What Could Be the Next Step in the Ukraine Crisis?
Europe is dealing with a fresh migration crisis, and tough economic sanctions imposed on Russia are anticipated to resonate around the world.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, much of the world awoke to the threat of all-out war in Europe as Russian President Vladimir V. Putin ordered his soldiers to invade Ukraine. Millions of people in Ukraine and Eastern Europe, as well as in the United States and abroad, were left wondering how the violence will impact their lives.
At least 40 Ukrainian soldiers were reported killed in the hours following the invasion, with tens of thousands more estimated to have died during the fighting. Beyond the expected violence, however, economic sanctions imposed on Russia will have a global impact.
Consumers will bear the brunt of rising energy costs and perhaps slowed supply chains. Russian cyberattacks have the potential to bring down electronic infrastructure. A new refugee catastrophe will necessitate international help. And the West's era of relative quiet, which has lasted since the conclusion of the Cold War, may be coming to an end.
On the military, economic, and diplomatic fronts, here's what could happen next.
More armed forces are preparing to deploy to NATO's eastern frontiers.
NATO stated on Thursday that it would send reinforcements to its eastern flank, adding to the 6,500 US troops already deployed to Eastern Europe and the Baltics by the Pentagon.
In a statement, NATO stated, "We are deploying additional defensive land and air forces, as well as enhanced maritime capabilities to the alliance's eastern zone." "We have increased the readiness of our soldiers to respond to any contingency."
The Pentagon is repositioning a total of 1,000 troops in Europe. Around 800 US troops are on their way from Italy to the Baltics, along with 20 Apache helicopters from Germany and 12 Apache helicopters from Greece to Poland. Eight F-35 assault planes are on their way from Germany to Lithuania, Estonia, and Romania, according to the Pentagon.
Additionally, US Army forces from the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions are ready to move closer to Poland's border with Ukraine to assist with the processing of people fleeing the nation, according to an Army spokeswoman.
Many of the 5,500 troops from the 18th Airborne Corps who landed in Poland this month have been working with the State Department and Polish forces to establish three processing centers near the border to help cope with the tens of thousands of individuals expected to evacuate Ukraine, including Americans.
An indoor stadium in Jasionka, Poland, has been equipped with bunk beds and supplies for up to 500 people; US officials say the capacity could be swiftly increased. On Wednesday, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer stated that he was willing to receive refugees. The State Department and the United States Agency for International Development are sponsoring relief organizations that are giving food, water, shelter, and emergency health treatment to persons fleeing the violence in the region.
The C.I.A. will analyze what sort of support it can provide to Ukraine in the coming days. If a Ukrainian resistance emerges in areas of the country that Russia wants to govern, the agency could discreetly support partisan groups with intelligence and possibly weapons.
Mick Mulroy, a former C.I.A. paramilitary commander and top Pentagon official in the Trump administration, said, "We need to back the resistance against the invasion and occupation in all means conceivable." "Our special operations and intelligence assets, which have a wealth of experience battling insurgencies over a 20-year period, should be put to rapid use."
‘Severe’ sanctions from the U.S. and Europe.
According to US sources, President Biden plans to announce "serious penalties" against Russia on Thursday in order to prevent Moscow from carrying out more aggression in Ukraine and to punish it for its conduct.
According to US authorities, the next round of economic sanctions will be significantly more severe than the first round, which was imposed on Monday and Tuesday. Mr. Biden is anticipated to instruct the Treasury Department to place one or more major Russian state-owned institutions on the S.D.N. list, the agency's most severe sanctions list. This would effectively cut off the banks from much of the world's commerce and exchanges, as well as many other Russian business operations.
The Biden administration announced such sanctions on two banks, VEB and PSB, on Tuesday, but these are policy banks with no retail business in Russia.
Administration officials have looked at how sanctions might effect each of the major institutions, including Russia's two largest banks, Sberbank and VTB. Sberbank controls nearly a third of the country's banking assets, while VTB controls more than 15%. Some experts doubt that the administration will put those two banks on the S.D.N. list because of the potential economic ramifications for Russia and the rest of the world. For the time being, US officials are not ready to cut off all Russian banks from Swift, a vital Belgian money transfer system used by over 11,000 financial institutions throughout the world.
Other sanctions lists maintained by the Treasury Department would impose fees while causing less widespread misery. It might, for example, put a bank on a list that forbids it from conducting any dollar transactions. Many worldwide commercial transactions are conducted with US dollars, the world's most widely used currency.
More Russian officials, individuals, and companies are anticipated to be sanctioned by the Treasury Department.
Russia's stock market had dropped over 40% by Thursday afternoon.
The Commerce Department is considering limiting the export of certain American technologies to Russia, a technique used by the Trump administration to stifle Huawei, the Chinese telecoms company. Some Russian industries' supply chains would be harmed as a result of the controls. Officials from the United States stated their targets were the defense and oil and gas industries.
As they did this week, European officials are anticipated to announce measures that are comparable to many of those announced by the US. However, given of the continent's extensive trade with Russia, they have been reluctant of adopting the most severe penalties.
Although Vice President Joe Biden has stated that he will consider any possible penalties, US officials do not expect major interruptions in Russia's oil exports, which are the country's economic backbone. Europe is reliant on the products, and rising oil prices around the world would result in higher inflation and more political troubles. Germany, on the other hand, has announced that it will not certify Nord Stream 2, a new natural gas pipeline between Russia and Western Europe. Mr. Biden announced penalties on a subsidiary of Gazprom, the huge Russian energy company, which built and planned to operate the pipeline on Wednesday.
"We have been open and honest with the American people about the fact that our measures — the sanctions we have and are prepared to impose on the Russian Federation — will not be cheap for the Russian Federation," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday. "However, the rest of the world will not be entirely free."
Even so, the extra economic constraints come at a bad time for Mr. Biden, who is dealing with voter discontent over inflation just nine months before the midterm elections.
Republicans are anticipated to use new domestic economic difficulties to attack Mr. Biden and Democrats. A powerful Republican faction, led by President Donald J. Trump and included Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, has been applauding Russia, downplaying the urgency of defending Ukraine, and condemning Vice President Joe Biden for a number of policies. According to some observers, Mr. Putin sees political polarization as a strategic benefit.
With Russia's 'road of aggression,' diplomacy is in disarray.
The State Department has relocated its personnel from Ukraine to Poland, where diplomats will continue to assist the Kyiv administration and provide consular assistance to American citizens seeking to exit the country. On Wednesday, Mr. Price estimated that much fewer Americans were in Ukraine than the 6,600 believed to be there in the fall.
For the rest of the world, the bigger concern is whether Mr. Putin's invasion has irreversibly shattered international systems in which Russia was formerly regarded as a genuine contributor.
"The events of last night represent a watershed moment in the history of Europe and our country," French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech on Thursday morning. "They will have long-term, life-altering effects for us."
Diplomats from the Group of Seven industrialized nations, NATO, the United Nations Security Council, and the European Council were scheduled to meet later on Thursday to plan the next steps. The US pushed countries to join a Security Council resolution condemning Russia's aggressions and preserving Ukraine's sovereignty. The attempt, which will be voted on on Friday, also demands for humanitarian help for Ukrainian refugees as well as relief workers' access.
However, because Russia has a permanent veto on the council, any measure aimed at reining in Mr. Putin might be stymied.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is scheduled to visit to Europe next week to meet with friends and guarantee that the US fights Russia as a united front. He called off a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov that was scheduled for Thursday in Geneva, saying it would be ineffective while Russian forces formed battle formations.
Mr. Blinken delivered an 11th-hour appeal for Mr. Putin to choose a diplomatic road away from conflict on Wednesday night, even as he believed an assault was coming.
"We'll certainly pursue that if Russia indicates that it's genuinely serious about that, which sadly it's not doing," Mr. Blinken said on ABC News. "However, we've said all along that we're ready for anything." We're prepared to use diplomacy and dialogue to attempt to avoid this. We're also ready if Russia decides to go the aggressive route."
It was unclear whether or not the path had been blocked by the invasion.