Russia’s War in Ukraine: Finland’s NATO Bid, Russian Gas Exports Halted and New Marshall Plan

Written by | Friday, May 13th, 2022

With Russian aggression against Ukraine continuing in its 11th week, the Russian forces have now withdrawn from the Kharkiv region, which, according to the UK’s defense minister, amounts to “a tacit recognition of Russia’s inability to capture key Ukrainian cities.” In its latest intelligence briefing, the ministry noted that amidst Russia’s prioritization of operations in the Donbas, Ukrainian forces were continuing a counterattack in the north of Kharkiv and had recaptured several towns and villages.
This comes as Finland’s president and prime minister released a joint statement on Thursday (12 May), laying out their intention to bring Finland into the NATO alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” President Sauli Niinisto and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in the statement. “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they added, saying that they hope the decision will be taken “within the next few days.” Public support in Finland for joining the western alliance has shot up since Russian troops marched into Ukraine, reaching 76%, up from just around 25% before the invasion. But Russia has slammed Finland’s plans to apply to join NATO imminently, claiming it would “be forced” to retaliate if the long-neutral country joined the military alliance. In a separate but related development, the United Kingdom has pledged to defend Sweden if the country came under attack, with Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Magdalena Andersson signing a security assurance deal outside Stockholm. The accord was signed on Wednesday (11 May) as Sweden is also pondering whether to join NATO following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities have stopped the flow of Russian natural gas through one key hub that feeds European homes and industries. Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator (GTSOU) said it would stop shipments through an eastern part of the country due to interference from “occupying forces”. Russian-backed separatists who control the region in eastern Ukraine have been accused of siphoning off gas at the Sokhranovka transit point that usually handles around a third of Russian gas flows to Europe. It is the first time since the start of the war that Kyiv has symbolically disrupted the flow of Russian energy exports to the west. Analysts say that the immediate impact of the cutoff was likely to be limited since much of the gas can be directed through another pipeline, but the move by Ukraine would still make it harder for European countries to refill underground storage for next winter. The European Union seeks to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, including by diversifying its energy supplies and increasing imports of renewable hydrogen, according to a draft communication on the EU’s new external energy policy.
With Ukraine’s economy collapsing under the weight of Russia’s invasion, a recent report by the Kyiv School of Economics revealed that direct and indirect losses from the war may be as high as €568 billion, and could increase even further as the conflict drags on. By comparison, the US-led Marshall Plan that brought Western Europe out of the devastation after World War II had an original price tag of $13 billion, equivalent to over $155 billion in current prices. With damages mounting across the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is asking Western countries to provide the government with at least $5 billion a month to pay for essential services and keep the economy afloat. “This is a lot for our state. This is not possible for Ukraine. But this is possible for you,” Zelenskyy told G7 leaders in a video call last week. All eyes turn now to Brussels, where a recovery fund is in the works. But the EU cannot foot the bill alone.

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