Over the past week, the international community has looked forward to the multilateral agreement between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, under the supervision of the United Nations (UN). The objective was to allow the flow of grains produced by Ukraine through the tensioned Black Sea and the consequent relaxation of sanctions on Russia, which could, in return, also continue the export of fertilizers and inputs produced in its territory. It was an apparent relief from the economic suffocation that the country ruled by Vladimir Putin has been going through for five months, in response to the invasion and attack on Ukrainian territory since February.
The Istanbul agreement was not concluded directly between Moscow and Kiev, but bilaterally with Turkey, as an interested third party. The country proposed to inspect the Ukrainian vessels, and the expectation was that it could reopen the negotiating tables for a distant ceasefire, given the failed attempts previously made by Belarus, Israel and Turkey itself.
However, the day after the agreement was signed, Russian military forces bombed the port region of Odessa, Ukraine, claiming to continue their “special military operations” – the war against specific military targets. This, according to their spokespersons, would not impact the effectiveness of the previously established agreement. All that remained was to agree with the Turks and Ukrainians.
The continuity of the Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory, even with this agreement and with others that will be signed in the near future, is part of Putin’s geopolitical strategy for Ukraine. They currently have two apparent objectives: control of the southern and coastal portion of Ukrainian territory, in a kind of containment circle, from the breakaway region of Transnistria (in Moldova), bordering Ukraine and supported by Moscow, to Crimea and the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, both with separatist intentions and dominated by Russia. And the definitive occupation of Donbass, very similar to what happened in Georgia in 2008, with the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The maritime blockade of Ukraine and the definitive loss of the territories to the east seem to be the final objective of Moscow, in addition to the explicit intention to demoralize the government of Volodymyr Zelensky and remove him from power, something confirmed recently by Russian Chancellor Sergey Lavrov.
After five months of attacks on Ukraine, the war unfortunately seems to have found its commonplace in the news, conversation and collective life, as have the wars in Syria and Yemen. The difference, however, occurs in its impacts on the international system, in a more intense way, such as inflation of commodities and the worrying food and energy insecurity crisis on the horizon.
In these sad five months of war, in addition to the approximately nine million Ukrainian refugees, other certainties appear from the perspective of international relations. We have the first impacts of economic sanctions on the Russian economy and politics, the acceleration of the energy matrix transition in Europe, the emergence of political crises in the old continent and the evidence of a post-Western world, that is, the role of China and Russia and its allies increasingly determining the direction of the international system. Could this be a consequence of dewesternization and deglobalization, processes anticipated by geographers, economists and internationalists?
Meanwhile, other uncertainties present themselves, including for us, on the other side of the Atlantic, regarding the economic perspectives, severely impacted by the war in Ukraine and by the domestic scenario, as well as the positions of Brazilian economic and political diplomacy regarding the future of the conflict. . Not only will the Black Sea witness churning waters in the coming months.
Roberto Rodolfo Georg Uebel Professor of International Relations at ESPM Porto Alegre and Senior Fellow at the South American Institute of Politics and Strategy (ISAPE).