An awkward truth was aired at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington this week, as analysts scaled up their forecasts for Russia’s economy. After a mild downturn of about 2.1 per cent last year, stepped-up defence expenditure has pushed the country back into the black for 2023 (which is more than can be said for the UK). Meanwhile, Russia is presiding over the UN Security Council in New York this month. In some circles, people are increasingly wondering, “Why haven’t Western sanctions hit harder?”
Leaked Pentagon documents have detailed Ukraine’s chronic ammunition shortage and exposed the risks of losing control of the skies. Allies are rushing to send additional supplies but there are concerns among US military officials that Ukraine’s planned spring offensive will be far from decisive. There’s slightly better news on the economic front: Ukraine’s GDP collapsed by 30.3 per cent in 2022 but the IMF projects that the country will return to growth this year. A ministerial meeting in Washington yesterday could point to a $115bn (€105bn) global support programme to cover Ukraine’s gaping budget shortfall but it is unclear how much this would move the needle.
The West has done well in terms of keeping Ukraine afloat but has fallen short when it comes to punishing Russia for its actions. Almost 14 months since the invasion, Ukraine is showing remarkable resilience against its powerful foe. Yet if financial and military support from the West can only achieve a stalemate, not a victory, these rather horrific circumstances – the invasion of a sovereign state and Russia’s new role in the world – could become the new normal. Unless the West can help Ukraine steer this conflict towards an outcome, it might not be a new normal that we like.
Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent. For more opinion, ideas and analysis, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.