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Global reaction to Russian invasion of Ukraine

By Imogen Shaw
24 February 2022

By Imogen Shaw (and SEC Newgate global offices)

Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, SEC Newgate’s global offices have offered their insights into the global impact and response of Russia’s actions. 

While it is too early to make predictions about the consequences of President Vladimir Putin’s actions, it is clear that they will be profound. The economic, social and human impact of the invasion is already being felt, and as the situation develops, will continue to pose difficult questions for the whole of Europe, as individual nations and international bodies decide how they will respond. 

SEC Newgate Poland 

“Today, Poland is facing an alarming situation: one of our eastern neighbours has attacked another one. What’s important, as a NATO member state, our eastern border is also NATO’s eastern border. This morning, Warsaw Stock Exchange General Index (WIG) was bleeding more than nine percent, while Russian stocks on the Moscow Exchange crashed by 50 percent once trading resumed after a two-hour suspension. 

Notably, it is estimated that between 1 and 1.3 million Ukrainian citizens currently live in Poland. In the last days, many of them started to hastily apply for a permanent residence permit. The Ukrainian-Russian conflict may soon double their number as a wave of refugees is expected to reach the Polish border. The Polish government is making preparations for this scenario. 

Poland has consistently supported Ukraine on its development path and in its independence aspirations. Domestically, no one is questioning the direction of Polish foreign policy. 

It is a dark day for stability and peace in Europe and Poles are widely expressing their support for Ukrainians, who are their neighbours, colleagues and friends.  

  • Maciej Powroźnk 

SEC Newgate Central and Eastern European (CEE) 

Today at 4:00am there was an escalation of the Russian military invasion in Ukraine. From first thing this morning, it has become absolutely the number one topic across all Polish media. Polish society has been eager to express its solidarity with Ukraine on social media. 

Simultaneously, in the last 48 hours, Poland has fallen victim to a massive attack of the Russian troll farms spreading fake news. According to the data from the Internet and Social Media Research Institute, 4,500 mentions of a pro-Russian nature or supporting Russia's actions towards Ukraine were recorded in the last two days alone. What is worth noting, 90 percent of the analysed accounts participated directly in the distribution of sceptical content against vaccinations or completely negated them prior to publishing anti-Ukrainian comments. 

  • Bartlomiej Kupiec 

SEC Newgate Germany 

Tonight, what once seemed unthinkable has now happened: war again in Europe. German and European efforts of the last weeks have turned out to be ineffective; accordingly, one looks helplessly at the TV pictures showing congested motorways and explosions on the horizon - not even three flying hours away from Berlin. Uncertainty and fear are rampant in Germany. The press is surprised by Putin's toughness, brutality and determination. “This is a terrible day for Ukraine and a dark day for Europe” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz,: “The Russian attack on Ukraine is a blatant breach of international law.” As one of the first reactions, he also announced that the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline would be stopped for the time being; its certification process is suspended. Economics Minister Robert Habeck is already warning Germans of the threat of rising gas prices. 

  • Tanja Schüle and Michael Schroeder 

SEC Newgate France 

In Paris, the situation in Ukraine is all over the news: radios and news channels are set on breaking news mode, with journalists cancelling interviews en masse to make time to cover it, even if they do not specialise in foreign affairs. So far, this outbreak of military aggression has triggered three main debates in the country:  

(1) Are energy prices going to increase even more? 

 (2) When will President Emmanuel Macron officially announce his intention to run for a second term, as he was said to be waiting for a break in this crisis to do so?  

(3) How should France and the EU deal with Russia setting Eastern Europe on fire?  

Debates on these three issues are now raging and will keep doing so for days, if not weeks. 

  • Gauthier Bencheïkh 

SEC Newgate Spain 

Just as we were emerging from the serious COVID-19 crisis, a major one has just begun in Europe. The National Security Council met today under the presidency of His Majesty King Felipe VI to address the current situation in Ukraine. In its statement, the Spanish government declared: “This is a completely unjustified aggression, of unprecedented gravity, and a flagrant violation of international law that puts global security and stability at risk”. 

That being said, Spain has more than 800 soldiers in the conflict zone, with land, sea and air detachments. It is the second NATO country with the most troops in the area. 

The financial implications are beginning to be noted: our stock market has suffered historic falls and has plunged more than 4.5 percent due to the massive sell-off after the invasion. Spain has begun to send gas to the centre of Europe due to the risk of supply cuts by Russia. This means a rise to bills of one euro per hour.  

So, Spain is waiting expectantly for the decisions to be taken and hoping that this does not escalate, however, it is hard to avoid the pessimistic feeling in the air after what we have experienced and suffered in recent years. 

  • Elena Gallego 

SEC Newgate Italy 

Italy’s ties with Ukraine exceed trade connections.  250,000 Ukrainian residents in Italy make it the fifth largest international community within the country. Many Italians, now middle-aged, can recall their parents hosting young boys or girls from Ukraine spending summer holidays away from their relocated homes, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. 

Politicians across the spectrum have unanimously condemned Russia’s escalation from a position of support for an independent nation’s right to defend its sovereignty, and also one which is conscious of the impacts the crisis is already having on the European economies most dependent on Russian gas imports.  

Meanwhile, people across Italy are astonished by this morning’s breaking news. ‘How in the mind of anyone sensible can war come now after two years of COVID’ seems to be their question. Perhaps it might be naïve to have expected COVID to improve the world at large, but this is another issue for discussion. 

  • Maurizio Maione 

SEC Newgate Singapore 

This feels eerily like the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with so much uncertainty and so many unknowns. The stock market in Singapore slumped three percent today as the uncertainty and the volatility that’s expected to come started to get priced in. With oil at over US$100 a barrel, everyone’s also concerned about the rising cost of fuel, utilities and transportation, and the resulting impact on us, as we import practically everything that we need. We also hope that a humanitarian crisis can be avoided. 

  • Terence Foo 

SEC Newgate EU (Brussels) 

My husband’s phone has been pinging non-stop as fellow journalists in the Brussels media’s Signal chat group race to get accredited for tonight’s emergency meeting of EU leaders. The mood in Brussels is tense, with EU officials thrashing out a second, potentially tougher, sanctions package to present to the gathering.  

Differences remain. Germany wants a gradual approach to the package, including broader financial sanctions, calibrated to respond to Russian aggression as it escalates. Others, such as Belgium, Italy and Cyprus, are among those countries opposing broader banking sanctions. 

They have their reasons. Belgium is home to international inter-bank payments system SWIFT and financial services company Euroclear. Italy exports €8 billion to Russia every year, much of its machinery from small engineering firms in the north. It is also worried that banking sanctions will stop it from importing energy from Russia, which provides 41% of its energy imports.  

Sources say it is unclear whether leaders will agree to harder-hitting sanctions, with some insiders wondering if the US will need to intervene to stiffen the EU’s resolve. 

  • Victoria Main 

SEC Newgate Australia 

The news of the invasion began filtering through at around 2:30pm in the afternoon Australia time.     

The local bourse, the Australian Stock Exchange, (ASX) still had 90 minutes of trading time to go and saw an immediate reaction resulting in the biggest sell off of Australian shares since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.   

With a crucial national election due to be held in May, the conflict is sure to play a major role in determining voter sentiment.   

The governing conservative Liberal/National coalition, which had been trailing in the polls, was expected to be benefit from the flight to incumbency.   

Having said that, resulting rising petrol prices will add to embedded voter concerns and anger around cost of living for which many blame the government.   

Government and corporate leaders in Australia will be watching closely for any further global reaction particularly in our region.  

  • Brian Tyson 

SEC Newgate UK 

In response to the escalation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UK Government has announced that it will impose its “largest ever” programme of economic sanctions on Russia, including freezing the assets of all major Russian banks, limiting cash held by Russian nationals in UK banks and placing sanctions on over one hundred individuals and entities. New legislation to underpin these sanctions will be announced in the coming days. 

It has been reported that during a call with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, and in a meeting with G7 leaders, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sought to persuade European leaders of the case that Russia’s use of the Swift international payment system should be suspended, a move which is likely to meet with some resistance from some EU states. 

The political ramifications of Russia’s military actions will be hugely significant – as too will the human cost of the invasion. Since 2014, millions have already been displaced in Ukraine, and it is predicted that the current crisis could lead to millions more refugees. It is a terrifying day for Ukraine, its neighbours and the whole of Europe – and how the rest of Europe responds both to the immediate crisis and the likely ramifications, including potential widespread displacement, will be a huge test of European solidarity. 

  • Imogen Shaw