The Ukraine conflict and the global economy

In the Ukraine crisis, troop movements in the border area are now the main focus of attention. But Europe's press also analyses the economic aspects of the dispute, which began long before the current standoff and will have repercussions for years to come.

Open/close all quotes
Zeit Online (DE) /

Russia must be punished

Even in the event of a de-escalation Russia must not be allowed to emerge from this crisis unscathed, writes Zeit Online columnist Matthias Naß:

“Putin has spread fear and dread across an entire continent and threatened it with war. He tried to blackmail Ukraine and Nato with his troop deployment. ... Hasn't Putin long since overstepped the boundaries of civilised interaction between nations? Yes, he has. And that's why the plans for sanctions should be implemented - not in full, of course, but to an appropriate degree. ... In any case there can be no return to business as usual.”

Wprost (PL) /

Oligarchs worried about losing assets

The Kremlin's willingness to negotiate is also due to the fact that Russian oligarchs are worried about their personal business interests, writes Wprost:

“British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that he intends to put an end to Russian money laundering operations in London, as well as similar steps on the part of the United States, have contributed at least as much to cooling the bellicose mood in the Kremlin as the arms deliveries to the Ukrainians and the mobilisation of forces on Nato's eastern flank. The power of the Russian kleptocracy, which has a reputation for extraordinary freedom in its strategic decision-making, doesn't extend as far as it appears to. High-level geopolitics are put on the back burner when people are afraid of losing everything.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Hungary would block sanctions

The Russian president has his eyes focused on the EU's Achilles heel, writes political scientist Valentin Naumescu in Spotmedia:

“Putin knows very well where the EU's vulnerability lies, and he'll exploit it to the maximum. At least Hungary, and perhaps even some of the older EU states, will block the unanimity needed to pass really tough sanctions under the EU’s aegis. ... In the (unlikely) event of a Russian attack on Central Eastern Europe, Orbán's Hungary would be the first country to side with Russia in the hope of being able to denounce the Treaty of Trianon [in which the Kingdom of Hungary was forced to agree to large territorial losses at the end of World War I].”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Russia driving up wheat prices

While the US and EU were discussing sanctions, Russia was already taking measures at the economic level, Corriere della Sera points out:

“One Kremlin decision in particular sends a warning to the West in the midst of the Ukraine crisis: on 2 February, Moscow banned exports of ammonium phosphate and other nitrogen fertilisers, a segment in which Russia dominates the global market, for at least two months. ... Since fertilisers account for 20 to 25 percent of the cost of wheat production, the increase in prices (220 percent since mid-November) will have an even stronger impact in the future. ... When this crisis is over, Italy and Europe will have to decide to what extent it is wise to continue relying on such a trading partner.”

Dnevnik (BG) /

Putin up against EU's powers of attraction

Russia's opponent in this conflict is not Nato, Dnevnik points out:

“As a reminder, the Russia-Ukraine crisis was triggered in 2013 by the Kremlin's attempt to torpedo the signing of the association agreement between Kyiv and Brussels. ... The power struggle raged between Russia and the appeal of the EU. What took place in the centre of Kyiv was the Euro-Maidan, not the Nato-Maidan. ... Ukraine's economy and society are oriented towards the West. The EU is Kyiv's leading trading partner, accounting for about 40 percent of the country's trade. The free trade agreement of 2016 is working. The same goes for the abolition of visas in 2017. Ukrainians are seeking to further their goals in the West - including in neighbouring Poland - and not in Russia.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Energy problem unresolved

Europe's dependence on Russian gas should have been tackled years ago, Corriere del Ticino writes annoyed:

“The EU has been working for weeks to find alternative energy sources. It's looking for solutions in Africa and Qatar and even on the other side of the Atlantic. But one gets the impression that we're trying to soothe the horse when it has long since galloped away. A country or alliance needs to plan its energy policy years in advance rather than waiting until a crisis erupts and it realises that it is too dependent on a single supplier.”