In a string of phone calls from a besieged Kyiv, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has persuaded the west to agree to a set of sanctions against Russia that were inconceivable a week ago, reports The Guardian.
Constantly on the phone to western leaders
Sensing how European public opinion is responding to the bravery of his people, Zelenskiy has been constantly on the phone to western leaders, using his Twitter feed to cajole, encourage, scold and praise his allies.
In the process, sanctions regarded as unthinkable a week ago have become a moral baseline. The pace at which the west has been agreeing to the new sanctions has also left the lawyers, officials and bankers gasping for air, officials admit, as they work under severe pressure to turn headlines into reality.
One leader’s office said: “We are in awe of him. He may not eventually be able to save Ukraine, or change Russia, but he is changing Europe.”
Purpose of the calls
All the calls were focused on requests for arms and tougher sanctions. Quite how Zelenskiy managed to make these calls, rally the home front, direct his army and sleep is hard to fathom. One who has heard him in action says: “He is very direct, very passionate and very practical.” But the calls have produced golden rewards for Zelenskiy and helped turn the tide.
The societal change
The pace of societal change quickens in most wars, but to watch Germany in the space of week take a 180 degree turn and back arms sales to Ukraine, vow to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP and agree to cut Russia off from Swift is not just a set of extraordinary policy changes, it marks a watershed in a post-second world war mindset. Equally, the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, emphasising earlier in the week the need for the long-term solutions necessary to wean Italy off Russian gas, realised the previous political opposition to tougher immediate measures had evaporated.
His office reject reports that he mounted strong objections to Russia being cut off from Swift, saying the issue had not seriously been pressed at meetings at the G7 leaders last week, But they admit that Zelenskiy, through his resourcefulness, and Russia, by its arrogance, had handed the initiative to countries like the UK, Canada and France to sway others to accept that Russia could be cut off from the Swift payments systems.
On Saturday night the identity of the Russian banks likely to be cut was still being settled, but Gazbank, critical to energy transactions, is likely to be excluded.
Most devastating measure
But perhaps the most devastating measure being considered did not come directly from Zelensky’s relentless lobbying. Some European leaders believe it will be the wholly unexpected freeze on the assets of the Russian central bank, the single most important Russian financial institution, that will prove the unravelling of Putin’s economy.
One European official said: “It was kept in our back pocket, but it is going to mean a run on the ruble on Monday that they will not contain.”
Another official admitted the long-term chances of the Ukrainian military being able to hold out against the vastly superior Russian forces are limited. The true goal is to make the price for Putin economically and politically so cripplingly high that he is forced to realise he cannot win on his terms.
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Source: The Guardian