Numerous individuals, including reporters from international media outlets, have been apprehended in Moscow following a crackdown on demonstrators at the election headquarters of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to reports from independent sources on Saturday.
The demonstration was orchestrated by the spouses of deployed men amidst a growing movement of women demanding the return of their husbands and sons from Ukraine. Video footage reviewed by CNN depicts Russian authorities arresting several individuals wearing “Press” vests in the vicinity of Red Square.
The protest, dubbed “500 days of mobilization,” attracted women to the Kremlin walls before progressing to Putin’s nearby election headquarters, as per reports. SOTAvision, an independent Russian news source, shared on their Telegram channel that a correspondent witnessed security forces “grabbing random individuals from the crowd, targeting only men.”
OVD-info, a watchdog group monitoring Russian repression, stated that at least 27 people, with only one identified as a protester, were transported in a police van to Kitay-Gorod station, where they are presently detained. Despite OVD-info’s attempts to send a lawyer to visit the detainees, access was denied.
Mediazona, an independent Russian media organization, reported on Saturday that among those detained are journalists employed by Kommersant, France Press, and Spiegel, as well as human rights activists. Furthermore, OVD-info mentioned that seven journalists covering the rally were taken to the Basmanny police station, including Andrei Zaiko from the Japanese television company “Fuji.”
According to OVD-info’s Telegram update, one employee from state media has been released from Kitay-Gorod along with three minors. The update stated, “Police officers informed them that they intend to release the remaining federal and foreign media personnel soon, but will retain ‘foreign agents’ media representatives at the police station. All detainees also had their phones confiscated.”
Russia’s foreign agents law, expanded in late 2022 to encompass individuals or groups deemed to “receive support and/or be under foreign influence,” has drawn criticism as a Kremlin maneuver to silence critics of its actions in Ukraine, including journalists.
War has been a catastrophe for Ukraine and a crisis for the globe. The world is a more unstable and fearful place since Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24, 2022. One year on, thousands of Ukrainian civilians are dead, and countless buildings have been destroyed. Tens of thousands of troops have been killed or seriously wounded on each side. Beyond Ukraine’s borders, the invasion shattered European security, redrew nations’ relations with one another and frayed a tightly woven global economy.
On Feb. 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine—and until that date, the United States had done little to thwart it. This Friday marks one year since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. The war has killed thousands, displaced millions, and disrupted global food and energy markets—with no end in sight. To better understand how this conflict continues to shape geopolitics, and how geopolitics shapes it, Foreign Affairs is publishing an ongoing series of essays about what the war has taught us so far.
The war in Ukraine has touched almost every corner of the world — delivering death and suffering to Ukraine, an energy crisis in Europe, grain shortages in the Middle East and Africa, and compounding inflation across the globe.
Inside Russia, all aspects of society and the economy have been warped or reoriented in a sprawling effort to support Vladimir Putin’s war effort. And while the vast number of casualties have been sustained by Russia and Ukraine, countries from Australia to Zambia have seen their own fighters killed in the war.
While the toll of the war is often described in sweeping statistics — 8 million refugees, 1,000 Russians killed in a day or $500 million in aid — over the past 12 months many groups and individuals have come to symbolize resistance to the war and resilience amid the carnage.
Millions of Ukrainians fled from their homeland in the early days of the war, with mostly women and children leaving their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers to fight the invading forces.
Leading scholars consider why some democracies have not joined the coalition against Russia, why Russian President Vladimir Putin persists despite his disastrous war, what can be learned about contemporary conflict from the battlefields in Ukraine, and more. Start reading below.
NATO was created to prevent a major war in Europe, a task it accomplished well for many decades. Apart from the brief Kosovo war in 1999, its members never had to fight together or coordinate a joint response to aggression—until a year ago, when Russia invaded Ukraine. NATO’s response thus offers fresh, real-world evidence about how contemporary alliances work in practice. Despite a series of blunders, miscalculations, and battlefield reversals that would have surely seen him thrown out of office in most normal countries, President Vladimir Putin is still at the pinnacle of power in Russia.
He continues to define the contours of his country’s war against Ukraine. He is micromanaging the invasion even as generals beneath him appear to be in charge of the battlefield. (This deputizing is done to protect him from blowback if something goes badly wrong in the war.) Putin and those immediately around him directly work to mobilize Russians on the home front and manipulate public views of the invasion abroad. He has in some ways succeeded in this information warfare.
The war has revealed the full extent of Putin’s personalized political system. After what is now 23 years at the helm of the Russian state, there are no obvious checks on his power. Institutions beyond the Kremlin count for little. “I would never have imagined that I would miss the Politburo,” said Rene Nyberg, the former Finnish ambassador to Moscow. “There is no political organization in Russia that has the power to hold the president and commander in chief accountable.” Diplomats, policymakers, and analysts are stuck in a doom loop—an endless back-and-forth argument among themselves—to figure out what Putin wants and how the West can shape his behavior.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that his country would suspend its participation in the New START agreement with the United States, throwing into question the future of the last remaining arms control accord between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. The treaty, which came into force in 2011, places limits on the number of intercontinental nuclear weapons that each country can have and was extended for an additional five years in 2021. Arms control had long been regarded as the last redoubt of constructive collaboration between Washington and Moscow.
Putin showed no signs of backing down as he used his annual state-of-the-nation address to rail against the United States and accuse Ukraine and the West of provoking the war days before the first anniversary of the Russian invasion. “They want to inflict a ‘strategic defeat’ on us and try to get to our nuclear facilities at the same time,” Putin said during his nearly 100-minute speech, which was met with applause from Russian lawmakers and senior officials. “In this context, I have to declare today that Russia is suspending its participation in the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Arms.”
President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday delivered a nuclear warning to the West over Ukraine, suspending a bilateral nuclear arms control treaty, announcing new strategic systems had been put on combat duty and warning that Moscow could resume nuclear tests.
Speaking nearly a year to the day since ordering an invasion that has triggered the biggest confrontation with the West since the depths of the Cold War, Putin said Russia would achieve its war aims and accused the West of trying to destroy Russia.
Cautioning the United States that it was stoking the war into a global conflict, Putin said that Russia was suspending participation in the New START Treaty, the last major arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington.
Responding to Putin’s announcement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, “With today’s decision on New START, the whole arms control architecture has been dismantled.”
Experts said it’s too soon to interpret Putin’s remarks as heralding a new nuclear arms race, but with the treaty set to expire in 2026, the Russian leader’s announcement will further complicate diplomatic efforts to extend or negotiate a new treaty between the United States and Russia, which together hold about 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.
The biggest blow to democracy on a global scale was not the war itself but the fact that—despite all “never again” claims—European and Western countries in general agreed and accepted beforehand that another European nation might be deprived of its sovereignty, freedom, and independent institutions, and it might find itself militarily occupied. (If this isn’t how they felt, then they wouldn’t have evacuated their embassies in Kyiv.) President Biden vowed on Tuesday that the United States would “not tire” in its support of Ukraine, describing the American commitment to NATO and Ukraine as a battle for freedom against autocracy in a speech delivered just hours after President Vladimir V. Putin presented a radically different account of the war.
In his national address, Mr. Putin showed no sign that he would change course, instead signaling that Russians should prepare for a long war ahead. He accused the West of a “totalitarian” project to control the world under the guise of spreading liberal values, and declared Russia was suspending the one remaining nuclear arms treaty with the United States.
“They intend to transform a local conflict into a phase of global confrontation. This is exactly how we understand it all and we will react accordingly, because in this case we are talking about the existence of our country.” Defeating Russia, he said, was impossible.
In the year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Western democracies have condemned Moscow, slapped wide-ranging sanctions on it, cut back on Russian oil and gas and sent unprecedented amounts of arms and ammunition to help Ukraine defend itself.
But the world’s biggest democracy — India — hasn’t done any of that.
India has solidified ties with Moscow. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Vladimir Putin in September and called their countries’ friendship “unbreakable.” He did tell the Russian president it’s “not a time for war.” But a year on, Modi still refuses to assign blame for the violence, and has voiced more concern over the spike in global food and fuel prices triggered by the war.
Meanwhile, as Europe eschews Russian oil and gas, India has doubled down on buying Russian oil at bargain prices — much to Washington’s chagrin. And India continues to place orders for Russian-made weapons.
All this is a reminder that, a year into this war, condemnation of Russia is far from unanimous. Much of the global south actually sees the West’s focus on Ukraine as a distraction from other, more pressing issues like food security, inflation and mounting debt.
Analysts and political scientists cite four main factors shaping India’s policy toward Ukraine and Russia: History, energy, arms and influence.
Factor #1: The India-Russia relationship goes way back
“It started out as strategic sympathy for the Soviet Union, in the backdrop of India getting independence from the British. So it’s an anti-colonial experience, anti-imperialism,” says Rajeswari (Raji) Pillai Rajagopalan, a political scientist at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi. “And as the Cold War picked up, it became a more anti-West, anti-U.S. sentiment they shared.”
The end of the Cold War didn’t change that. Neither has the Ukraine war. India’s nationalist TV news channels often accuse the United States — rather than Russia — of doing more to ruin Ukraine.
In November, Modi’s top diplomat, S. Jaishankar, traveled to Moscow, where he stood alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and called their countries’ relationship “steady and time-tested.”
Modi has called for a cease-fire in Ukraine, without condemning Russia’s attacks. Some of his political opponents say that doesn’t go far enough, and point toward India’s actions rather than its words.
“The actions that India is engaged in so far do not reflect any remorse or even mild criticism of the events in Ukraine,” says Praveen Chakravarty, a political economist affiliated with the opposition Indian National Congress party. “If anything, it seems to aid and abet.”
Factor #2: India wants cheap Russian oil
India has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. (The IMF forecasts 6.8% growth for India this year, compared to just 1.6% for the United States.) By 2030, India is forecast to be the third-largest economy in the world, behind the U.S. and China.
It’s already the third-largest oil consumer in the world. And it needs even more to fuel all that growth. But because India has few oil and gas reserves of its own, most of the oil it needs has to be imported. It’s also a relatively poor country, particularly sensitive to price.
That’s where Russia comes in. India still buys more oil from Middle Eastern countries than Russia. But its Russian share has skyrocketed. In December, India imported 1.2 million barrels of Russian crude. That’s a whopping 33 times more than a year earlier. In January, the share of Russian crude rose to 28% of India’s oil imports — up from just 0.2% before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Indian officials have defended those purchases by saying it’s their job to find bargains for their citizens. And Jaishankar, the foreign minister, has suggested it’s hypocritical of wealthier Westerners to ask them not to.
“Europe has managed to reduce its imports [of Russian gas] while doing it in a manner that is comfortable,” Jaishankar told an Austrian TV channel last month. “At 60,000 euros or whatever is your per capita income, you’re so caring about your population. I have a population at 2,000 dollars [per capita annual income]. I also need energy, and I am not in a position to pay high prices for oil.”
India basically ignored that. But the Biden administration now says it’s actually fine with that.
Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Geoffery Pyatt said Washington is “comfortable” with India’s approach on Russian oil. And Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said the U.S. is not looking at sanctioning India for this.
Here’s one possible explanation for Washington’s change of heart: India is buying Russian crude at deep discounts — something the West can’t do because of sanctions, or doesn’t want to do because of the optics. Then India refines that same Russian oil and exports it onward to the U.S. and Europe. So the West gets Russian oil, without getting its hands dirty.
“U.S. treasury officials have two main goals: keep the market well supplied and deprive Russia of oil revenue,” Ben Cahill, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently told Bloomberg. “They are aware that Indian and Chinese refiners can earn bigger margins by buying discounted Russian crude and exporting products at market prices. They’re fine with that.”
Factor #3: Moscow is India’s biggest arms dealer
India’s military has historically been equipped with Russian and Soviet weapons. Most of those contracts date back to the Cold War, a conflict in which India was officially non-aligned but close to Moscow. So most of India’s arsenal was — and still is — Soviet-made.
By now, some those 30-something-year-old weapons are deteriorating. “Let’s just go to the [Indian] Air Force. Most of those Sukhois and MiGs [fighter aircraft] are referred to as ‘flying coffins.’ Very often Indian pilots die when they are testing, or flying, those,” says Aparna Pande, a political scientist at the Hudson Institute in Washington. “So India knows they need to be replaced.”
Indian defence experts may have been the only ones not surprised to see Russian tanks falling apart in Ukraine this past year, Pande says. They’ve been unhappy with Russian equipment for years.
So the Indian government has started replacing some of its Soviet-made aircraft and artillery with French, Israeli and American versions. But it’s a time-consuming and costly task to update India’s entire arsenal, Pande notes.
“Let’s say my entire apartment had only IKEA furniture, and now I decide, ‘OK now I want to change it, and I want West Elm.’ I cannot just replace one chair. I have to change my entire dining table and all the chairs,” Pande explains. “So what India has done [in terms of updating its weapons] is piecemeal. But those big ticket items are still Russian-made. So that’s the change which has to happen, and this is what will reduce the Russian influence.”
Despite the Indian government’s efforts to diversify, Moscow continues to be India’s biggest arms dealer — more than 30 years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Russia has reportedly supplied India with around $13 billion in weapons in the past five years alone. There’s one big reason India needs all these weapons: China.
Factor #4: India wants to prevent Putin from getting closer to China’s Xi Jinping
And as the West isolates Russia, India fears Putin is already looking eastward, toward Beijing. “You’re already seeing a very close Russia-China relationship emerging, even in the last few years,” says the ORF’s Rajagopalan. “So the current Indian approach is, we don’t want Russia to go completely into the Chinese fold. Because for India, China has become the No. 1 national security threat.”
Despite the Ukraine war, that’s true for Washington too. So even if Washington doesn’t like it, Biden administration officials say they understand why India has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and they’re willing to grant India a wide berth.
They may even see India’s continued ties with Putin as useful — to try to mitigate just how far the Ukraine war drives him into Xi Jinping’s arms.
President Joe Biden is delivering his second State of the Union address tonight. In this special edition newsletter, here’s a look at public opinion on some of the key issues facing the country.
Inflation: Despite signs that inflation may be easing, large shares of Americans remain concerned about prices. Three-quarters of U.S. adults say they are very concerned about the price of food and consumer goods, while six-in-ten express the same degree of concern about gasoline and energy prices and the cost of housing.
Ukraine: More Americans approve than disapprove of the Biden administration’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the share of Americans who say the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine has grown, a shift largely driven by Republicans. In both parties – but especially among Republicans – fewer Americans now see the conflict as a major threat to U.S. interests than did so in March 2022, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Gun violence: Americans largely supported the gun bill passed by Congress and signed into law last year, but at the time they were not optimistic it would do much to reduce gun violence. The public remained divided on whether there would be fewer mass shootings if it were harder for people to obtain guns legally: 49% said there would be, while 50% said there would be no change or that there would be more mass shootings.
Budget deficit: Reducing the budget deficit is a higher priority for the public than in recent years: 57% of Americans currently see it as a top priority for the president and Congress in the year ahead, compared with 45% a year ago. Although concern has increased in both parties, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to prioritize the issue (71% vs. 44%).
China: Half of Americans say China’s military power is a very serious problem for the U.S., while 57% say the same about the partnership between China and Russia. At least four-in-ten see tensions between China and Taiwan (43%), China’s policies on human rights (42%) and America’s economic competition with China (41%) as very serious problems.
Tech regulation: The public is divided in its views of whether technology companies are having a positive effect on the country or not, with Republicans’ views growing more negative in recent years. And in a survey last spring, 44% of U.S. adults favored greater regulation of tech companies. A large majority also said it is at least somewhat likely that social media sites censor political viewpoints they find objectionable.
Reducing crime and illegal drugs: Since 2021, reducing crime has risen as a priority among members of both parties, but especially among Republicans. Currently, 65% of Republicans and 47% of Democrats say this should be a top priority. And 53% of Americans overall say reducing the availability of illegal drugs, including heroin, fentanyl and cocaine, should be a top priority.
Investigating the Biden administration: Republicans ushered in their new House majority by promising to pursue investigations into Biden’s presidency and his family. But among the public, Americans are more concerned that Republicans will focus too much on investigating the administration, rather than too little. An overwhelming share of Democrats take this view, while Republicans are more likely to be concerned that the GOP will not focus enough on these investigations.
Immigration: Dealing with immigration is a leading priority for 53% of the public, but there is a large partisan gap: 70% of Republicans rate the issue as a top priority, compared with 37% of Democrats. Monthly encounters between U.S. Border Patrol agents and migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. at the southwestern border have been at near-record levels in recent months.
Police violence: Police brutality is back in the spotlight following the violent beating of Tyre Nichols in Tennessee. In a survey conducted earlier this year, majorities of Americans said police officers were doing an only fair or poor job when it comes to treating racial and ethnic groups equally, using the right amount of force and holding officers accountable for misconduct, with particularly low ratings among Black Americans. In a 2021 survey, 60% of Black Americans said police brutality was an extremely big problem for Black people living in the U.S., with Black adults nearly unanimous (95%) in saying policing practices need to change to ensure fair treatment of Black people.
Climate change: Majorities of Democrats say dealing with climate change and protecting the environment should be top priorities, but these remain among the lowest priorities for Republicans. Despite this deep partisan divide, a survey last May found that most Americans who had experienced extreme weather in the past year – including majorities in both political parties – saw climate change as a factor.
Political compromise: Most Republicans say they want their party’s leaders to take a hard line in their dealings with Biden and the Democrats. Democrats, in contrast, are more likely to say they would support efforts by their leaders to find common ground with Republicans. People in both parties are somewhat more open to compromise than they were last January.
(IPS) – Few policymakers ever claim credit for causing stagnation and recessions. Yet, they do so all the time, justifying their actions by some supposedly higher purpose. Now, that higher purpose is checking inflation as if it is the worst option for people today. Many supposed economists make up tall tales that inflation causes economic contraction which ordinary mortals do not know or understand.
Inflating inflation’s significance
Since early 2022, like many others in the world, Americans have been preoccupied with inflation. But official US data show inflation has been slowing since mid-2022.
Recent trends since mid-2022 are clear. Inflation is no longer accelerating, but slowing. And for most economists, only accelerating inflation gives cause for concern.
Annualized inflation since has only been slightly above the official, but nonetheless arbitrary 2% inflation target of most Western central banks.
At its peak, the brief inflationary surge, in the second quarter of last year, undoubtedly reached the “highest (price) levels since the early 1980s” because of the way it is measured.
After decades of ‘financialization’, the public and politicians unwittingly support moneyed interests who want to minimize inflation to make the most of their financial assets.
War and price
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine began last February, with retaliatory sanctions following suit. Both have disrupted supplies, especially of fuel and food. The inflation spike in the four months after the Russian invasion was mainly due to ‘supply shocks’.
Price increases were triggered by the war and retaliatory sanctions, especially for fuel, food and fertilizer. Although no longer accelerating, prices remain higher than a year before.
To be sure, price pressures had been building up with other supply disruptions. Also, demand has been changing with the new Cold War against China, the Covid-19 pandemic and ‘recovery’, and credit tightening in the last year.
There is little evidence of any more major accelerating factors. There is no ‘wage-price spiral’ as prices have recently been rising more than wages despite government efforts ensuring full employment since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Despite difficulties due to inflation, tens of millions of Americans are better off than before, e.g., with the ten million jobs created in the last two years. Under Biden, wages for poorly paid workers have risen faster than consumer prices.
Higher borrowing costs have also weakened the lot of working people everywhere. Such adverse consequences would be much less likely if the public better understood recent price increases, available policy options and their consequences.
With the notable exception of the Bank of Japan, most other major central banks have been playing ‘catch-up’ with the US Federal Reserve interest rate hikes. To be sure, inflation has already been falling for many reasons, largely unrelated to them.
But higher borrowing costs have reduced spending, for both consumption and investment. This has hastened economic slowdown worldwide following more than a decade of largely lackluster growth since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Ill-advised earlier policies now limit what governments can do in response. With the Fed sharply raising interest rates over the last year, developing country central banks have been trying, typically in vain, to stem capital outflows to the US and other ‘safe havens’ raising interest rates.
Having opened their capital accounts following foreign advice, developing country central banks always offer higher raise interest rates, hoping more capital will flow in rather than out.
Interestingly, conservative US economists Milton Friedman and Ben Bernanke have shown the Fed has worsened past US downturns by raising interest rates, instead of supporting enterprises in their time of need.
Four decades ago, increased servicing costs triggered government debt crises in Latin America and Africa, condemning them to ‘lost decades’. Policy conditions were then imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for access to emergency loans.
Economic globalization policies at the turn of the century are being significantly reversed, with devastating consequences for developing countries after they opened their economies to foreign trade and investment.
Encouraging foreign portfolio investment has increasingly been at the expense of ‘greenfield’ foreign direct investment enhancing new economic capacities and capabilities.
The new Cold War has arguably involved more economic weapons, e.g., sanctions, than the earlier one. Trump’s and Japanese ‘reshoring’ and ‘friend-shoring’ discriminate among investors, remaking ‘value’ or ‘supply chains’.
Arguably, establishing the World Trade Organization in 1995 was the high water mark for multilateral trade liberalization, setting a ‘one size fits all’ approach for all, regardless of means. More recently, Biden has continued Trump’s reversal of earlier trade liberalization, even at the regional level.
1995 also saw strengthening intellectual property rights internationally, limiting technology transfers and progress. Recent ‘trade conflicts’ increasingly involve access to high technology, e.g., in the case of Huawei, TSMC and Samsung.
With declining direct tax rates almost worldwide, governments face more budget constraints. The last year has seen these diminished fiscal means massively diverted for military spending and strategic ends, cutting resources for development, sustainability, equity and humanitarian ends.
In this context, the new international antagonisms conspire to make this a ‘perfect storm’ of economic stagnation and regression. Hence, those striving for international peace and cooperation may well be our best hope against the ‘new barbarism’. (IPS UN Bureau)
Russia declared the annexations after holding what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. The upper house of Russia’s parliament voted on Tuesday to approve the incorporation of four Ukrainian regions into Russia, as Moscow sets about formally annexing territory it sized from Kyiv during its seven-month conflict.
In a session on Tuesday, October 4th, the Federation Council unanimously ratified legislation to annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine, following a similar vote in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, yesterday.
The documents now pass back to the Kremlin for President Vladimir Putin’s final signature to formally annex the four regions, representing around 18% of Ukraine’s internationally-recognised territory.
Russia declared the annexations after holding what it called referendums in occupied areas of Ukraine. Western governments and Kyiv said the votes breached international law and were coercive and non-representative.
Despite having passed through Russia’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Kremlin is yet to formally designate the borders of the new regions – large parts of which are under the control of Ukraine’s forces. As such, it is still unclear where Russia will demarcate its own international borders once the annexation is complete.
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said consultations were ongoing regarding the borders of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.
Russia does not have full control over any of the four regions.
Ukraine made more battlefield gains on Monday, taking territory tens of kilometres (miles) behind the previous frontlines in the southern Kherson region, according to reports by Russian-installed officials.
Meanwhile its forces only control around 60% of the Donetsk region and 70% of Zaporizhzhia, while recent Ukrainian advances have also pushed the frontlines back into Luhansk, a region which Russian forces claimed full control over in July.