From banking to sports to vodka, Russia’s isolation is growing

It’s a globalized world – a planet stitched together by complex supply chains, banks, sports and countless other deep ties. Until it doesn’t.

Exhibit A: Russia this week, abruptly cut off from the rest of the world on several fronts. Its ability to bank internationally has been reduced. Its participation in major international sports is waning. Its planes are restricted over Europe. His vodka may no longer be welcome in several US states. Even Switzerland, whose very name is shorthand for neutrality, is cautiously turning its back on Vladimir Putin.

In just three days, Russia has become an international pariah because of its invasion of Ukraine, and its leader finds himself with fewer and fewer foreign friends. Moreover, actions against Moscow are unfolding in diverse and far-reaching ways that are notable for – and in some cases aided by – the highly connected world we live in.

“Something happened here. It has cascaded in ways that no one could have imagined three or four days ago,” said Andrew Latham, a professor of international relations at Macalester College and an expert in geopolitics. “It really is a strange, strange thing to watch.”

In the past three days alone, a flurry of major movement has taken place at high speed – both sanctions from governments and actions from the alliances, organizations and people around them. Together, in many ways, they surpass some of the most recent sets of sanctions in the world, including those against Iran and North Korea.

European nations, notably united on the issue, have closed their airspace to Russian planes. The international financial system SWIFT, which enables billions of dollars in transactions for more than 11,000 banks and other institutions around the world, restricted major Russian banks from its network over the weekend – a potential blow to investors. Russian finances.


On Monday, world and European bodies suspended Russian teams from all international football, including qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup. This came after the International Olympic Committee called on sports organizations to exclude athletes and Russian officials of international events. When the International Ice Hockey Federation and the National Hockey League announced their own measures against Russia, it was clear that a movement was afoot, more widespread than anything seen in the sports world for decades. decades.

Germany, in an extraordinary move, broke with its foreign policy after World War II and said it would help send arms to Ukraine – a move its chancellor, Olaf Scholz, called “a new reality”. Finland and Sweden, countries that are hardly reckless to jump into the fray, appear to be potential test-drive positions against Russia. Switzerland, a country renowned for its banking security, “is taking a tougher line on Russia,” the head of its economic affairs department, Guy Parmelin, said on Sunday.

Less directly impactful but no less resolute were the efforts of several US states – Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia and Maine among them – to purge liquor outlets of Russian vodka. and other products. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, also took steps on Monday to divest themselves of any Russian ties.

“We must exercise our economic power to ensure that Russia faces serious consequences for its flagrant violations of international law and human cooperation,” wrote State Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia.

The list continues.

“To begin with, they are symbolic. But then you see the sheer number of them. They may seem insignificant on their own, but the totality of them suggests the system flipped with this,” said William Muck, a political science professor at North Central College in Illinois and an expert in international security.

This kind of rapid coalescence was welcomed Monday by the White House. “President Putin was one of the greatest NATO unifiers in modern history. So I guess that’s something we can thank him for,” publicist Jen Psaki said Monday.

“I think what we’ve seen over the past few days is a commitment to stand united and to send a strong message to President Putin that this action – these actions, this rhetoric – is unacceptable and that the world is building a wall against it.” , said PSAKI.

It all happened with a sweep that eclipsed even post-9/11 sanctions, but also with surprising speed – which is one of the things that made it so extraordinary.

A key ingredient: It took place against the backdrop of an instantaneous social media landscape that gave distant observers a direct and informal pipeline of what was happening in Ukraine and elsewhere. It’s something that can act as a force multiplier from a distance when, say, the Governor of Maine decides to take action related to vodka.

“A generation ago, all of this would have happened through foreign ministries and the 6 p.m. news, but nothing like the speed and interdependence of today. I think it has an accelerating effect,” Latham said.

Not everyone is rushing to isolate Russia. China doesn’t entirely agree with the rest of the world on the Ukraine issue – unsurprisingly. But the country’s longstanding insistence that other countries respect sovereignty above all else — a stance designed to deflect action against its policies toward Taiwan and Hong Kong and in the South China Sea — could eventually cripple it. Meanwhile, her reluctance to even participate in punitive action could be made less meaningful by what is being done by so many others, and she could be punished if she attempts to undermine global action.

This week’s fast-paced global action is dazzling, yes. But does it really matter in the long run? Previous coalitions came together quickly but frayed over the weeks. And the same globalized world that allows for the rapid isolation of a government can also provide that same government with potential workarounds to mitigate the impact of international action.

Nonetheless, the connectivity that allows nations to get things done quickly seems, in this case, to be approaching entirely new territory as it shapes a 21st-century response to an age-old aggression: the forcible seizure of the land of one nation by another.

“I didn’t think it was possible that the world could be so unified in a globalized system – that you could get everybody on the same page,” Muck said. “If we think about ‘Sanctions do they work in a globalized world?’, I don’t think we could have a more perfect test case.”

___

Journalist Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed. Ted Anthony, director of new storytelling and newsroom innovation at AP, has been writing about international affairs since 1995. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/anthonyte

Comments are closed.