukrainians. They will also need massive quantities of small- and medium-caliber ammunition, communications equipment, cold-weather tactical gear, medical supplies, fuel and military rations… Zelenskiy is turning out to be a courageous, tenacious and innovative war leader of his battered nation. I would gladly go into combat at his side. But the West needs to do more to create the conditions for his unlikely resistance effort to succeed.”
James Stavridis, Bloomberg

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