The Current Situation & What’s at Stake

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014 marked the largest land-grab in Europe since World War II. Nearly eight years later, Russia is threatening to invade Ukraine and set off the latest wave of geopolitical instability. Currently, global leaders are struggling to respond to a range of economic, social, and health crises. 

People, assets, and businesses are at risk if instability persists or violence ensues in Ukraine. Concentric remains dedicated to our mission of managing risk everywhere to keep people safe. Fulfilling this mission begins with monitoring and assessing recent developments involving key stakeholders. 

 

Monitoring Deteriorating Conditions

 Concentric is monitoring the crisis and we assess it could go in a number of directions. 

  • Russia and other major powers could agree to a negotiated settlement and the withdrawal of Russian forces along Ukraine’s border. 
  • The United States could incentivize Russian de-escalation and remove the threat of sanctions. 
  • NATO could step back from earlier efforts to include Ukraine and thereby allay Russian fears of a robust Western military presence on its doorstep. 

However, these optimistic scenarios seem unlikely as the Biden administration this week approved sending 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe to bolster NATO countries, and last month the U.S. Department of State ordered the departure of eligible family members from Embassy Kyiv. Various countries have withdrawn their staffers from Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens with resources are also leaving the country in a similar fashion to what we saw in Crimea in 2014. Leaders are preparing for worst-case scenarios and engaging in increasingly acrimonious debates, as evidenced by the statements and exchanges over the past month:

  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused the United States of fuelling “panic” by overemphasizing the risk of large-scale war. 
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded NATO never admit Ukraine as a member and seems undeterred by threats of sanctions from Western allies. 
  • The Biden Administration promised that Russia will face “severe economic consequences” if it invades Ukraine. The proposed sanctions would target Russian financial institutions and impose new restrictions on American exports. 
  • U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield described Russia’s 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders as “the largest mobilization” in Europe in decades and highlighted an increase in Russian cyberattacks and disinformation. 
  • The European Union and United States explored the possibility of blocking Russia’s access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift), a Belgian service that connects more than 11,000 financial institutions and facilitates financial transactions. It is unclear if this potential action was taken off the table.

 

How Concentric Can Help

Concentric assesses that the movement of wealth and resources out of Ukraine will continue in the near term and we stand ready to support clients during periods of sustained volatility. Concentric specializes in strategic security and intelligence services for physical, cyber, and maritime needs. Part of that specialization is tracking the movement of monitored entities and assets during times of global crises. As the world changes, so do our services. 

Concentric’s participation in the safe extraction of citizens from Afghanistan in August 2021 best exemplifies our ability to act quickly during moments of international crisis. Amidst the increasing uncertainty and insecurity, we observed vast resources leaving the country, including the following: 

  • The World Bank halted their aid to Afghanistan; they had previously committed more than $5.3 billion for development projects in the country. 
  • The International Monetary Fund suspended Afghanistan’s access to $460 million in reserve funds. 
  • Germany, Finland, and the wider European Union froze their development funds. 

In response to constantly shifting conditions, our team at Concentric leveraged various open source tools to monitor flights traveling through Kabul International Airport and Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport to support evacuations. Our Global Security Operations Center’s situation reports continued throughout the end of August, as stability in Afghanistan unraveled and on-the-ground sources thinned with the exodus of journalists, human rights activists, and others. 

  • We also utilized various resources to monitor updates on access points, flight statuses, and freedom of movement. Through live flight tracking of arrivals and departures at relevant airports, we could paint a general security situation for various stakeholders in a rapidly evolving environment. 
  • Concentric assisted in evacuating 188 Afghan citizens through philanthropy efforts and discovering pathways and acting as a catalyst for other action. 

 

Services We Offer

Our team monitors various client assets to proactively identify potential risks. By tracking airplane tail numbers and monitoring ship movements, we routinely assess aircraft and watercraft security throughout travels to all regions of the world. We search surface and dark web sources to identify nefarious users that are tracking or discussing the monitored entities and report the potential threats to clients. We also have on-the-ground contacts ready to assist throughout various countries. Reach out to our team to discuss any of the following services: 

  • Monthly Reporting to track watercraft, aircraft, and other assets
  • Daily Reporting to monitor security concerns for family members 
  • Travel Risk Assessments to analyze risk categories for worldwide locations 
  • Overflight Reports to assess global flight path recommendations 
  • Active Monitoring to escalate immediate threats

Concentric’s ability to track movements, deploy regional resources, and provide intelligence for decision-making fall under our mandate to manage risk everywhere to keep people safe. This list is only a small snapshot of our services; if your need is not included above, we look forward to discussing how we can work together to keep you safe. 

 

Author: Jonathan Barsness, PhD, Intelligence Team Manager for Concentric

Author: Rachel Brooks, Intelligence Analyst, Global Intelligence for Concentric

 

Sources:

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/03/17/crimea-six-years-after-illegal-annexation/

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/31/us/politics/russia-swift.html

https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/591939-washington-flashes-an-ace-in-the-ukraine-standoff?rl=1

https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/01/19/ukraine-russia-nato-crisis-liberal-illusions/

https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/01/24/ukraine-us-russia-stephen-walt/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/?reload=true&_=1643676041794

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraines-zelenskiy-seeks-calm-down-panic-over-russia-tensions-2022-01-28/

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/13/us/politics/nato-ukraine.html

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/31/world/ukraine-russia-us

https://time.com/6143645/how-to-stop-putin-invastion-ukraine/

https://www.npr.org/2022/01/12/1072413634/russia-nato-ukraine

https://www.reuters.com/article/ukraine-crisis-russia-swift/west-no-longer-mulling-cutting-off-russia-from-swift-handelsblatt-idUSKBN2JR1LJ

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-09-24/why-155-extra-afghans-boarded-facebook-funded-flight-thanks-to-the-airline 

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-58325545#:~:text=Last%20week%2C%20the%20IMF%20announced,recognising%20a%20government%20in%20Afghanistan

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/18/business/taliban-imf.html 

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/08/18/eu-pulls-afghanistan-funding-will-work-with-taliban-if-rights-respected.html 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/24/wfp-food-aid-afghanistan-starvation-taliban 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/25/ukraine-embassy-evacuations/ 

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/ukraine-travel-advisory.html 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60203208

https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-russia-united-states-europe-linda-thomas-greenfield-fc3d700af4518e643ce520ba066a4885

https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-taliban-784681c4400b097cf73b93cec34c5c61