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How Russia’s sanction-proofing failed



“How could our government have been so stupid?” one Russian acquaintance of mine wondered, after the West imposed sweeping sanctions that froze around $300 billion of the Russian government’s foreign exchange reserves held in Western banks.

Over the past few weeks, the US, EU, UK, Japan, and other allies have hit Russia with a package of restrictions targeting its access to foreign financing and technology. Russia’s currency has plummeted, inflation is rising, living standards are slumping, and many factories across the country have stopped work due to shortages in components. Russia now faces the deepest economic crisis since post-Soviet collapse in the Nineties — a downturn so severe that it may eventually threaten Vladimir Putin’s hold on power.

Only one month ago, analysts were focused not on Russia’s vulnerability to sanctions but its supposed “sanctions-proofing” strength. The Russian government has dealt with Western sanctions for decades, from the technological restrictions the West imposed on the USSR to the most recent restrictions on oil drilling technology and access to capital markets imposed after Russia’s first attack on Ukraine in 2014. However, the strength of the latest came as a surprise to Russia’s leaders. They thought they had taken adequate steps to defend their economy and that Western leaders would be too worried about domestic prosperity to risk tough measures. Neither assumption proved correct — and now Russia is paying the price.

Like many adversaries of the United States, from North Korea to Iran to Venezuela, Russia sees American sanctions as a fact of life. Almost every year over the past decade, the US has slapped on a new set of sanctions, sometimes unilaterally, sometimes in conjunction with allies in Europe. Some have been linked to domestic human rights violations, such as those implemented under the Magnitsky Act, named after a Russian lawyer who died under suspicious conditions in jail after uncovering a government-linked fraud. Some have been sparked by Russian meddling in American elections. Others were motivated by Russia’s use of a nerve agent in an attempted assassination in the UK. As Putin said just before announcing his decision to attack Ukraine: “They will never think twice before coming up with or just fabricating a pretext for yet another sanction attack … their one and only goal is to hold back the development of Russia.”

From the moment Putin announced that Russia was beginning a “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine, more sanctions were inevitable. The Biden administration had threatened “devastating” sanctions, though after endured many rounds of not-very-tough Western sanctions, most Russian leaders thought America was bluffing. The fact that European leaders were divided about sanctions — and that Germany, Europe’s most important player, was putting the finishing touches on a new Russian gas pipeline — led the Russians to believe that the West wasn’t ready for full-scale economic warfare. The Kremlin, therefore, began the war expecting measures that were costly but survivable. In a public meeting right before the invasion, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin briefed Putin that “we have thoroughly reviewed these risks” and that “we have been preparing for months”.

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In fact, Russia had been preparing for years, knowing that sanctions were always a risk. America’s sanctions campaign against Iran, which cut off its ability to export oil, was a worrisome precedent — though Russia was a far more important oil producer than the Islamic Republic. The 2014 sanctions against Russia, meanwhile, showed that when the US, UK, and EU joined forces, they could sever Russian firms from financial markets in ways that no other country — not even China — could equal.

In response, Russia developed a five-pronged strategy to steel its economy. The first step was to build up a substantial war chest of foreign exchange reserves, including major currencies (Euro, sterling, dollar, yen, and renminbi) and over $100 billion worth of gold. These reserves, equivalent to over twice the value of goods Russia imports in a typical year, were supposed to give Russia financial flexibility in case the West tried imposing restrictions on its ability to export goods and earn foreign currency abroad.

The second prong in Russia’s “sanctions-proofing” strategy was to reduce its use of the US dollar, the currency in which most commodities — and thus most of Russia’s exports — are priced. Russia managed to substantially reduce the scope of dollars in its foreign trade, largely by shifting its trade with China to Euros. The Kremlin also cut dollar holdings in its foreign currency reserves, choosing to hold more of other currencies, including renminbi, instead.

Third, Russia tried developing internal payments systems in case it was severed from Western-dominated platforms. Many purchases in Russia are made using Visa or Mastercard, which are subject to US sanctions legislation. Most international banking transactions are mediated by SWIFT, a Belgium-based organisation subject to EU sanctions. Russia has rolled out a domestic card payment system, called Mir, and an interbank payment system modeled on SWIFT, trying to prepare itself for a potential future without access to these Western platforms.

The fourth strategy was to intensify economic cooperation with China. The more China’s economy grew, and the more ties that Russia had with it, the more Russian leaders felt secure. The Kremlin knew it could rely on China to vociferously object to any Western sanctions that were applied extraterritorially to Chinese firms.

Finally, Russia counted on the West’s energy dependence to limit any willingness to apply economic pressure. The fact that the Germans were afraid of even mentioning the Nord Stream II pipeline demonstrated timidity that emboldened the Kremlin. However, though Germans were uniquely supine in their energy relations with Russia, they weren’t alone in their dependence. America liked to condemn Germany over Nord Stream II, but American politicians were and are highly sensitive to gasoline prices. Restrictions on Russian oil exports were, therefore, guaranteed to be a matter of acute domestic political concern, because such a move would drive up gasoline prices worldwide. The Kremlin assumed this was a price Western leaders would be unwilling to pay.

When Russian forces rolled into Ukraine, however, the West was jolted out of complacency. Though US and UK intelligence had been warning for several months that Russia was ready to invade, most people — and most Western European leaders — simply didn’t believe it. Images of Ukrainian cities aflame left them shocked. So it was Europe that led the drive during the first week of war for tougher economic sanctions, culminating in an almost unprecedented freeze on Russia’s central bank reserves.

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This was a level of sanctions escalation that Russian policymakers had never seriously contemplated. On its own, the move — grabbing control of around $300 billion worth of Russian foreign exchange reserves stashed in Western financial institutions — constituted the biggest bank heist in world history. The fact that these moves were multilateral meant that “de-dollarising” didn’t matter. The Euro, pound, and yen were no more accessible to the Kremlin. And it didn’t matter what payments system was used, Russian or otherwise, if a substantial chunk of the world economy simply refused to transact with you.

The Chinese — supposed allies in “sanctions-proofing” — were no less shocked than the Russians by this display of financial firepower. China has already announced that it is cutting off certain Russian industries under special sanctions, such as aviation. China’s banks, meanwhile, continue to undertake some non-sanctioned transactions with Russia, but according to reports they are broadly following the West’s lead. The Moscow–Beijing entente is more a marriage of convenience than a sanctions-busting partnership.

The only part of Russia’s sanctions-proofing plan that is proving somewhat effective is the bet that Western leaders can’t stomach a full energy cut off. The US and UK have announced bans on importing Russian energy, but this only has a minor impact. The EU has announced plans to cut Russian energy imports to zero — but only after several years. The move that would really hit Russia would be to block all its energy exports, via an Iran-style regime that severed its ability to sell to third parties such as India and China. This would dramatically escalate pressure on Russia. It would also push oil prices far higher.

For now, therefore, energy remains the one major loophole in the sanctions regime. Nevertheless, the Russian state faces a deep economic crisis. The ruble has slumped and prices are rising. Unemployment is set to spike as factory closures cause industrial bankruptcies. Living standards will fall far behind inflation, which will accelerate over the coming months. Foreign companies of all types, from BP to McDonald’s, are fleeing.

“I understand that rising prices are seriously hitting people’s incomes,” Putin admitted in a speech on Wednesday. What he didn’t say is that he has neither a plan nor any resources, to deal with this. On the battlefields of Ukraine, Russian forces have demonstrated incompetent organization and a horrible command of logistics. Despite much talk of “sanctions-proofing”, the Kremlin’s efforts to protect itself from economic warfare have been just as inept — and, for Russia, disastrous.

Via UH

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The Uncertain Future of Rishi Sunak in the Summer UK Election Gamble



In the realm of British politics, the upcoming summer election poses a significant challenge for Rishi Sunak, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer. Despite the formidable reputation of the Conservative Party, internal divisions threaten to undermine their electoral prospects. As Sunak strives to navigate these turbulent political waters, the outcome of the six-week campaign remains uncertain. This article delves into the complexities of the situation, examining the factors at play and the potential implications for Sunak and the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Party’s Internal Struggles

The Conservative Party, a longstanding powerhouse in British politics, is currently grappling with internal discord that could have far-reaching consequences. Factionalism and differing ideological perspectives have created a rift within the party, complicating Sunak’s efforts to present a united front to voters. The challenges of managing these internal tensions while projecting a cohesive image to the electorate pose a formidable task for Sunak and his team.

Sunak’s Political Strategy

As the face of the Conservative Party in the upcoming election, Rishi Sunak faces the daunting task of steering the party through a period of uncertainty and division. Despite his efforts to reshape the political landscape and garner support for the party’s agenda, Sunak has encountered resistance and scepticism from both within and outside the party. His ability to effectively communicate his vision and policies to the electorate will be crucial in determining the election outcome.

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The Changing Political Climate in the UK

The UK’s political climate is in flux, with shifting public opinion and evolving priorities shaping the electoral landscape. Sunak’s challenge lies in adapting to these changing dynamics and effectively addressing the concerns and aspirations of the electorate. The ability to resonate with voters and offer compelling solutions to pressing issues will be key to Sunak’s success in the summer election.

Sunak’s Leadership and Vision

As a prominent figure in British politics, Rishi Sunak’s leadership style and vision for the country will be under scrutiny during the election campaign. His ability to inspire confidence, articulate a clear vision for the future, and demonstrate effective governance will be critical in winning over voters. Sunak’s capacity to navigate the complexities of the political landscape and offer credible solutions to the challenges facing the UK will be closely observed by both supporters and critics.

The Path Ahead for Sunak and the Conservative Party

In the lead-up to the summer election, Rishi Sunak faces a formidable challenge in steering the Conservative Party to victory amidst internal discord and a shifting political climate. The outcome of the election remains uncertain, with Sunak’s ability to unite the party, connect with voters, and offer a compelling vision for the future playing a decisive role. As the campaign unfolds, the political fortunes of Sunak and the Conservative Party will be closely watched, with the potential for unexpected twists and turns shaping the outcome.

In conclusion, the summer UK election gamble presents a significant test for Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party, with internal divisions and a changing political climate adding complexity to the electoral landscape. Sunak’s leadership, vision, and ability to navigate these challenges will be crucial in determining the outcome of the election. As the campaign progresses, the political fortunes of Sunak and the Conservative Party hang in the balance, with the potential for both triumph and defeat on the horizon.

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Mainland Chinese Forces Launch ‘Blockade’ Drills Around Taiwan: A Show of Force or a Warning?




In a move that has sent ripples across the Taiwan Strait, mainland Chinese forces have begun conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan, just three days after the inauguration of William Lai Ching-te as the new Taiwanese leader. The drills, which involve the PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces, are aimed at testing joint combat capabilities and have been seen as a show of force by Beijing. This development comes on the heels of Lai’s first speech as Taiwanese leader, which was met with fury in Beijing. In this article, we will delve into the details of the drills, the context in which they are taking place, and what they might mean for the future of Taiwan-China relations.

The Drills: A Display of Military Might

The drills, which are scheduled to last for two days, are being conducted in the Taiwan Strait and involve a range of military assets, including warships, fighter jets, and missile systems. The exercises are designed to test the PLA’s ability to blockade Taiwan, a move that would effectively cut off the island from the rest of the world. The drills are being seen as a demonstration of the PLA’s military might and its ability to project power in the region.

The Context: Lai’s Inauguration and Beijing’s Fury

The drills come just three days after William Lai Ching-te was inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan. Lai, who is known for his pro-independence stance, used his inaugural speech to reiterate his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy. The speech was met with fury in Beijing, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province that must eventually be reunited with the mainland. Lai’s speech was seen as a provocation by Beijing, which has long been wary of Taiwan’s moves towards independence.

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Beijing’s Response: A Warning or a Threat?

The drills can be seen as a response to Lai’s speech and a warning to Taiwan not to pursue its independence agenda. Beijing has long used military exercises as a way to signal its displeasure with Taiwan’s actions, and the current drills are no exception. However, the scale and scope of the exercises suggest that Beijing may be going beyond a simple warning and is instead making a more explicit threat.

Implications for Taiwan-China Relations

The drills have significant implications for Taiwan-China relations, which have been tense for decades. The exercises are a reminder of the military imbalance between Taiwan and China, with the PLA boasting a significantly larger and better-equipped military. The drills also underscore the risks of a military conflict between Taiwan and China, which would have far-reaching consequences for the region and the world.

Regional Reactions

The drills have drawn reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China. The United States, which has a long-standing commitment to Taiwan’s defence, has been particularly vocal in its criticism of the drills. Japan and South Korea, both of which have their territorial disputes with China, have also expressed concern about the exercises.


The “blockade” drills conducted by mainland Chinese forces around Taiwan are a significant development in the ongoing tensions between Taiwan and China. While the drills can be seen as a show of force by Beijing, they also underscore the risks of a military conflict between the two sides. As the situation continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how Taiwan and China will navigate their complex and often fraught relationship.

Timeline of Events

  • May 20, 2024: William Lai Ching-te is inaugurated as the new leader of Taiwan.
  • May 20, 2024: Lai delivers his inaugural speech, reiterating his commitment to Taiwan’s sovereignty and democracy.
  • May 23, 2024: Mainland Chinese forces begin conducting “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • May 23, 2024: The drills draw reactions from across the region, with many countries expressing concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
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Key Players

  • William Lai Ching-te: The new leader of Taiwan, known for his pro-independence stance.
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA): The military forces of mainland China, which are conducting the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.
  • The United States: A long-standing ally of Taiwan, which has expressed concern about the escalation of tensions between Taiwan and China.
  • Japan and South Korea: Countries in the region that have their own territorial disputes with China and have expressed concern about the exercises.

Key Terms

  • Blockade: A military tactic in which a country’s ports or borders are closed off to prevent the movement of goods or people.
  • Joint combat capabilities: The ability of different branches of the military to work together seamlessly in combat situations.
  • PLA army, navy, air force, and rocket forces: The different branches of the People’s Liberation Army, which are participating in the “blockade” drills around Taiwan.


  • “Mainland Chinese forces start ‘blockade’ drills around Taiwan 3 days after Lai speech.” South China Morning Post, May 23, 2024.
  • “Taiwan’s new leader William Lai vows to defend democracy and sovereignty.” BBC News, May 20, 2024.
  • “China launches military drills around Taiwan in response to new leader’s inauguration.” The Guardian, May 23, 2024.
  • “US expresses concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Reuters, May 23, 2024.
  • “Japan and South Korea express concern over China’s military drills near Taiwan.” Nikkei Asia, May 23, 2024.
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Unveiling Hump (HUMP): The Rising Star in the Cryptocurrency Universe



Cryptocurrency enthusiasts are always on the lookout for the next big thing, the underdog that has the potential to surpass even the most established players in the market. In the ever-exciting world of digital currencies, one such contender has emerged: Hump (HUMP). Trading under $0.02, this Polygon rival has caught the attention of analysts and investors alike, with bold predictions of surpassing MATIC’s market cap by 2025. But what exactly is Hump, and what sets it apart in this competitive landscape? Let’s delve into the world of Hump and explore its potential for growth and success.

Understanding Hump (HUMP)

Hump is a relatively new player in the cryptocurrency market, positioned as a direct competitor to Polygon (MATIC). With a current trading price under $0.02, Hump has garnered significant interest due to its promising features and growth potential. Launched to provide a scalable and user-friendly platform for decentralized applications, Hump has quickly gained traction among investors looking for the next big opportunity in the crypto space.

The Analyst’s Bold Prediction

An analyst, known for accurately predicting Ethereum’s (ETH) $4,800 all-time high, has made a bold claim that Hump has the potential to surpass MATIC’s market cap by 2025. This prediction has sparked excitement and curiosity within the cryptocurrency community, leading many to closely monitor Hump’s progress and development in the coming years.

Factors Driving Hump’s Growth

1. Innovative Technology

Hump boasts innovative technology that aims to address scalability issues faced by many blockchain platforms. With a focus on enhancing user experience and efficiency, Hump’s technology sets it apart as a promising player in the competitive cryptocurrency landscape.

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2. Strategic Partnerships

Strategic partnerships play a crucial role in the success of any cryptocurrency project. Hump has been actively forming partnerships with key industry players, further solidifying its position and expanding its reach within the market.

3. Community Support

The support of a strong and engaged community is essential for the success of any cryptocurrency project. Hump has been successful in building a dedicated community of supporters who believe in the project’s vision and potential for growth.

The Road to Surpassing MATIC’s Market Cap

While the analyst’s prediction of Hump surpassing MATIC’s market cap by 2025 may seem ambitious, the cryptocurrency market is known for its volatility and potential for rapid growth. With a solid foundation, innovative technology, and a growing community of supporters, Hump is well-positioned to make significant strides towards achieving this milestone.


In conclusion, Hump (HUMP) represents a promising opportunity for investors and cryptocurrency enthusiasts looking for the next big player in the market. With its innovative technology, strategic partnerships, and strong community support, Hump has the potential to challenge established players like MATIC and carve out its own space in the ever-evolving world of digital currencies. As we look towards the future, only time will tell if Hump can indeed surpass MATIC’s market cap by 2025, but one thing is certain – the journey ahead promises to be an exciting one for Hump and its supporters.

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