Ukraine the Day after Tomorrow

Stefan Bertram-Lee

July 21, 2022


The Russian invasion of Ukraine was meant to set two distinct forms of power against each other. Gross Russian “hard power” would shatter the Ukrainian army in a few days, while the “soft power” of the West would destroy the Russian economy through sanctions and - combined with a Ukrainian insurgency backed by western arms - would eventually force the Russians to pull out of Ukraine.

This is not what has happened. After four months of fighting the Russians are yet to achieve their military objectives, and while they are making steady progress, will almost certainly never achieve their initial aim in Ukraine, regime change and military occupation of the whole country. But on the other hand, while the Russian military has taken vast casualties, the damage to their economy has been rather less than many expected. Moreover, there are beginning to be serious economic worries in the West as a result of attempts to isolate the Russian economy.


In this context I want to ask if the West is running down their economy in an effort to do the same to the Russians, will anyone have the money and will to fix Ukraine, and prevent it from spiralling into levels of poverty that are meant to have become unimaginable in Europe?


Ukraine’s Forgotten Political Economy


There has been a flurry of pieces recently pointing out the basic reality that sanctions against Russia aren’t working as intended, and that they are making an already bad economic climate for the West worse. You can see this perspective in “Western Sanctions on Russia Aren’t Working as Intended” by Branko Marcetic in Jacobin, “Our Russia strategy has backfired” by Anusar Farooqui in Unherd, and “Whatever Moscow’s military defeats in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is winning the energy war” by Helen Thompson in the New Statesmen.


Yet, in all these pieces, the Ukrainian political economy is neglected to the point of essentially disappearing. Of course, this criticism is perhaps slightly unfair as nearly all articles ignore nearly every issue. Still, it is interesting how the apparent subject of this whole issue, Ukraine, barely gets a look in, with the focus being entirely on the West and Russia. Even if you have no real interest in Ukraine in and of itself, attending to its political economy is still something any analysis of the ongoing conflict between Russia and the West ought to do, as preventing the Ukrainian economy from collapsing is something both sides must do in their “half” of Ukraine if they have any hope of a significant and long-term victory. For both sides, this will be difficult, because of the small size of the Russian economy, fiscal caution in the West, and the economic damage the two sides are doing to each other.

On the 21st of April, The World