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The West’s “economic nuclear bomb”

A McDonald’s in Russia. Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/Bloomberg/Getty

It may not get as much attention as the fighting on the ground, says Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, but the West has hit Russia with an “economic nuclear bomb”. The valuation of the Russian banks that were sanctioned or thrown off the Swift international banking system have totally tanked – the London-listed shares of Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, have collapsed more than 99%. Ratings agencies have downgraded Russia’s status to “junk” and warned that the country may default on its debt. The dollar valuation of the ruble has fallen an astonishing 40% in a month. Companies are acting, too. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Coca-Cola have suspended their Russian operations. Boeing and Airbus, which built two thirds of Russia’s commercial airliners, are no longer providing maintenance or spare parts – meaning the planes will have to be grounded.

“Rarely, if ever, has a country this big and powerful been politically cancelled and economically crippled so fast.” The West’s robust response is not only a hammer blow to Vladimir Putin. It should also give Xi Jinping pause for thought. A month ago, the Chinese premier may well have reasoned that China’s size and clout would mean he could get away with invading Taiwan. Russia is demonstrating that “no country is too big to be cancelled”.