24 April 2022, 07:06 PM

The second phase of the war and the second front

Andriy Yermak

Head of the Ukrainian President’s Office

We will unmask more and more quickly and decisively the facades behind which those, who cater to the Russian military machine, have been hiding for so long.

The Russian blitzkrieg against Ukraine failed. The heroic efforts of our armed forces and society thwarted the Kremlin's plans. This is an unconditional success. Instead of a quick winning campaign, it received a hearty rebuff. We are facing more than one aggravation at the front, and more than once will Russian troops try to advance deep into the territory of Ukraine.

However, a rupture has taken place, and it is now clear that this war will no longer go according to the Kremlin's plan. Perseverance and fierce determination to confront the ruthless enemy have become a strong argument for the global community: Ukraine is worth fighting for. We are not alone in this war.

A thin stream of aid a few weeks ago — military-technical, humanitarian, financial — is becoming an increasingly powerful stream. Our troops are gaining effective weapons, and their range is steadily expanding. And thanks to joint efforts, the issue of lend-lease is moving from the abstract and theoretical, to the practical plane.

Similarly, with the joint efforts of Ukrainian and foreign governments and international organizations, our banking system has withstood the shock of war and is operating stably. Public utilities operate in the territories free from the occupiers, and the food situation can be considered at least acceptable given the circumstances.

Stability, valor and motivation plus professional command, are the key to our victory.

We keep going. But in this confrontation, Ukraine is, so to speak, the first front.

However, how complete will that be, whether Russia will have the opportunity to continue its aggressive policy, depends on the second front – the front of international sanctions. History has repeatedly shown that the tougher the economic circumstances in the capital of the empire, the less militant it becomes.

In other words, the purpose of the sanctions is to force the Russian leadership to stop the war against Ukraine as soon as possible through economic pressure. But we must understand: they have a very limited impact on the course of hostilities here and now – it is a kind of a slow-acting poison.

However, due to the long-term effect, sanctions should make it more difficult for Moscow to pursue an aggressive policy in the future, which is one element of guaranteeing our security, at least until the legally binding mechanisms of the new security architecture kick in.

Thus, the main purpose of sanctions is to force Russia to focus on overcoming its internal problems. It would be naive to expect the Russian leadership to abandon its aggressive plans because of the lower living standards of its citizens.

Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that in order to finance the war, Moscow will need to resort to not only foreign currency accounts, but also pensioners' funds, ensure that state employees forget about salary indexation, and to the extent that even in spite of this state looting, military factories cannot produce anything more complex than an AK. In the struggle between the refrigerator and the television [propaganda], meanwhile, the instinct of self-preservation must prevail.

Thus, it is obvious that, for example, inconspicuous economic restrictions have a much greater economic effect than the public confiscation of a dozen oligarchs' yachts. Although, undoubtedly, they should be punished for supporting and financing the aggression against Ukraine.

As Boris Johnson rightly pointed out, they will not be able to hide their dirty money anywhere. We will unmask more and more quickly and decisively the facades behind which those, who cater to the Russian military machine, have been hiding for so long. We will go after their devious profits.

 But this hunt is not enough. Coordinated, comprehensive and effective actions of a wide range are required. It is well known to us and to our allies and partners – particularly those who are trying to play pretend rather than act. So we have to make sanctions work – without failures and imitations. We must make them "inevitable" – that is, those that can not be bypassed.

A few weeks ago, the president took the initiative to create a "sanctions" group. I proposed gathering leading international and Ukrainian experts who would assess the work of sanctions in real-time, finding ways to optimize them and increase their efficiency.

This group, led by me and Ambassador Michael McFaul, has already presented the first results of its work. The action plan on strengthening sanctions will be the basis for further work in this direction. And not only ours: Ukraine offers allies and partners to support this initiative.

In particular, we took the opportunity of the presidency in the European Energy Community, which Ukraine received in 2022, and formally submitted to the organization a proposal to impose a blanket oil and gas embargo on Russia.

This item in the Plan is marked under № 1, because, according to the results of three quarters of last year, energy accounted for 34.5% of federal budget revenues. We have no illusions about the determination of the entire global community to give up Russian hydrocarbons, so we also propose to introduce a scheme under which the money paid for them will remain in escrow accounts.

Access to them must be blocked for Russia until the end of not only hostilities but also, at the very least, reparations lawsuits.

Other items in this plan include Russia's addition to the FATF blacklist along with Iran and North Korea, comprehensive sanctions against Russian and Belarusian banking institutions, trade restrictions on their goods, and the expansion of transport and insurance restrictions.

Another line of pressure is to give Russia and Belarus the status of sponsors of terrorism and proclaim the Russian army and political parties terrorist organizations, which is also associated with increased monitoring of their financial activities.

I would like to emphasize that the Plan envisages strengthening transparency measures and deepening coordination: real-time synchronization of sanctions policies and legal frameworks is an important factor in strengthening their effectiveness.

Another such factor is the introduction of a mechanism of secondary sanctions against those individuals and companies who are trying to make money by providing services to circumvent the primary sanctions.

One way or another, we realize that between sanctions and their loopholes, the same competition unfolds as between a projectile and armor. Therefore, the current version of the Plan is not final, and work on its improvement will continue. Meanwhile, historical lessons show that since the First World War, aggressor regimes have generally failed to win a war of attrition. And this gives us hope.

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