It was a moment few will forget. After weeks of escalating tensions, Russian forces finally crossed Ukraine’s borders in the early hours of 24 February.
Days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising the rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. Until then, a full-scale invasion had seemed inconceivable. Suddenly, Europe was faced with its largest conflict since the Second World War.
Russia’s incursion and subsequent annexation of Crimea in 2014 was still fresh in everyone’s minds. The threat of further Russian aggression had been building for months as hundreds of thousands of troops lined Ukraine’s borders.
Despite weeks of escalating tensions, the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in the early hours of 24th February shocked the world. Just days earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he was recognising the rebel-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. Up to that point, a full-scale invasion had seemed almost inconceivable, but suddenly Europe was faced with its largest conflict since the Second World War.
In this Global Insight podcast, we look at the background to the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s hybrid warfare campaign and the role of sanctions in fighting aggression and autocracy.
Examining these issues are:
Olga Lautman, an expert in Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe and a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
Bill Browder is CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and a long-time supporter of stronger sanctions against Russia.
Daria Kaleniuk, executive director and co-founded of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre in Kyiv (AntAC).
‘Reset’ is often the term used to describe a fresh start in diplomatic relations. After a tumultuous period for US-Russia relations it seemed particularly significant that President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva during his first foreign presidential trip in June.
The meeting followed the G7 Summit in Cornwall – the first face-to-face gathering of major world leaders since the start of the pandemic – and the NATO Summit in Brussels. It also came in the wake of escalating Western sanctions against Russia for egregious human rights violations, namely the poisoning and detention of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
It was the first time the two nations’ presidents had met since June 2018. Sir Tony Brenton, who served as UK Ambassador to Moscow from 2004-2008, believes the discussions were largely fruitful. ‘You have to allow for the fact that there are always going to be really quite sharp disagreements, with the West criticising Russia’s domestic behaviour and some of Russia’s external behaviour,’ Brenton tells Global Insight. ‘Conversely, Russia has now found it in itself to criticise what’s going on in America. But both sides set out their positions and, usefully, both sides made clear their red lines. They agreed to talk further on actually the two most important things that they have to talk about: strategic nuclear weapons and cyber.’
Across Latin America and the Caribbean, more than one million people have already died from Covid-19, making it the worst-hit region worldwide. The reasons are complex but, undeniably, have exposed deep inequalities across the region’s 33 countries.
Latin America’s excess death toll – those that exceed the number that normally occur over a given period – has rocketed. The failure by many countries to establish an effective public health strategy has been compounded by overwhelmed and underfunded health systems and social protection mechanisms that have not responded adequately to the enormity of the crisis.
The slow response – or in some instances complete inertia – of many nations has sealed their fate. ‘Governments in certain countries adopted a position of denying the pandemic and not establishing policies to control it,’ says Fernando Peláez-Pier, former IBA President and a senior consultant at FPeláez Consulting.
The forced diversion of a plane carrying a Belarusian opposition journalist on 23 May sparked international outcry. As global powers resolve to take action, there are doubts about the efficacy of sanctions against authoritarian regimes.
The subsequent removal and arrest of Roman Protasevich from a grounded plane in Minsk prompted calls to punish Belarus, where officials, including the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko, already face sanctions from multiple states for rule of law violations.
Despite recent efforts to sanction the country, Oksana Antonenko, Director, Global Risk Analysis at Control Risks, says the international community has been powerless to stop the egregious human rights violations being committed by the authorities. ‘We’ve seen now almost a year of really severe repression and violence against its people on a daily basis, including arbitrary arrests, beatings and torture,’ she says. ‘That’s happening in the middle of Europe. Of course, sanctions have been applied, but they so far have done nothing to stop these activities within Belarus.’
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