Russia becomes an “investment pariah”

Even as he puts his nuclear forces on high alert and his troops close in on Kyiv, Russian President Vladimir Putin has cause for concern: his war against Ukraine appears to be backfiring.

Unmasked as an unpredictable, even existential, threat from the perspective of governments around the world, Putin has become a dangerous symbol of tyranny, fueling the biggest reappraisal of European defenses in decades. A revitalized NATO emerges. The resurgent Western unity – wounded under former US President Donald Trump – has enabled sanctions against Moscow that are among the harshest.

As Germany springs off the fence in a looming historic realignment against Moscow, Putin faces new, as opposed to neutralized, security challenges in Russia’s backyard. The Washington Post reports.

Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping, who called Putin his “best friend,” welcomed him to Beijing. However, reportedly surprised by the speed, scale and force of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Beijing is proving to be a more reluctant ally than Putin might have hoped, and Xi is urging Putin to settle the dispute at the negotiating table.

Delegations from Russia and Ukraine will meet near the Belarusian border for their first talks since Russia launched its invasion on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Putin’s supportive oligarchs live in a shrinking world – their foreign mansions, superyachts and billions at risk of confiscation.

“Russian-owned, Russian-registered or Russian-controlled aircraft” are banned from EU airspace. Amid disturbing images of the Russian bombing — and Zelensky’s rise as a global star for the cause — foreign leaders, who had become accustomed to Putin before the invasion, are suffering the consequences at home.

In the US, several senior Republican lawmakers who are normally quick to support Trump have danced a fling after he praised Putin’s “genius”. Even some of Moscow’s closest international allies, including Venezuela and Cuba, offer nuanced answers, betraying their unease at the modern precedent set by Russia’s violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.

“Putin wants to establish a Russian empire,” declared the freshly steeled German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in parliament on Sunday. The question, he continued, is “whether we can muster the strength to set limits on warmongers like Putin.”

German U-turn

Nowhere is the turnaround on Russia stronger than in Germany, where the rumble of Putin’s tanks and the pounding of his missiles on Ukrainian cities is rousing a sleeping giant.

Since reunification, Germany has shied away from geopolitical confrontation and has sought a careful relationship with Moscow based on post-WWII penance and energy security from Russian gas.

On Saturday, the normally reluctant Germans agreed to attack a number of Russian banks, cutting them off from the vital global SWIFT network that enables international money movements. But when 100,000 protesters swarmed from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Sunday to condemn the Russian invasion, Scholz went much further, revealing a previously unthinkable surge in defense spending.

Over the weekend, Berlin also broke its longstanding opposition to sending arms to conflict zones, authorizing Ukraine to send 1,000 shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles and 500 surface-to-air Stinger missiles. This comes from a country mocked just last month for a muted response over the gift of helmets to Ukraine’s armed forces.

“There has been an awakening, not only among the political class, but also among ordinary voters,” Marcel Dirsus, a German political scientist and fellow at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, told my colleagues.

In Beijing, where Putin and Xi issued a joint 5,300-word statement earlier this month outlining a Russo-Chinese attempt to counter Washington’s reach, “many Chinese officials seemed dismayed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was so quick and so forceful would penetrate that far,” Melinda Liu wrote foreign policy. “Beijing’s rhetoric is less overtly supportive of Putin,” she noted. A senior Biden administration official this week alerted my colleagues to media reports that China had also restricted funding for Russian commodity purchases, suggesting limits to Beijing’s support.

Authoritarian vacillation

Building on historic links with authoritarian regimes and more recent vaccine diplomacy, Russia has accelerated its courtship of Latin America in recent weeks – viewing economic and military cooperation there as a strategic warning to Washington. This month, the leaders of South America’s two largest nations, Brazil and Argentina, threw love festivities with Putin in Moscow. Now both – along with other global Putin cheerleaders – face awkward moments, with signs of at least a diplomatic back down.

“We stand in solidarity with Russia,” declared Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in Moscow at a meeting with Putin just eight days before the invasion.

After Thursday’s invasion, Bolsonaro’s Vice President Hamilton Mourão appeared to make an indirect call to his boss. Saying the “Western world” was repeating the 1938 mistake of giving room to Adolf Hitler, the former general in the Brazilian army was demanding more than just sanctions.

Putin also sought to strengthen long-standing strategic ties with communist Cuba and left-authoritarian states of Venezuela and Nicaragua. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro promised new and strong “military cooperation” with Moscow after a meeting with senior Russian officials two weeks ago.

Maduro has blamed NATO for Putin’s suffering and criticized Western sanctions. But a government statement on Thursday dared to suggest that cool heads were needed on both sides, calling for a “peaceful resolution” to the conflict and “a return” to diplomacy to “avoid escalation”.

Even communist Cuba seemed to hide a grain of criticism in a lengthy statement blaming Washington and NATO for Putin’s “use of force.” However, Havana’s Foreign Ministry described the Russian actions as “non-compliance with legal principles and international norms”.

“They won’t see Venezuela or Nicaragua breaking with Russia over this, but I think they are sensitive to violations of principles that are important to them, national sovereignty and non-interference,” Shifter said. “They have the United States in mind. The theory that this gives the United States free rein to do as it pleases in its own backyard in Latin America.”

Comments are closed.