The war in Ukraine: Is the Russian threat beyond Ukraine? (Series 3)

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On 24 March 2022, the Circle Foundation organised its third webinar on the Russia-Ukraine conflict under the title ‘The War in Ukraine: Is Russia a Threat Beyond Ukraine?’ Marking the first month since the start of hostilities, the moderator Ayca Aydogdu hosted Professor Anders Aslund(Atlantic Council), Dr Natasha Kuhrt (King’s College London), Inna Sovsun (MP, Ukrainan Parliament), and Lord Risby (House of Lords).


“I think the Ukrainians are bound to kick out the Russians” Professor Aslund said, noting the limited Russian gains and the overwhelming international reaction. Noting the effectiveness of sanctions, he noted that “international finance barely works regarding Russia,” and doing business with Moscow became socially unacceptable in the West. Professor Aslund also underlined that Kremlin has been losing the information war as well, marking a reversal in an area which the Russian leadership used to be more successful. Finally, he added that it was not the time for decisive action, and that “red lines should be put for Putin, not for the West,” alluding to President Obama’s 2012 speech on Syria.


Dr Natasha Kuhrt urged caution, noting that the conflict may last longer than anticipated. Stating “Although we have overestimated the Russian military, there is still a long way to go,” she added that Russia now faces a military disadvantage in urban areas due to its lack of soldiers. Dr Kuhrt further warned that the lacklustre Russian gains would not alleviate Ukrainan suffering because Putin wished to mete out as much punishment as possible. “It’s taken us quite a long time to realise that Putin is capable of doing what he has done in Syria in a country standing next to Russia” she said, hoping that the current NATO summit will show a clear way forward to deter Putin from further aggression.


Inna Savsun emphasised the human dimension of he conflict. Citing that 44% of Ukrainians were now separated from their loved ones, she noted that economic hardships faced by civilians were likely to worsen in the upcoming months as personal savings deplete and unemployment remains high. She noted, however, that the Ukrainan government is taking precautions. “We need to get the economy running even with the military situation” observed Savsun, “especially because we are an agricultural state to a large extent,” noting Ukraine’s importance to the global wheat supply. Regarding international support, she noted that Kyiv was now receiving some much-needed anti-aircraft weapons, stating that “if we can protect the skies, we can win the war.” Finally, Savsunalso called for more personal sanctions, noting that these had a much more direct effect on the Russian leadership and their families. “NATO has come together in a coherent way which was unimaginable until recently” said Lord Risby.


His analysis was focused on preventing a potential escalation by Putin. He argued that a Western response to any deployment of chemical weapons should be very clear, and the EU should consider fast-tracking Ukrainan accession. Lord Risby also pointed the potential of natural resources in the Black Sea, urging the regional states to start exploring resources there as an alternative to Russian energy.


The event ended with a celebration of Ukrainan resilience, and with participants hoping for resolute Western action.


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