Lessons from the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in 2022 Moving the World Beyond War

Following weeks of anticipation of miliary action, Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is now in full swing. Despite the repeated predictions by Western intelligence that an invasion was imminent, Russia’s move came as a surprise to many, including Russians, who believed that an attack risked much for little incremental gain. This attack has shaken the core of the post-war liberal order, which was designed to prevent war in Europe and between advanced industrialised countries. While the mechanisms to avoid drawing neighbouring countries (and their allies) into the conflict may hold in essence, the situation holds the threat of further escalation between Russia and NATO.

With deterrence, pre-emption and negotiation having failed, NATO (and more broadly Western) efforts have now shifted to actions that either punish and/or apply pressure for Russia to cease hostilities and withdraw all forces from Ukraine. The US and its allies have firmly ruled out direct military intervention, leaving escalating economic sanctions as the primary tool with which to respond to Russia’s actions. While the package of sanctions in places is unprecedented (and continuing to expand) it is unclear whether they will compel Russia to negotiate before achieving a military victory in Ukraine.

Regardless of Russian military success or failure, or the shape of the eventual compromise the parties may reach, there are a number of key lessons that have already emerged from the crisis, with deep implications for both the parties involved and for the wider global order. If the world is to pre-empt future bloodshed it will need to learn these lessons to create effective sanctions on regimes as a deterrence against violence.

This Month’s Sign of the Times looks at the 20 lessons emerging from the current crisis and how they will need to shape responses by the global community to future threats of aggression.


A Very Brief Context

A land war in Europe is underway and the multiple alarm bells ringing around the world are clear and simple. The first and foremost is that advanced industrialised countries are neither too advanced nor too civilised to wage land wars on each other. Secondly, that Europe following 75 years of peace is still a theatre of war, and one with the potential to drag in the rest of the world. And thirdly, the EU, weakened by Brexit, needs to be a cohesive force confronting global challenges in the face of a crisis where time is short and the stakes are high. None of this means the West is still not a powerful force that can prevent war. It does imply that a dramatic shift is required in how the rules-based liberal order works with and across the world to prevent war. President Putin may well have inadvertently renewed the effort to address one of the most important projects for any advanced species, how to move to the world beyond war.

Putting aside the debate over the legitimacy of Russia’s security concerns, past assurances regarding further NATO expansion, and any motivation on Putin’s part to recreate the Soviet empire, there has been an overwhelming recognition that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is an act of extraordinary aggression and a blatant violation of international laws and norms that cannot be tolerated and demands an appropriate response for the sake of the people of Ukraine, their continued right to self-determination, and for the sake of European security specifically and the world generally.

Russia is now already politically isolated within the global A renewed land war in Europe rings several alarm bells around the world … advanced industrialised countries are neither too advanced nor too civilised to wage land wars on each other, Europe is still a theatre of war, and one with the potential to drag in the rest of the world, and that Europe needs to be a cohesive force in confronting challenges around the EU order with only half-hearted support from China, with abstainers at the Security Council openly calling on Russia to end its hostilities. With the idea of NATO entering the war off the table, other means of waging war have come to the fore, among these are economic, social and media, and geopolitical levers. Given that the start of the war has not gone as well as Russia had hoped, it therefore is widely expected to move to a decisive escalation with harsh consequences for the Ukrainian people, the effectiveness of the other measures needs to be at a level that rapidly leads to a halt to this and paves the way for a peaceful resolution.


Current Sanctions and their Context: Unlikely to Succeed

With military intervention off the table, and Russia perhaps as unperturbed by the political isolation as it has been following past invasions of neighbouring countries, sanctions appear to be the main plank of a viable strategy for the international community to pressure Russia withdraw. More than a century’s use of sanctions across the world has shown that for a package to be effective, it needs to lead to real consequences for the target, inflicting severe economic pain and hardship that cannot be weathered or otherwise managed. Throughout history, Russian leaders have demonstrated the ability to weather enormous hardships, often at the expense of the populace, so for sanctions to be effective they would need to be severe enough to change in behaviours, which will require creating real pain but stopping short of triggering humanitarian crises.Russian prudence has enabled the accumulation of considerable foreign reserves, of c.US$640 billion, the fourth highest in the world (compared to America’s US$129 billion), providing it with the capacity to withstand considerable economic sanctions

Effective sanctions against Russia need to recognise the reality of its fiscal and economic situation, which is that Russia is to some degree a strategic petrostate, its energy exports exceeding 10% of its annual GDP1. While it is critically dependent on these revenues, Moscow’s conservative fiscal and monetary policy has set the Russian budget to balance at an oil price of only US$44, less than half the current market price. This prudence has enabled the accumulation of considerable foreign reserves, which at currently c.US$640 billion are the fourth highest in the world2, bear in mind that the US has only US$129 billion. These reserves provide the regime the capacity to withstand considerable economic sanctions, particularly given that Russia has significantly reduced its exposure to foreign private dollar debt, from US$500 billion in 2013 to less than US$400 billion (c.25% of GDP) in 2020, an amount well covered by reserves3.

The recently announced sanction regime looks like a ‘brainstormed’ list of contributions by the US, EU, UK, and other countries that while necessarily coordinated given they cross boundaries and need cooperation to implement, are not strategically aligned for maximum impact on Russia. The current tranche of sanctions is focused on four distinct areas, hampering the Russian financial system, import restrictions, barriers on the oil and gas industry, sanctions against regime-aligned individuals (see inset)

Other sanctions, such as landing bans for Russian planes at UK airports, or corresponding sanctions by allied countries like Australia and Canada have also been put in place, but it remains to be seen whether the current package of sanctions will force Russia to the negotiating table, particularly given Putin’s need to show strength in the face of adversity.

Its dominant role in global energy markets, financial conservatism and the inward turn of the Russian economy since the Crimean invasion provide a series of defences for Moscow. While this inward turn has occurred at the expense of international investment, trade, economic diversification and long-term growth, over the near term provide it with a significant buffer to weather restrictions.

The impact of the current sanction regime on Russian GDP in 2020 is estimated at 1%. While this seems like a significant number for a country previously projected to grow at only 3% that year as one of Europe’s most sluggish economies, Russia has proven its ability to withstand prolonged economic shocks. The (ineffective) sanction imposed on it after the invasion of Crimea in 2014 caused a 2.5% drop in Russia’s GDP, indicating that effective sanctions will need to be significantly more disruptive.


The Compelling Lessons Emerging from Russia’s Invasion of the Ukraine

The past week has taught the world a series of sombre lessons that it had perhaps optimistically thought it would not have to be learn, that land wars in Europe are an outdated part of the past. Following weeks of anticipation and increasingly confident predictions of miliary action, Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is now in full swing.

At this time, it is difficult to predict the further course of events. The Russian military has made significant inroads into Ukraine but is being held back by the efforts of Ukrainian armed forces, and the Russian air force lacks air superiority at this time. However, given the imbalance of military forces between the parties, Russia’s ability to succeed in the military campaign phase is only a matter of time.

While the West has pledged further support, major Western powers have firmly ruled out direct military intervention, leaving economic sanctions as the primary tool with which to engage Russia. Western efforts are focusing on increasing pressure for Putin to cease hostilities and withdraw all forces from Ukraine, as well as continuing to arm the defenders. If the international response is insufficient, and as Ukrainian defences are overcome, the terms of Ukraine’s on-going governance and way of life will likely be on terms dictated and favourable to Moscow.

While Russia continues its advance and the West escalates sanctions, and ordinary Ukrainians resist and fight back, the future shape of events remains unclear, the only certainty is that the reality is different from the plan. Regardless of Russian military success or failure and the shape of any ultimate peace deal there are a number of key lessons that have already emerged from the crisis, lessons with that have deep implications not just for the parties involved but also for the wider global order and for major countries. The major lessons include:

  • A Seeming Lack of a Coordinated Western Engagement. While the major western powers of the US, EU and the UK are clearly aligned in their ultimate objectives, their engagement with Russia and with each other has lacked coordination and impeded the effectiveness of their responses in the face of threats, looking like they were competing for face time with Putin.

  • The US Will Not Deploy its Military to Support ‘Friends’. Having failed to support Georgia in the 2008 invasion by Russia, and Ukraine in the Russian invasion of the Crimea in 2014, US non-intervention in the current war provides the final confirmation that the US will not treat all its allies in the same way and for most it will not automatically defend friends in the face of foreign attacks, (this may be different for strategic allies and treaty partners, but that is not clear).

  • US Political Divisions are Real and are Potentially Leverageable. US political partisanship has now reached levels such that members of the political opposition (including former presidents and journalists) will publicly praise a foreign aggressor and discredit the US government, creating a wedge that can be exploited by America’s competitors, creating the effect of being part of an enemy propaganda machine.

  • Without US Leadership, NATO Appears to be More Like Just a Collection of States. NATO is not organised to act effectively without US leadership and the default mode is for individual members to prioritise their own interests and struggle to pursue shared ones, acting based on national economic considerations or domestic political ones.

  • The EU Lacks Critical Crisis Response Capabilities to Wield the Power that it Has. While its external leverage is predominantly economic, the Union lacks the organisational power to wield this leverage in the face of resistance from its 26 diverse members states given it is not currently structured to respond to live crises in real time.

  • Multi-lateral Institutions are Structurally Unsuited to Intervene. Institutions built on a consensus driven global security order are unable to address conflicts involving major countries or blocs of countries, with governance mechanisms not allowing for effective action, as evidenced by the more peripheral or supporting role of the UN in the current crisis compared to NATO countries.

  • Encirclement is A Key Component of Western Security Strategies. The West, in the absence of military engagement, is based on the idea that the best defence against potential security threats is to encircle enemies in partnership with allies, neutralising an opponent without the need for offensive strategies.

  • Gaps in Spheres of Influence Will Soon Be Filled. Maintaining spheres of influence requires the constant exertion of power and any interruption in this power creates gaps in a country’s sphere of influence that are risk of being filled by economic, miliary or political competitors.

  • Casualties Still Matter Post COVID. Six million deaths during the past two years from COVID has not inured the public to outrage over reports of loss of life in miliary actions; while 200 daily deaths from COVID are celebrated in some countries as a cause to drop all coronavirus restrictions, 200 dead from a military invasion still elicit shock and outrage by the public.

  • War Still Requires Boots on the Ground. Despite Russia having among the world’s most advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, there have been no widespread cyberattacks on critical infrastructure or government, implying that tanks and guns are still the primary assets of warfare in the 21s century

  • False Flags are Quickly Exposed in Today’s Networked World. Russia’s claims of troop withdrawals and reports of Ukrainian aggression were quickly debunked by countless sources on the ground, making large scale false flag operations very challenging in a networked and connected world, at most buying a short amount of time (not to say they might not have some value).

  • Aggressive Action Cedes the High Ground. Russia being the aggressor in an offensive war has caused it to cede its claim of being wronged by NATO expansion with its incongruous and indefensible actions having led to a loss of support from former allies and supporters including large parts of the Russian émigré diaspora.

  • Asymmetric Escalation has Only Limited Use. While the threat of action creates risk that can be used as a tool to extract concessions, acting resolves uncertainty, often with unforeseen consequences that rob the action of its effectiveness. Russia has demonstrated the shortcomings of military planning and execution, the limitations of its soldiers being asked to fire on Ukrainians, and the apparent inability to align its government as well as its diaspora including major oligarchs with the Putin.

  • The Threat of Action can be More Powerful than Action Itself. When Putin countered ‘aggressive statements’ by NATO powers and 'illegitimate Western sanctions' by ordering Russian nuclear forces on high alert, Western countries largely ignored the move and thereby effective side-stepped Russia’s attempt at asymmetric escalation.

  • Strategic Exports Provide a Critical Counterweight to Sanctions. Sanctions on Russia have been explicitly tempered to allow energy exports to continue to flow, given Russia’s importance in global energy markets and its position as Europe’s leading gas supplier demonstrating that scaled or strategic exports provide a critical counterweight to sanctions. 5

  • Calculations Trading Off Relative Strategic Value Are Flawed. Rationales for invasions that are based on the higher strategic value of the target for the attacker than for the defender or the international community are flawed. Even if a territory has little strategic value to the global community, the invasion itself can provide the rationale for isolating, alienating, and countering the attacker.

  • Economic Independence and Reserves Can be Valuable in a Crisis ... Based on the current level of sanctions imposed on Russia, it is likely to demonstrate that its economic inward turn in the past decade will enable it to withstand much greater western pressure on its economy than it has in the past, given its reduced dependence on foreign debt and high foreign currency reserves.

  • ... But Do Not Fully Safeguard an Economy in the Face of Concerted Efforts. While Russian reserves provide an important buffer to its economy, the central bank has still needed to double interest rates to 20% to shore up the rouble, a move that is set to hurt borrowers and businesses.

  • Social Media Quickly Unites the Individual and the World. Russia aggression has galvanised the world to unite quickly with individuals, interest groups, media stars and personalities, with tens of millions of supporters, galvanising online against aggression and raising the stakes for their politicians

  • The West Can Unite, Coordinate and Exact a Heavy Price, and Quickly. Despite the oft quoted accusation that the West is soft, divided, in decline and increasingly incapable of addressing major issues, and the initial seemingly uncoordinated nature of the Western response seemed to bear that out particularly in the run-up and launch of the invasion, the measures launched in the first four days demonstrate impact and speed.


Preventing Future Wars: Creating an Effective Alternative to Killing

At some point we, the human species, must move beyond waging war through killing to wars fought with words and sanctions, and at some point, move beyond that too. Taken together the lessons from the Russian invasion of the Ukraine have significant geopolitical implications and risks in that, if successful and without dire consequences, it (re)establishes lethal wars as a credible means of achieving strategic goals. Having said that, one cannot ignore that wars are already going on in Yemen, Afghanistan and Ethiopia. The significance of this particular war is not just that it is between two sovereign states fighting with conventional armed forces, but that it is in Europe, the theatre of two world wars.

Emerging Lessons for Aggressors

Regardless of the outcome of the current invasion, the events to date provide a a series of insights for other aggressor countries willing to sacrifice lives to achieve their objectives. It is too early to draw the full lessons in a live and quickly changing situation, however at this juncture, the key insights for prospective aggressors include

  • The global community lacks the willingness or ability to intervene militarily in third party conflicts, even near their doorsteps

  • Most current military planning is based on previous conflicts and does not consider appropriately the increased complexity of today’s digital and interconnected world.

  • Highly egregious aggressors can unite the world to counter forcefully against them.

  • A ‘playbook’ of sanctions for use by the international community is emerging,

  • This may provide future aggressors with the opportunity to pre-empt future sanctions by building resilience against them and require the ‘policemen’ to constantly innovate and renew sanctions.

  • Ultimately, mature geopolitics requires ‘conflict potential’ to be actively managed, forestalling the need for war, and this requires a change in the approach to and governance of world affairs.

Depending on the circumstances of each country and on the conclusions drawn by its leaders, the lessons above can serve as both a deterrent to war and as a playbook on how to manage one.


Shifting the Focus from War to Diplomacy Backed by an Arsenal of Sanctions

Resetting the risk analysis from war to diplomacy, therefore requires the international community to make the cost of war fundamentally unaffordable, rather than something that can be justified given sufficient benefits. This will require further breakthroughs in existing alliances and international cooperation, the development of clear escalation protocols and the rethinking of long-standing political principles and policies. In the unfolding crisis there are increasing signs that such breakthroughs are occurring, but more will be required, both to resolve the current crisis, and to reduce the likelihood of future crises around the world. In this regard there are a number of insights for leaders of international community will need to consider

For a sanctions regime to be effective it would need to be multifaceted, high impact and quick and powerful enough to safeguard against all-out war. It would not of course substitute for diplomacy but would be an effective deterrent providing certainty around the minimum level of the penalty for waging war.

The key elements of such an arsenal include:

  • Banking and Finance: Hobble the Russian Banking System. A full its suspension of access to the SWIFT system, would bring hobble the financial system, causing Russia’s economy to contract by an estimated 5% by limiting investment, portfolio flows, cross border transactions and trade;6

  • Imports: Ration Non-Essentials. Broad based export control with limited exemptions for food, medicine and other essentials to shut down the Russian industry and discretionary consumption;

  • Exports: Stop Revenue Flows. Energy import restrictions by the EU severely limiting foreign cash inflows to the Russian economy;

  • Energy and Resources: Withhold Energy and Resource Security. A key component of any effective sanction regime, Russia as the world’s largest gas and as a major producer of metals and minerals is autarkic with regards to resources, making restrictions less relevant here;

  • People: Stall Flow of Human Capital. Systematic visa restrictions for Russian nationals in the West, including targeted cancellations negatively affecting personal, business and government relations;

  • Strategic Relations. Damage International Position. Sanction participation in multi-lateral political, security and economic organisations, damaging Russia’s standing in the world, and applying pressure on allies and holdouts to condemn its actions;

  • Culture, Media and Soft Power. Exercise soft power levers to exclude Russia from the community of nations, blocking participation in sporting, cultural and economic events and leveraging media platforms to highlight illegitimate Russian actions, and

  • Domestic Political Position: Undermine the Powerbase at Home. Prioritise sanctions designed to impact domestic government support, incentivising key stakeholders, including voters, financiers, security force, and others, to apply pressure on governments.


Some Observations on the Size, Scale and Scope Required to SucceedTaken together the lessons from the Russian invasion of the Ukraine have significant geopolitical implications and risks in that, if successful and without dire consequences, it (re)establishes lethal wars as a credible means of achieving strategic goals.

To reverse and forestall future wars requires extreme actions. So, the list of sanctions is an extreme one and represents a degree of severity that has never been applied in totality with intent to a major country before, without it, war remains an option and countermeasures require warring.

Applying measures to a global economic nation is new territory for the world. While elements of the above, like comprehensive SWIFT exclusion and export embargos have been applied to smaller countries like Venezuela and bigger ones like Iran but never to one of the top 15 global economics.

Sanctions are a double-edged sword, even before retaliation is taken into account. Such sanctions would clearly have a blowback effect, hurting not just Russia but the sanctioning countries and global economic and financial stability as well, and the world will need to prepare for that for the future. Such high-cost sanctions are powerful though, since they send an important signal about the pain the sanctioner is willing to bear to achieve their aims. Germany’s suspension of Nordstream II is a good example since it creates a material problem for the country’s energy security that Berlin has proactively chosen to apply despite the costs to its own position.

To be effective the pain needs to be borne by the aggressor. Ultimately though, the West will need to work closely to minimise the cost of sanctions, While history has shown that the Russian people can endure nearly unbearable hardships, in the past century they have also toppled both imperial and communist Russia via mass revolutions. supporting those bearing a disproportionate share of the costs, which in turn of course creates more new headroom for the imposition of additional sanctions and escalation. Sanctions will hit Russia much harder than they will the rest of the world overall, given that Russia’s share of the global economy is less than 2%, although its dominance in European energy markets will create significant regional disruptions.

The ultimate arbiter may well be a threat to the domestic position of the perpetrator of war. Having weathered storms before, Putin is unlikely to be swayed by anything less than a real threat to his continued power driven by mass unrest by the Russian population. A ‘information and soft power’ war therefore is likely to be needed to create the momentum to unseat a leader who enjoys approval ratings of 60-70%.7 While history has shown that the Russian people can endure nearly unbearable hardships, in the past century they have also toppled both imperial and communist Russia via mass revolutions.

When one wages war (even non-lethal war), one has to prepare for retaliation. Effective sanctions are painful and may well trigger responses similar to those used against military threats. Russia has proven highly willing to wage information warfare against the West, including cyberattacks and misinformation, even in times of peace, and so may escalate to more drastic responses, both virtual and physical through the use of proxies.

De-escalation requires a way out. Countries employing sanctions will need to sign-post clear ‘off-ramps’ that provide opportunities for de-escalation, allowing sanctioned countries to backdown and or backout at any time, which requires continuous engagement and regular planned interventions for negotiation.

Sanction and engagement architecture to maximise participation across the world. Sanction regimes need to be supported by a critical mass of countries, implying a design that allows states to participate in varying ways based on their own circumstances, and an engagement strategy to pressure holdouts seeking to free-ride from sanctions regimes imposed by others.

Engaging civil society around the world to mobilise the individual against violence. Truly effective sanctions go far beyond the level of government policy and are supported by a global mass-movement. Corporations, cultural and sporting institutions, non-government organisations are not just expressing their support for Ukraine, they are enhancing the sanction regime with bottom-up boycotts of their own, withdrawing assets, cancelling commercial contracts and events, and otherwise breaking off relations with Russian counterparts in a show of global solidarity.

Pre-emption, forestalling war, is the best solution. While effective sanctions are the last resort before needing to fall back to violence, the best solutions forestall conflict entirely through political engagement, whether through treaties, détentes, inducements and threats, or encirclement.


Conclusion: Beyond Territorial Spheres of Influence to Mutual Interest

This war appears to be on a track that is no longer relevant. It follows a pattern long enshrined in human history and a particular hallmark of modern colonialism and great power rivalry, whereby disputes are resolved through violent conquest. As the huge individual attention all across the globe has demonstrated, it is out of sync with the world as it is today and fails to understand the architecture of the world emerging from an ever-connected information era. In essence it needs to accelerate to an endgame rather than go through the destruction of war.

To break the pattern of this war and potential occupation requires an urgent catalyst – an actor in that may be one of the ‘abstainers’ of the UN Security Council resolution censuring Russia’s attack, China, India or the UAE - to accelerate to the end game, or one of the milestones towards the end game, which include:

  • Pause as a Prelude to Exit. Although the situation remains fluid and the invasion is still in its first week, it seems clear that the Russian military operations in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance are not moving with the speed Moscow had hoped for in the early stage. However, with only approximately one third of available forces engaged, Russia could likely choose to step up their efforts to crush Ukraine’s armed force and overrun the country. The benefits of such a move looks to be increasingly questionable. A full-scale military assault would likely cost countless civilian lives and shred the last remains of Russia’s international reputation and continued civil resistance would necessitate a brutal occupation regime from which it will be difficult to plot an exit strategy.

  • Provide for victory. Putin has hinted at his desire for regime change in Kyiv but is is abundantly clear that Ukrainians will not recognise the non-elected pro-Russian government he would put in place. And so, a Russian ‘victory’ may find Putin occupying a territory he can neither safely hold not safely withdraw from without the risk of the West accelerating Ukraine’s economic and security integration (into the EU and NATO, respectively) as soon as Russian forces are gone.

  • Negotiate a Peace. Even the most crushing and one-sided victories ultimately lead to a negotiated settlement, and while the Russo-Ukrainian talks on the Belorussian border do not look promising, at some point the parties will need to engage to find a solution. What remains to be seen is at whose point of choosing these talks will take place. For Ukraine the critical priorities are clearly the cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of Russian troops, protection of Ukrainian sovereignty and democracy, and the freedom for its people to determine the course the country will take in the future.

  • Address Russia’s Security Concerns. These goals are shared by the West, who are also focused on the regional peace, the preservation of Europe’s security architecture, and demonstrating the futility (and in acceptability) of waging war. For Ukraine’s and Europe’s sake, they should also be focused on reducing the threat of future Russian aggression, which will ultimately require addressing the country’s own perceived security concerns.

  • Abandon Sphere of Influence. Leaving aside any assumed expansionist or revisionist delusions about reconstituting a Russian Empire, Putin feels encroached upon and encircled by NATO, and believes that its eastward expansion is a betrayal of prior promises8. In addition to demanding that Central and Eastern European NATO members effectively demilitarise, Russia may have provided the perfect incentive for the world to create a new architecture for international relations and provide a warning to those that might see violence as a low cost means of achieving their goals. Russia is insisting on a halt to further expansion of the alliance. The most charitable interpretation of Russian demands (and actions) indicates that its desired solution is the creation of a sphere of influence that includes carving out dependent breakaway republics from countries on its borders and a further zone of non-aligned countries under its political and economic influence (as it has done in Georgia and started to do in Ukraine).

  • Integrate Interests. Even real security concerns do not result in the right to a sphere of influence, a concept common to Great Power relations in the 19th Century. Such spheres clearly run across modern conceptions of national sovereignty and self-determination, disenfranchising millions of people who end up subject to de-facto foreign rule, and they have therefore fallen out of favour in the eyes of the West in the post-war period, having been replaced with greater economic and political integration, as the integration of France and Germany into the EU have demonstrated with them relinquishing their previous spheres of influence.

However, with the prospects of greater integration of Russia into Europe’s political, security and economic architecture under the country’s current rulership appearing quite slim, Russia’s security concerns seem unlikely to be addressed over the near term creating an on-going risk in Europe. At some point, the two sides will need to respect each other’s interests and find common cause.

To prevent war in the future requires a new architecture for international relations no less and a new arsenal of measures and practices to address aggressors. Russia may have provided the perfect reason to the rest of the world to create this. It may also provide a warning to those that might see violence as a low cost means of achieving their goals.

Successful grand strategy achieves great victories at little cost. On the current trajectory Russia appears to be heading towards minimal gains at exceedingly high costs. Sun-Tzu, the ancient Chinese general and author of “On War” famously quoted: “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” By this measure Russia has already lost. It just remains to be seen how high the price is for itself, Ukraine, the EU and the world at large.



  1. Statistia
  2. Central Bank of Russia, Reuters
  3. Central Bank of Russia,
  4. As witnesses by Putin’s dressing down of his top security officials during a televised meeting on 22 Feb. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-europe-60485967
  5. See: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-24/biden-spares-russia-s-crucial-energy-exports-from-sanctions
  6. Estimate by Russian Finance Ministry 2014
  7. Source: Levada Center
  8. despite Russia having officially acknowledged this expansion in the NATO Russia Founding Act in 1996.