This afternoon, US President Biden doubled down on his belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin will invade Ukraine and that Russian forces will ‘target Kiev.’ Biden also said he spoke with Congressional leaders and European allies earlier on Friday and the “overwhelming message on both calls was one of determination, unity, and resolve.” Despite Biden’s claim, unity has so far eluded both NATO and the European Union as they struggle to come to terms with contending with the expansive Russian threat and building a post-invasion strategy with regards to the new dangers a Russian-occupied Ukraine may bring. US and European leaders continue to warn of ‘swift, severe consequences’ if Russia invades Ukraine. However, given that Biden and other Western leaders have drawn the line at committing military forces to defend Ukraine, its questionable exactly what form these consequences will take. There will undoubtedly be severe economic sanctions, yet one has to assume Russia has planned for this contingency. We’ve discussed some of the steps the Russian government has taken in recent months to fortify its economy against sanctions. It remains unclear whether these preparations have been factored into the US and European formulas.
Senior US officials have also said they believe Russia was behind the cyberattacks on Ukrainian banks and government websites this past week. There have also been warnings voices about the possibility Russia could launch cyberattacks against US banks and other American targets as retaliation for the levying of economic sanctions. Officials from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and other large banks had meetings this week with government officials to discuss tactics Russia could use, as well as warnings on Russian cyber activity.