In Ukraine Russian Kyiv Conflict, Airstrike Was Meant to Humiliate Western Leaders Before Group of Seven Summit

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A recent Russian attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv destroyed at least two residential buildings and a preschool backyard. The attack reportedly killed one and wounded six. Russia also allegedly attacked Ukraine from 932 miles away with 14 KH-101 air-to-surface long-range cruise missiles. For a visual, 932 miles is slightly shorter than the straight line distance between Aliso Viejo, CA, and Ralls, TX. [i] [ii]

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Charnell Gilchrist

According to Kyiv's Mayor, Vitali Klitschko, the attack was a "symbolic attack." Seemingly echoing Klitschko's assertions, a former US commanding general, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, stated, "The Russians are humiliating the leaders of the West." The attack occurred just days before Germany's scheduled Group of Seven and NATO Summits. The two were expected to "reaffirm their support for Ukraine and condemn Russia." [iii]

Group of Seven, Formerly Group of Eight

The Group of Seven (G7) consists of the US, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom. The G7 meets annually to participate in collective decision-making but has been critiqued as lacking follow-through on decisions. Formerly the Group of Eight, Russia, was suspended from the forum after belonging to it from 1998-2014 when it annexed the Crimea region in Ukraine. The G7 summit for 2022 has commenced despite the recent allegedly 'symbolic' attack. President Joe Biden acknowledged Putin's expectation that the G7 would splinter but reaffirmed the tenacity of the seven. [iv]

Russia's Unclear Intent Poses Potential Significant Risks

In a further commentary by the former general, it is reportedly unknown "whether apartment buildings were deliberately targeted or whether missiles strayed." Approximately nine miles of residential buildings and the backyard of a preschool were reported as apparent casualties of the airstrike. The specifications of the KH-101, typically launched from the Tupolev Tu-95MS, may help confirm Russia's intent: whether the missiles were intended for innocent citizens or simply strayed off course from their intended target. [v]

The KH-101 missile is an air-to-surface long-range cruise missile with a range of roughly 2,795 - 3,415 miles. The missile is equipped with an advanced guidance system which allows the missile to hit targets with incredible accuracy. Additionally, the missile's adaptable guidance system lets it bob and weave around obstacles, including air defenses, on the path to its target. [vi]

For example, while 932 miles may seem like a short distance for a missile capable of traveling nearly four times the distance, Russia's strategy could be the reasoning. In a similar event on November 17th, 2015, Russian Tu-95MS bombers launched KH-101 missiles on ISIS command posts from a mere 600 miles away, with Russia citing a specific need for 'precision.' The reasoning for this short distance? The bomber planes carrying the missiles were recorded as taking "a very indirect route, flying over 11,000km [6,000 miles] in total, and refueling in mid-air twice." Knowing that the KH-101 is touted as an advanced-guided missile with the ability to change course mid-air, what then does that mean for the question of Russia's intent in striking a residential zone? [vii]

Despite Threat of Sanctions, Russia Appears Unaffected

Russia has already received many sanctions, with threats of more severe action to follow. Sanctions are restrictions intended to coerce the affected party into submission. In this case, the US, for example, cut off more than 50% of Russia's high-tech imports. As a result, the global computer chip industry halted sales to Russia following the issuance of the sanctions. Major US allies are also enacting the ban, with industry giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) suspending all sales to Russia pending further investigation on complying with the sanctions. [viii]

Russia is stated to have a much smaller production of chips and electronics, meaning loss of access to chip technology may lead to devastating results for Russia over time. Additionally, threats to ban imports of Russian gold have been followed through on, as reportedly announced by President Joe Biden before the G7 summit began. Despite this, Russia appears unaffected. Several theories have been proposed regarding the reasoning behind Russia's seemingly steady hand. [ix]

Similarly, in reviewing the US' history with Cuba, strict sanctions limiting Cuban imports have been in place since the political conflict in Cuba in the early 1960s. However, despite the intentions of sanctions, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy reported that according to their collected statistical data,

US economic sanctions with respect to Cuba generally had a minimal overall historical impact on the Cuban economy. Cuba adjusted quickly to US economic sanctions through political and economic alliance with the Soviet bloc countries." [x]

Many, such as Alexander Gabuev, suggest that Russia has long since planned for its ability to withstand economic sanctions through the use of its physical gold reserves. The critical component that gives gold its leverage is its physicality. Since it is physical, it is excluded from the banking system and can be traded directly if necessary. Additionally, it is much more challenging to take control of since it is tangible, unlike funds accessed through banking systems. [xi]

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Despite some contentions that liquidating Russia's gold would prove too difficult, evidence suggests it may be an option that is considered under the right circumstances. Previously, Russia has been accused of assisting Venezuela by transporting its gold worldwide. The gold was allegedly flown on Russian charter planes and sold in unregulated markets, suggesting there may be a possibility of Russia finding someone willing to purchase their 'hot' gold despite sanctions limiting Russian imports. Buying underground opens the potential for the buyer the essential ability to haggle for a lower price, considering the possible implications if the transaction were discovered. [xii]

Tying it all together, Russia has, for the first time, successfully attacked the Ukrainian capital Kyiv with 14 KH-101 air-to-surface long-range surface missiles, killing one and wounding six. Although the specifications indicate the missile to be a long-range missile with advanced-guidance technology capable of in-air maneuvering, the record is still speculative regarding Russia's true target in the airstrike. As the G7 summit has commenced, theories continue to swirl regarding how the US plans to respond to the attacks. [xiii] [xiv]

References

[i] CNBC Associated Press, Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe, (Jun. 26, 2022)

[ii] Mark Vermylen, KH-101/102, (May 2017)

[iii] Id.

[iv] CFR.org Editors, Where Is the G7 Headed? (Jun. 24, 2022)

[v] Associated Press, Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe, (Jun. 26, 2022)

[vi] Mark Vermylen, KH-101/102, (May 2017)

[vii] Tom O'Connor, Russia Military Uses New War Weapon to Fight ISIS In Syria, (Jul. 5, 2017)

[viii] Jeanne Whalen, Computer chip industry begins halting deliveries to Russia in response to US sanctions, (Feb. 25, 2022)

[ix] Associated Press, Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe, (Jun. 26, 2022)

[x] Jonathan Coleman, The Economic Impact of US Sanctions with Respect to Cuba, (Nov. 30, 2001)

[xi] Associated Press, Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe, (Jun. 26, 2022)

[xii] Memri, Russia In The World - Russia's Moscow-Caracas 'Golden Flight', (Feb. 1, 2019)

[xiii] CNBC Associated Press, Russia strikes Kyiv as Western leaders meet in Europe, (Jun. 26, 2022)

[xiv] Mark Vermylen, KH-101/102, (May 2017)

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Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Western State College of Law, freelance writer Charnell Gilchrist, a North Carolina native, now spends her free time writing in sunny Aliso Viejo, CA.

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