Ukraine Unlocked

How War Paves the Way for Profiteering

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Week of 3/11-3/18

Ukraine Unlocked is a weekly newsletter providing a roundup of the cultural, political, and economic developments in the country. We hope to provide students, professionals, and the casual reader with greater insight into Ukraine as its role on the global stage evolves throughout the 21st century. 
This Week's Takeaway...
Hundreds of companies have pulled out of Russia to protest the invasion of Ukraine, but over 30 U.S.-based companies are still profiting from Russia's economy. Large investment banks have been quietly exploiting a loophole in existing sanctions, allowing U.S. investors to buy Russian debt securities, and giving Russian elites backdoor access to cash. Most of these investment firms have made public statements in support of Ukraine, but considering their business practices, this support seems disingenuous, at best. Other corporations have meagerly condemned Russia’s invasion, while openly and defiantly expressing their decision to continue operating in the country. Some businesses have even used their political influence to call for a reduction in general sanctions in favor of more targeted ones. Regardless of the strength of their public stance, these companies are showing a public face of virtue while privately continuing business as usual.

How long will companies put profits over more here
A Request from Philip and Gabe (Co-Founders of Ukraine Unlocked): If you are enjoying this newsletter please consider forwarding it along to a friend, colleague, or neighbor. As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve we are hoping to give folks the context they need to understand the various developments coming out of the country. 
Map of Ukraine with a red dot signifying Mariupol. Credit: Wikipedia
Strategic Update – Week 3 of War
  • Possibility of Peace: On Wednesday, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators made some progress on a potential peace deal. President Zelenskyy said that the talks seemed to be heading in a more realistic direction. Russian officials are more optimistic after Zelenskyy said that Ukraine could accept not joining NATO in exchange for legally verified international security guarantees. Despite the optimism, President Putin underscored that Russia would not submit to the West’s aspirations of global dominance. 
  • The Siege of Mariupol: Russian artillery has been bombarding the port city of Mariupol for the last three weeks. If Russia were to capture Mariupol, then Ukraine would be cut off from a strategic port in the Azov Sea and limit their international cargo shipping capabilities. Around 300,000 residents are still stuck in the city without food, electricity, internet, or water. Ukrainian officials allege that Russian forces have broken humanitarian ceasefires on multiple occasions. Estimates are difficult to pin down, but officials in Mariupol estimate that at least 2,500 civilians have died during the siege. 
  • Destruction in Kharkiv: Local officials estimate that Russian attacks have killed 500 people and destroyed more than 600 buildings. Kharkiv’s mayor said that Russian forces have targeted schools, nurseries, hospitals, and clinics. Despite the carnage, Russian forces have not been able to take the city. Ukrainian officials claim that Russian troops are running low on supplies and ammunition, which has hindered their attacks. 
  • Protecting Kyiv: Ukraine’s airforce has exceeded expectations in its defense of Kyiv over the last three weeks. Ukraine does not have any modern tactical anti-missile defense systems and has had to rely on older Soviet-era defense systems. Fighter jets and surface-to-air missile systems have been able to destroy the majority of Russian cruise and ballistic missiles aimed at the city, but it is unclear how long they can continue this level of performance. Russia is likely running low on high-precision missiles, but a concentrated military operation could push Kyiv’s defense system to its breaking point. US officials alleviated some worries on Wednesday when they authorized the transfer of $800 million of military equipment to Ukraine, including drones, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft defense systems. This will replenish Ukraine’s supply of Javelin missiles and give their air defense systems a much-needed upgrade. 
  • Targeting Top Dogs: Ukrainian officials contend that their forces have killed a fourth Russian general. Western analysts believe that 20 generals are leading the Russian offensive, which means over a fifth of Russia’s generals have died. Observers speculate that Russian forces have been using open lines of communication, making it easy for Ukrainian forces to target these high-ranking officers. The Ukrainian armed forces are turning the tables on Russia’s commonly used hybrid warfare tactics.
Protest in support of Ukraine outside the White House. Credit: Gabriel Pimsler
Zelenskyy Host Europeans, Talks to Americans
  • Risky Trip: The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovenia all paid a visit to Zelenskyy in Kyiv this past week in a show of solidarity with Ukraine. The group discussed the ongoing war and how the EU and NATO can better support the country, with a focus on how further sanctions could damage the Russian economy. The trip brought some serious risk as the leaders decided to travel by train instead of a Polish military plane to avoid provoking Russia. The continuous explosions throughout the meeting highlighted the danger of the visit. 
  • American Star: On Wednesday Zelenskyy addressed the US Congress urging lawmakers to maintain the supply of military aid to Ukraine. He referenced numerous nostalgic American political themes during his remarks, ranging from Pearl Harbor to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, in hopes of bolstering support from Congress. Zelenskyy also shared a graphic video depicting the war, which reportedly elicited audible gasps from lawmakers. Over the last three weeks, the Ukrainian president has garnered support from both the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle.
Paper airplanes with demands for a no-fly zone over Ukraine at New York's Guggenheim Museum. Credit: Tanya and Zhenya Posternak
Cultural Preservation
  • Flying Fliers: At the Guggenheim Museum, activists launched paper airplanes from the building’s top floors to call on Biden to implement a no-fly zone in Ukraine’s airspace. The paper airplanes were folded fliers demanding the policy be implemented along with a broad boycott of Russian influence in cultural institutions. 
  • Moving Below Ground: As Russia’s artillery decimates historical buildings throughout Ukraine, cultural institutions are trying to find ways to preserve the art and history of their country. For many museums, this means removing their entire collections and placing pieces in underground storage. The tedious process has significantly more pressure with the backdrop of war.
  • Depicting War: As Ukrainian artists try to find refuge from the war in their country, they are sharing the impact the conflict has had both on them and Ukraine. Visual artists have continued to produce work that provides a direct commentary on the events transpiring in Ukraine. As the war rages on, art will serve as a visual medium for Ukrainians to share their experiences and trauma with the world. 
Destruction in Yakovlivka near Kharkiv. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Economy in Decline
  • Rebuilding from Rubble: Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Denis Shmygal, announced on Tuesday that Ukraine will need around $565 billion to rebuild the country after the war. The PM contended that most of the money will come in the form of reparations from Russia. Shmygal said that Ukraine and its partners will work together to seize international Russian assets. The Ministry of Economics reported that the infrastructure alone has sustained $119 billion in damage.
  • Assessing the Situation: On Wednesday, President Putin admitted that Russia’s economy has steeply declined because of Western sanctions and that the country’s economy will need “deep structural changes in these new realities.” According to Putin, a rise in unemployment and inflation is also likely. The country has already experienced a bevy of factory closures and job losses, while the Ruble has lost about 18% of its value.
Ukrainians on a refugee train heading west from Przemyśl, Poland in the early morning hours of March 14th. Credit: Hannah Wilson
Ukrainians on a refugee train heading west from Przemyśl, Poland in the early morning hours of March 14th. Credit: Hannah Wilson
Humanitarian Crisis 
  • A Mass Exodus: Over three million Ukrainians (more than the population of Chicago) have fled the country since Russia invaded on February 24th. Almost two million of those fleeing the war have relocated to Poland, with Romania and Moldova accepting around 500,000 and 350,000, respectively. Europeans' willingness to welcome Ukrainians may come from their belief that after the war they expect the refugees to return home. This is of course entirely dependent on what the condition of Ukraine is at the conclusion of Russia's invasion. 
Special thanks to Hannah Wilson for sharing these photos with us.
Some Human Moments Prevail
Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding the war in Ukraine, videos shared over social media show that humanity still exists.  
Want to Help Ukraine?
Looking to lend support to Ukraine, below are some ways you can help:
To help people pursue their passions about the Eurasian region we are collecting jobs that are connected to the area. If you have a relevant job you would like posted here please contact us. 

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