Arne O. Holm says The War Shall Be Won With Oil and Killers

The village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv, Ukraine.
War is criminal and Russian criminals are now being released into the official Russian army. (Photo: Novoselivka, Ukraine, April 2022, by Oleksandr Ratushniak / United Nations Development Programme: Ukraine)

Commentary: Russia is releasing killers from its prisons for them to continue killing. That is happening concurrently as Russian industrial companies are setting historic sales records. War is an absurd place.

Norwegian version.

The EU countries agreed on a new set of sanctions against Russia the other day. The content is not yet known as I write this. The West's dependence on Russian gas and the Chinese appetite for Russian oil makes the eleventh set of sanctions from the EU unlikely to have much effect.

Because how is it possible that industrial companies in a heavily sanctioned country are exporting more of their products than ever?

Without democratic control

The explanation is that an ever smaller part of the global economy is under democratic control. Even some EU countries are kicking freedom of expression and democracy to the curb.

According to the Moscow Times, which is one of many Russian newspapers that are blocked in Russia, Russian companies had revenues of more than 1 quadrillion rubles. That corresponds to 15 trillion dollars and is written with 18 zeroes, for those eager to understand how much money we are talking about.

The most important aspect in this context is that the income of the business sector in heavily sanctioned Russia, again according to Moscow Times, almost doubled from 2021 to 2022.

China nearly doubled its import of Russian oil.

Two-thirds of these revenues come from the export of oil and gas, which increased by 43 percent last year.

And if you, as the reader, should tolerate more, slightly shocking numbers, China doubled its import of Russian oil from February to May this year.

That does not mean that most Russians are not affected by sanctions. Or that the sanctions are a waste.

It just means that the West's sanctions against Russia are more than compensated for by other nations. In the next round, it means that the Russian war machine will be financially topped-up for the foreseeable future.

Forced toward China

First and foremost, it means that the West's attempt to force Putin and his supporters to their knees, to give up in Ukraine, is not doing what it's supposed to do. Rather, Russia is forced more and more toward China, in a not unexpected, but unintentional consequence of Western sanctions against Russia. 

But what does this have to do with convicts being released to participate in the war in Ukraine?

Previously, the participation of Russian criminals in the war was limited to the so-called Wagner Group.

They have the "fog of killers in their eyes".

Now, two other independent Russian media, Meduza and Verstka, report that the Russian Ministry of Defense recruited inmates with criminal records, some having done crimes so serious that they were denied a place in the Wagner Group's death squads. 

The crimes of some of the newly recruited soldiers are so brutal that Meduza warns its readers of renderings of "extreme violence."

Statements from one of the leaders of the regiments that recruit former inmates are illustrative of their mentality. They have, he says, a mindset more militarized than that of draftees.

"They have the fog of killers in their eyes," he adds. 

"And they are more pleasant to work with."

Relatively speaking, no other European country has as many prisoners as Russia.

This, too, could therefore indicate a long-term war.

And for the record: This military amnesty does not apply to all types of crimes. Russian oppositional prisoners must continue to serve their time while killers go free.

Also read

This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Birgitte Annie Molid Martinussen.