Ukraine War Explainers
‘’Z’ Symbol on Russian
The Russian armed vehicles have been roaming around Kyiv and other cities with the letter ‘Z’ painted across their sides. Digital sleuths speculated over what the “Z,” written in the Roman alphabet rather than Cyrillic, might indicate about Moscow’s next moves.
Military experts interpreted the “Z” as “Za pobedy,” Russian for “for victory,” or as “Zapad,” for “West.” Some dubbed vehicles painted with the symbol the “Zorro Squad,” while others suggested the “Z” might stand for the Kremlin’s self-styled “target number one,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Some observers opine that these markings act as signals to fellow Russians to identify their own vehicles in the warzone and avoid friendly fire. The letter ‘Z’ has transformed from a military marking to the main symbol of public support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Just three days after the invasion, the Kremlin-funded state network RT announced on its social media channels that it was selling Z merchandise, including T-shirts and hoodies, to show support for Russian troops. The Z letter has also been painted on large Soviet-era apartment blocks and posted on street advertisement signs. More ominously, Z has been used as an intimidation tactic against those who oppose the war.
What is Stagflation?
Stagflation is a portmanteau of stagnant growth and persistently high inflation. It, thus, describes a rather rare and curious condition of an economy. Iain Macleod, a Conservative Party MP in the United Kingdom, is known to have coined the phrase during his speech on the UK economy in November 1965. He reportedly said: “We now have the worst of both worlds— not just inflation on the one side or stagnation on the other, but both of them together. We have a sort of “stagflation” situation. And history, in modern terms, is indeed being made.”
Typically, rising inflation happens when an economy is booming — people are earning lots of money, demanding lots of goods and services and as a result, prices keep going up. When the demand is down and the economy is in the doldrums, by the reverse logic, prices tend to stagnate (or even fall). But stagflation is a condition where an economy experiences the worst of both worlds — the growth rate is largely stagnant (along with rising unemployment) and inflation is not only high but persistently so.
The best-known case of stagflation is what happened in the early and mid-1970s. The OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries), which works like a cartel, decided to cut crude oil supply. This sent oil prices soaring across the world; they were up by almost 70%.
This sudden oil price shock not only raised inflation everywhere, especially in the Western economies but also constrained their ability to produce, thus hampering their economic growth. High inflation and stalled growth (and the resulting unemployment) created stagflation.
Temporary Protected Status
Established by the US Congress in 1990, temporary protected status (TPS) is a program that allows migrants whose home countries are considered unsafe the right to live and work in the United States for a temporary, but extendable, period of time. Though they are not considered lawful permanent residents or US citizens, many have lived in the United States for more than twenty years. TPS holders now total more than three hundred thousand.
TPS is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program that allows migrants from designated countries to reside legally in the United States for a period of up to eighteen months, which the US government can renew indefinitely. During that period, TPS holders are eligible for employment and travel authorization and are protected from deportation. The program does not include a path to permanent residency or US citizenship, but TPS recipients can apply for those designations separately.
Once a country receives a TPS designation, any citizen of that country who is already physically present in the United States is eligible to apply for the program provided they meet certain requirements set by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS agency. Disqualifying factors include criminal convictions in the United States and participation in terrorist activities.
The authority to grant a country TPS designation is held by the secretary of homeland security, who can extend it indefinitely if they determine that conditions in the country prevent individuals from returning home safely. Reasons for TPS designation include:
· ongoing armed conflict, such as a civil war;
· an environmental disaster, such as an earthquake, hurricane, drought, or epidemic; and
· other extraordinary and temporary conditions that render the country unsafe.
Once a country’s designation expires, individuals return to the immigration status they held prior to receiving TPS, which for most migrants means reverting to undocumented status and facing the threat of deportation to their country of origin. They can apply for work or student visas, if eligible, though those are temporary. However, those whose spouses or adult children are citizens or legal residents could be eligible to stay in the country legally.
SWIFT Banking System
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has pushed the plumbing of financial transactions into the spotlight. The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Commission announced, on February 26, that they would remove “selected Russian banks” from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) messaging system, a critical tool for international banking. “[W]e commit to ensuring that selected Russian banks are removed from the SWIFT messaging system. This will ensure that these banks are disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally,” the Joint Statement on Further Restrictive Economic Measures said. Here we take a look at SWIFT:
What is SWIFT?
SWIFT, which stands for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a messaging system that allows banks around the globe to securely and quickly communicate about cross-border payments. It is a cooperative company under Belgian law. The Washington Post has described SWIFT as “the Gmail of global banking.” the organization runs its own financial messaging network called SWIFTnet, which provides secure, standardized communication services and software to banks, brokers and investment firms. According to SWIFT, it transmitted 42 million messages a day last year.
Swift links 11,000 banks and institutions in more than 200 countries, making it the backbone of the international financial transfer system. In February 2022 alone, the system sent 82 million messages.
Who owns it?
Swift was created by American and European banks, which did not want a single institution developing their own system and having a monopoly, in 1973 and is based in Belgium. On its website, it says “it’s owned and controlled by its shareholders [financial institutions] representing approximately 3,500 firms from across the world”.
It is overseen by the National Bank of Belgium, in partnership with major central banks around the world – including the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England.
How does it work?
An important component of the SWIFT messaging system is the SWIFT code. Each bank that participates in the system is assigned this code, made up of 8 to 11 characters, which identifies the bank, the country it’s in, where it’s located in the country, and, optionally, the branch.
Say you want to send a wire transfer through SWIFT to someone living in Karachi. To make that payment, you’ll need a slew of information, including the amount being sent and the Pakistani bank’s SWIFT code. Your bank will send that information, and once the receiving bank gets that information, it will deposit the money. Later, the two institutions will settle the payment, which means they’ll adjust the account balances to reflect the transfer.
It is not a system that clears trades; it’s just a system by which financial institutions communicate with each other.
On March 03, negotiators from Russia and Ukraine agreed to set up humanitarian corridors in parts of Ukraine badly hit by fighting. The understanding involved a temporary ceasefire to allow the evacuation of citizens.
What are humanitarian corridors?
The United Nations considers humanitarian corridors to be one of several possible forms of a temporary pause in an armed conflict. They are demilitarized zones, in a specific area and for a specific time — and both sides of an armed conflict agree to them.
What are they for?
Via these corridors, either food and medical aid can be brought to areas of conflict or civilians can be evacuated. The corridors are necessary when cities are under siege and the population is cut off from basic food supplies, electricity and water. In cases where a humanitarian catastrophe unfolds because the international law of war is being violated — for example through large-scale bombing of civilian targets — humanitarian corridors can provide crucial relief.
Who sets them up?
In most cases, humanitarian corridors are negotiated by the United Nations. Sometimes they’re also set up by local groups. Since all sides need to agree to set up the corridors, there is a risk of military or political abuse. For example, the corridors can be used to smuggle weapons and fuel into besieged cities.
On the other hand, they can also be used by UN observers, NGOs and journalists to gain access to contested areas where war crimes are being committed.
Who gets access?
Access to humanitarian corridors is determined by the parties to the conflict. It’s usually limited to neutral actors, the UN or aid organizations such as the Red Cross. They also determine the length of time, the area and which means of transport — trucks, buses or planes — are allowed to use the corridor.
In rare cases, humanitarian corridors are only organized by one of the parties to the conflict. This happened with the American airlift after the Berlin blockade by the Soviet Union in 1948-1949.
Where else have they been used?
Humanitarian corridors have been put in place since the mid-20th century. For example, during the so-called Kindertransport from 1938 to 1939, Jewish children were evacuated to the United Kingdom from areas under Nazi control.
Humanitarian corridors were also created during the 1992-1995 siege of Sarajevo, Bosnia and the 2018 evacuation of Ghouta, Syria.
However, there are many wars and conflicts where calls for civilian corridors or a pause in fighting have been made in vain. In the ongoing war in Yemen, for instance, the UN has so far failed in its negotiations.
International conventions that govern the humanitarian corridor
Humanitarian corridors were designated in armed conflicts long before international organisations recognised them, especially during World War II, when Jewish children were evacuated from Nazi-controlled areas to the United Kingdom. In 1990, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution, which established humanitarian corridors. It is believed that the global community views “relief corridors” as a crucial tool for ensuring civilians’ right to help during hostile situations. The Geneva Conventions of 1949, as well as their Additional Protocols of 1977, also recognise this corridor.
On March 04, NATO rejected Ukrainian calls to help it protect its skies from Russian missiles and warplanes, wary of being dragged into Moscow’s war on its neighbour, but Europe promised more sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would not impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine after calls from Kyiv to help stop Russia’s bombardments. “The only way to implement a no-fly zone is to send NATO fighter planes into Ukraine’s airspace, and then impose that no-fly zone by shooting down Russian planes,” Stoltenberg said after an urgent meeting with NATO foreign ministers.
“If we did that, we’ll end up with something that could end in a full-fledged war in Europe, involving many more countries and causing much more human suffering. So that’s the reason why we make this painful decision,” he said.
No-fly zones are designed to deny the use of airspace – and engage with aircraft, usually with hostile intent, that refuse to comply and fly into them. They are often used in war zones to stop an aggressor flying military aircraft over its own land. They involve the surveillance of an area of airspace to detect any incursions into it by aircraft. They prevent attacks on civilians or military targets, as well as carrying out surveillance. They also require combat fighter aircraft with the capability to intercept any incursions; these interceptors can try to escort enemy aircraft out of the zone or, as a last resort, shoot them down. Opposing fighter jets patrol the zone in search of any aircraft breaking the rules. Any rogue planes could be forced to land or escorted away – and they could ultimately risk being shot down.
No-fly zones can also be used over major events like the Olympics or over certain buildings. One was imposed around the royal residence of Windsor Castle this year to permanently limit how close aircraft can get.
The idea of declaring airspace off-limits is an old one: after the First World War, Germany was prohibited from any sort of military aviation at all, under the Versailles Treaty. But the modern no-fly zone dates to the 1990s after Sadam Hussein attacked Kurds in the north of his country and Shias in the south. America, Britain and France declared no-fly zones in the northern tip of Iraq and over the bottom half of the country. To enforce it, they flew around 225,000 sorties between 1991 and 2003 (France pulled out in 1996). Similar no-fly zones were enforced by NATO over Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1993 and 1995, and over Libya in 2011, as part of a war that eventually toppled Muammar Qaddafi, the country’s leader.
No-fly zones prevent a country from using warplanes to attack military targets or civilians on the ground. But that humanitarian benefit comes at a cost. Simply declaring airspace off-limits is not enough. The power that declares it has to patrol the area with its own planes and be prepared to fire at enemy ones—four Iraqi planes were shot down in the 1990s. To conduct such patrols safely, it has to be confident its planes won’t get shot down. And that requires identifying, jamming or destroying air-defence systems on the ground.
No-fly zones also have their limitations. The one over Bosnia struggled to stop helicopter flights, for instance. And while no-fly zones can prevent an adversary from using aircraft, they do nothing to stop them using other forces—like the huge convoy of Russian armour was 15 miles from Kyiv—for the same purpose. In the 1990s, unable to bomb Shias from the air, Saddam simply assaulted them from the ground as “US pilots enforcing the [no-fly zone] circled overhead”, observes Micah Zenko, an analyst. Partly as a result, he notes, every no-fly zone that America has ever imposed “was expanded to support military and political objectives that had nothing to do with how they were initially justified.”