March 01, 2022

The Long Weekend That Changed History

By Richard Fontaine

Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion has not simply elicited a resistance among Ukrainians that is inspiring the world. It has also triggered a set of geopolitical shifts that are astonishing in their scale and rapidity. The world is not the same today as it was last week, and while the course of Putin’s invasion and Russian policy remain uncertain, there will be no full reversion to the global status quo ante. The post–Cold War era that began in 1991 may have just ended.

Governments are no longer trying to alter Russian behavior but are instead trying to diminish its ability to project power. All of this happened over a long weekend.

Just days ago, Russia was widely seen in Washington, D.C., and major European capitals as a sullen and revisionist power, led by a president discontented with his country’s place in the world, but who generally chose pragmatism and opportunism over blundering savagery. This sentiment has transformed overnight, and Moscow is now viewed by Western leaders as a clear and present danger. Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine is the obvious, but not the only, evidence. Russia threatened “military and political consequences” against Finland and Sweden should they join NATO, and put nuclear forces on alert. Just days ago, European leaders visited Moscow to discuss the international deal that sought to end his last territorial assault in Ukraine, in 2014.

The world’s economies, save China, have combined to inflict harm on the Russian economy with remarkable speed, fomenting a financial crisis and enacting restrictions on Russian imports that will touch all of its citizens. The sanctions on Russia’s central bank alone may well force the country into a default on its sovereign debt. Previous worries about risks that could hurt countries pulling out of COVID-induced recession have been cast aside. So too have concerns that economic upheaval could provoke unrest inside Russia, with unknown implications.

Read the full article from The Atlantic.

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