The New York Times: Russia-Ukraine War Briefing
Russian troops advanced toward center of Sievierodonetsk.
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Russ Roberts (https://www.hawaiigeopoliticalnews.com).
By Yana Dlugy
Hello. This is your Russia-Ukraine War Briefing, a weeknight guide to the latest news and analysis about the conflict.
Dialing up the cost of war
After weeks of negotiations, E.U. leaders agreed to ban most Russian oil imports. Analysts say the measure could cause Russian oil production to drop by about 10 percent once it kicks in at the end of the year.
The compromise deal bans oil delivered by tankers and allows Hungary to keep importing Russian crude, which it receives by pipeline. Hungary, whose prime minister, Viktor Orban, has aligned his country more closely with Russia, had strongly opposed an embargo.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said that the ban would affect 90 percent of Russian oil imports to the bloc. Even with the exemption to Hungary, the measure will cost the Kremlin billions of dollars a year in revenue while also strategically decoupling Europe from Russia in a lasting way.
“We want to stop the Russian war machine and stop the financing of this Russian military capacity by implementing sanctions which aim to put pressure on the Kremlin,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said after the deal was announced.
Exporting crude is a cornerstone of the Russian economy, and analysts say that the embargo will bruise the industry. So far, Russia’s oil sector has been quite resilient because it sells its crude at about $30 less per barrel than Brent crude. Buyers from Europe and elsewhere have snapped up the opportunity for savings.
Kpler, a firm that tracks petroleum shipping, estimates that oil production in Russia actually edged up by about 200,000 barrels a day from April to May, to 10.2 million barrels a day. Still, that was about 800,000 barrels a day below February levels.
Kpler anticipates that the E.U. embargo could cause Russian production to drop one million barrels a day, or about 10 percent, once the restrictions come into effect by the end of the year.
The embargo is also likely to hit Europe hard, as households and businesses are already facing steeper energy prices.
The downturn would contribute to what many analysts expect to be a broad erosion in Russia’s energy industry in coming years, as major oil companies quit the country and sanctions curb imports of Western technology.
Looking ahead, it will be much more difficult for Europe to take a similar measure on gas imports from Russia, which provides 40 percent of the continent’s supplies, observers say.
From Opinion: David Wallace-Wells discusses how energy and climate may help explain what the war has meant and will mean for the global energy landscape.
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New commander, old problems
After setbacks in the first weeks of the war, President Vladimir Putin appointed General Aleksandr Dvornikov in April to oversee Russia’s refocused campaign in eastern Ukraine.
But despite some gains in the east, the Russian military is facing the same problems that plagued it in the early weeks of its campaign, according to U.S. officials. The military’s “plodding and incremental” pace is wearing it down, a Pentagon official said.
Russia’s overall fighting strength has been diminished by about 20 percent, some 1,000 tanks have been lost during the past three months of war and Russian pilots still have not established air superiority, U.S. officials said.
Some of the territory that Russian troops had managed to seize has been contested again and sometimes retaken by the Ukrainians, like the city of Kharkiv. Russian troops had nearly encircled the city, but by mid-May, Ukrainians had managed to take it back.
Dvornikov, who led Russia’s military campaign in Syria, has not been seen in the past two weeks, leading some officials to speculate as to whether he remains in charge of the war effort.
Some problems remain deep and fundamental, like the Soviet-style, top-down doctrine under which troops at the bottom are not empowered to point out flaws in strategy or make adjustments.
The invasion is not “proceeding particularly differently in the east than in the west because they haven’t been able to change the character of the Russian army,” said Frederick Kagan, a senior fellow and director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute.
“There are some deep flaws in the Russian army that they could not have repaired in the last few weeks even if they had tried,” he said.
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Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Yana
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