Fortress Russia Crumbles
After years of Vladimir Putin and his cronies mocking the ineffectiveness of previous US and European sanctions and building resilience against future measures, the Russian economy has now effectively collapsed. In launching his war against Ukraine, Putin clearly underestimated Western capabilities and resolve.
WASHINGTON, DC – In the space of a single day, February 28, Vladimir Putin’s “Fortress Russia” collapsed. The ruble plunged by about 30%, and Russian authorities closed all financial markets. Russians raced to ATM machines to withdraw as much money as they could, desperate to exchange it for anything that wasn’t the ruble. Failing that, they stormed shops to buy whatever they could find before prices skyrocketed.
The flow of news out of Russia was already limited and biased before Putin’s war. Now, it has all but ceased. New censorship laws have made it impossible for independent journalists to work. Most foreign correspondents have left, and the remaining Russian journalists risk 15 years in prison if they share any facts that run counter to the Kremlin’s narrative. Meanwhile, most Russian state websites have been taken down by hackers or closed off from foreigners by the authorities.
Nonetheless, the contours of Russia’s economic disaster are clear to see. In the days following Russia’s invasion on February 24, a united West responded with sanctions far more severe than those it had imposed after Putin’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine in 2014.