Russia is mounting a full-scale campaign to justify its invasion of Ukraine, especially among the country’s wealthy elite, as Western nations attempt to punish the Kremlin for attacking its neighbor.
The widespread international outrage – and the swift moves by Washington and Brussels to sanction Russia – have made it clear that Russia will, in the short term, be something of a pariah state. US President Joe Biden said Thursday that Washington will limit Russia’s ability to do business in dollars, euros, pounds and yen, excluding Moscow from large parts of the global economy. Russian banks, which together hold about $1 trillion in assets, are also targeted by US sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is now trying to convince his people that the cost was inevitable.
Knowing such moves were likely to come, Putin addressed Russian business leaders hours before Biden’s announcement.
The Russian leader said businesses should expect “restrictions” on the Russian economy due to the invasion, which he justified as a “necessary measure”.
“They left us no chance to do otherwise. They created such security risks that it was impossible to react differently,” Putin said.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went even further. She tried to present the invasion of her smaller neighbor’s Kremlin as an attempt to prevent a world war.
“It’s not the start of a war. It prevents a global military confrontation,” she said.
Both statements, at first glance, seem illogical. How could Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, pose an existential threat to one of the few nuclear powers in the world?
But Putin believed that NATO and the West were using Ukraine, which he does not consider a legitimate state, to threaten Russia and overthrow its government.
If Putin hopes to assuage the concerns of the Russian elite, who will almost certainly feel the economic pinch of the sanctions, he will have to convince them that he is right.