This morning it seems clear from Kharkiv and elsewhere that Russian operations are shifting into a new phase. Operational commanders have assessed the lackluster outcomes of the past six days and are now seeking to play to strengths: in their case, battering down absolutely everything with mass and artillery. The ferocity of this approach, and its body count, will be proportional to the political danger felt by the Russian national leadership. That perceived danger is massively amplified by the economic war — literally a phrase deployed today by French officialdom — now waged upon Russia.
The crushing package of sanctions and societal shunning are nearly unparalleled in modern history. It’s one thing for a major-economy central bank to be frozen out of the global economy — though that is historic in itself — but it is something more for stores to ditch Russian goods, for storefronts to rename themselves to avoid Russian associations, and for minor local-government officials to root out the traces of all things Russian from their own petty spheres. All this is happening, nearly everywhere, to the extent that Russian cultural figures (most notably in the field of music and the arts) are losing work and engagements if they refuse to positively denounce their own government. This is quite a tall order to demand of a citizen of an autocracy known for petty vengeance, but prudence and mercy do not come to the fore in these moments. Meanwhile, technology and media firms who are quite happy to cooperate with the Communist Party of China suddenly find the Russian Federation too abhorrent for their consciences. The Walt Disney corporation is an archetypical example. The entertainment giant, which thanked the Xinjiang security apparatus — currently engaged in a genocide — in the credits for Mulan just a short time back, has searched its heart and decided revenue from Russia is a bridge too far. They’ll release no films there.
As the corporate sense of justice and conscience unfolds, its workings are accelerated by the fact that Russian revenues aren’t much. Chinese revenues are a different matter.