WHAT’S GOING ON IN UKRAINE
Russia has stationed an estimated 130,000 troops in the Crimean Peninsula that borders Ukraine. The West is convinced that an attack on the country is imminent. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, under pressure from the UK, the United States, Germany and France, claims that Russia is moving troops away from the Ukrainian border after the completion of military exercises. Western Intelligence doesn’t believe this for a minute and is convinced an invasion is likely. U.S. President, Joe Biden, has stated that he thinks Russia will ‘move in’ on Ukraine, with Western leaders and NATO threatening enormous sanctions on the former Soviet Union, should an incursion take place. In a White House statement, Biden said:
“ I don’t know that he knows what he’s going to do, and I think he has to realise that it would be a gigantic mistake for him to move on Ukraine. The impact on Europe and the rest of the world would be devastating, and he would pay a heavy price.”
So, at the moment, the crisis in Ukraine seems to be a case of ‘he-said-she-said’ with both sides at loggerheads. UK Secretary of State, Ben Wallace, has said that the situation in Ukraine is a threat to the security of the UK and the rest of Europe while Russia calls the Western concern over an invasion ‘hysteria.’
RUSSIA VERSUS UKRAINE
Most political events are difficult to explain but let’s give this one a go. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine and also supported a separatist insurgency in the east of the country. More than 140,000 people have died in the region and the ongoing conflict has devastated Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland. The West and Ukraine accused Russia of sending in troops and weapons to aid the rebels, allegations that the Kremlin has denied. The Minsk II agreement, a complex peace accord was led by the French in 2015 in an attempt to end the combat and bloodshed. The accord required Russian troops to withdraw from the strife-ridden region but Moscow continued to deny its presence in Ukraine. In a state of extreme stalemate, Russia has accused Ukraine of breaching Minsk II and also criticized the U.S. and NATO for providing the country with weapons to fight the rebels.
RUSSIA AS A WORLD SUPPLIER
What the future hold for the Ukrainian crisis remains to be seen. But should an invasion occur, Joe Biden’s words of ‘devastation for Europe and the world’ would ring true. Russia is the world’s second-largest natural gas producer and has a third of the reserves. Worse still, Europe depends on 35% of its supply from the federation. Russia also exports 40% of the world’s palladium and supplies the planet with 30% of its titanium, aluminium, copper, nickel, platinum, potash and phosphate. Should the West impose sanctions, all these critical raw materials would be in short supply and very expensive.
THE ECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE UK
Following the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, the UK is being hard-hit economically, particularly for the poorer 20% of the population. With energy prices increasing by 40% in a year, a fifth of UK citizens will be forced to fork out 10% of their income of energy alone. MD of the supermarket chain Iceland, Richard Walker, painted a true picture of poverty in the UK and said:
“There has been an alarming increase in food branches in the country – I think there are more food banks now than there are branches of MacDonalds. This is no exaggeration: there are people out there facing the choice between eating and heating, and we are losing customers to hunger.”
Poorer Brits are also facing spiraling inflation, wages that don’t match these increases, paying more for housing and travel, and trying to cope with supply chain shortages and the impact of Brexit. War in Ukraine – essentially a war in Europe – will only make a bad situation much, much worse.
UKRAINE CRISIS – THE CYBER IMPACT
Besides the military threat from Russia, Ukraine is likely to experience war in a completely different domain – cyberspace. And this is nothing new. Ciaran Martin, the former CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), said:
“Ukrainians will tell you they’ve been at war with Russia for years. That’s true. And cyber has been a dimension of that. There’s been constant digital harassment: two power outages in Kyiv back in 2015 and 2016, disruption of government online services, and targeting of Ukrainian military for intelligence purposes. Over the last seven or eight years, Ukraine has probably faced greater cyber aggression than any other country on Earth.”
The Kremlin has also been accused of the NotPetya malware that swamped websites of Ukrainian organizations in 2017, including banks, ministries, newspapers and electricity firms. Similar infections were reported in 64 countries including France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. As expected, Russia would not accept any blame. And the current crisis in Ukraine along with a massive cyberattack in the country in January, one which infiltrated 70 government websites, is bound to exacerbate global cybersecurity concerns. Paul Chichester, D Director of Operations at the NCSC said:
“While we are unaware of any specific cyber threats to UK organisations in relation to events in Ukraine, we are monitoring the situation closely and it is vital that organisations follow the guidance to ensure they are resilient. Over several years, we have observed a pattern of malicious Russian behaviour in cyber space. Last week’s incidents in Ukraine bear the hallmarks of similar Russian activity we have observed before.”
NCSC WARNS THE UK
The NCSC has issued a warning to all UK companies so that they are better prepared should a cyberattack in Ukraine infect the internet on a global scale. Actionable steps it recommends include patching systems, enabling multifactor authentication, and checking that backups and restore mechanisms are working. If you have any doubt about how to implement these recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact me. As respected specialist in cybersecurity and risk mitigation, I will ensure that no matter what happens in Ukraine and beyond, your IT and data will always be safe and secure.