The greatest crisis in Europe since World War II and the disruption of international security arrangements is what Russia achieved by launching a full-scale offensive against Ukraine. The terrorist actions of the aggressor country lead to the deaths of civilians, destruction of civil infrastructure, and anthropogenic disasters in the war zone. Ukraine and the other states with which it has established relations at various levels have felt the consequences.
The world has just begun to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and now it is facing rising prices for food and energy and threats of nuclear war. People around the world complain about economic hardships, while Russia continues to shell Ukrainian cities and villages daily. This is how Russia affects the global agenda. All these crises result from the devastating war launched by Russia, not the resistance of Ukrainians who defend their land from invaders. In this article, we will detail Russia’s extensive track record of causing global crises.
Even before the start of the full-scale Russia-Ukraine war, global food prices had begun to rise due to the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. During the lockdowns, economic activity in the world decreased sharply. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that the average global GDP fell by 3.9% from 2019 to 2020, the worst decline since the Great Depression. When quarantine restrictions began to be lifted and the economy began to recover, the prices skyrocketed.
Great depressionThe world economic crisis that lasted from the fall of 1929 to the end of the 1930s and mostly affected the countries of Western Europe and the USA.
Furthermore, the pandemic has severely affected global supply chains. It has also contributed to rising food prices and the spread of global hunger. Thus, according to statistics, about 9 million people die of starvation yearly. For comparison, during the time of the entire pandemic since 2019, the number of deaths was lower and amounted to 6.5 million people. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine have only aggravated the world food crisis.
Photo: Efrem Lukatsky.
Historically, Ukraine has been a significant grain exporter. In 2021, the country fed 400 million people worldwide. Until 2022, it exported an average of 50 million tons of agricultural products annually. Together, Ukraine and Russia exported almost a third of world production of wheat and barley. In addition, in 2020–2021, Ukraine exported 5.27 million tons of sunflower oil for sale, which accounted for 46.9% of world exports.
Approximately 90% of wheat and other grains from Ukrainian fields was transported to world markets by sea. After the 24th of February 2022, Russia blockaded the Black Sea coast, halting the export of grain by main sea routes during the first five months of the full-scale war.
Moreover, Russia regularly strikes agricultural infrastructure, sets fire to crops in the fields, and steals Ukrainian grain. Satellite images, taken by Maxar Technologies took, proved that in May, Russian-flagged ships were loaded with grain in a Crimean port, and a few days later, they docked in Syria with their hatches open. At the same time, Russian President Putin claimed that this year’s harvest in Russia might reach a record 130 million tons.
The crimes of Russia aggravated the global food crisis, which has catastrophic consequences for the entire world. Blocking Ukrainian grain exports has exacerbated hunger in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. Grain supplies partially recovered thanks to long-term negotiations. On the 22nd July, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey signed an agreement on the restoration of the safe export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea. This has restored transportation, but the world’s food situation remains critical. For example, in East Africa, ongoing drought, a grain blockade, and the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine have already caused mass starvation, putting 3 million people at risk of dying.
Photo: Kevin Carter.
According to data provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), from the summer of 2021 to the summer of 2022, global meat prices increased by 8.2%. The corresponding numbers are 23.5% for the dairy products and 10.6% for wheat. And in the future, global food prices will keep on growing. In the worst-case scenario, according to UN estimates, they could jump another 8.5% by 2027.
Russia is one of the leading players in the global energy market. It is one of the top three global oil producers and the world’s largest gas exporter. To a large extent, the country depends on the income obtained from these natural resources. For example, in 2021, it accounted for 45% of Russia’s federal budget. This fact allows the aggressor country to manipulate with oil and gas when it comes to political interests.
Even before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the situation with energy resources in the world was tough. Countries have begun to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the rapid resumption of production has led to higher prices for coal, natural gas, and oil. At the same time, Russia has taken advantage of its monopolistic status on the European gas market, cutting supplies and raising prices. These facts were mentioned in a statement by the International Energy Agency (later referred to as the Agency) in September 2021. Due to abnormal gas prices, certain European fertiliser plants even had to shut down (some Ince plants of CF Fertilisers in Britain, Agropolychim and Neochim plants in Bulgaria), and fertiliser prices increased by 300% in a year. This tendency directly affected the food situation.
In January, the Agency raised the alarm again, stressing that Russia is unjustifiably and significantly reducing supplies to Europe. Thereby, they are causing an artificial crisis in the markets and increasing energy prices.
Presently, the situation has only gotten worse. The natural gas supply from Russia has become quite unstable and unpredictable, which is why Europe has found itself in an energy crisis. On the 7th of March, 2022, natural gas prices in Europe reached a historical high of $3700 per 1000 cubic metres on the ICE Futures exchange. In March, Brent oil prices rose to almost $129 per barrel for the first time since 2008 (in comparison, in March 2021, this indicator ranged from $60 to $70 per barrel, and in March 2017 — from $50 to $56 per barrel).
BrentThe reference oil brand, a mixture of oils produced in the North Sea between the coasts of Norway and Scotland.
European legislators have repeatedly accused Russia of using energy exports as a tool for political blackmail. This policy is clearly evident now as the Russian state energy giant Gazprom has stopped all gas exports via Nord Stream since the 31st of August 2022, citing compressor maintenance. The supply was supposed to resume in three days, but Gazprom later announced that the pipeline was being stopped indefinitely, allegedly due to an oil leak. Russia cited sanctions as the cause of the problems, claiming that they prevent the country from maintaining and effectively operating the pipeline. Of course, such rhetoric distracts the international community, especially the average consumer, from the war crimes that the Russian army commits daily in Ukraine. Seeking to return to pre-crisis prices as soon as possible, people from various countries may be subjected to and/or promote the aggressor country’s message that lifting the sanctions would eliminate the problem. However, this attitude is short-sighted because the lifting or easing sanctions imposed on Russia will not end the war, but will only prolong it. Moreover, it is, to some extent, collaboration with an agressor. Siding with Russia, excusing its actions, or hiding behind the phrase “we stand for peace” actually means supporting and often financing a full-scale war in Ukraine.
In Europe, natural gas is the primary energy source for homes and industry sector, and 40% of it comes from Russia. Countries are beginning to look for alternative solutions, but this leads to a decrease in the supply on the market. Therefore, it results in rising electricity prices for the individuals and businesses.
Nord StreamA gas pipeline that passes through the territories of Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany and provides direct supply of Russian natural gas to Western Europe.
Despite the international sanctions against the Russian Federation, the boycott of Russian energy sources by some countries, and the suspension of the Nord Stream, Russia still received colossal profits due to high prices. Compared to last year’s figure (up to 93 billion dollars), Russian profit from exporting oil and gas to Europe during the first 100 days of a full-scale invasion has doubled.This allows Russia to continue the war in Ukraine and blackmail Europe.
The energy crisis has lead to another one, an economic crisis. When fuel prices rise, consumers do not just feel the adverse effects at the gas station. They are also indirectly affected, as higher transportation costs raise prices for everything from food to various services. The war in Ukraine hit the world economy, which was just beginning to recover from its previous upheavals.
World Bank President David R. Malpass says that global economic growth is forecast to decline by 2.7% between 2021 and 2024. This is more than double the rate recorded between 1976 and 1979, when stagflation was last observed. This term describes a situation in which the main economic processes slow down (demand falls, businesses and enterprises downtrend) and inflation rises.
Data from the EU statistics office Eurostat demonstrated that European consumer price inflation rose to 8.1% in May, the highest level since 1997. In June, this indicator reached 8.6%.
This price jump means that for many people worldwide, the food they could afford yesterday is no longer available today. This crisis of the cost of living poses the increasingly large threat of poverty and starvation to millions of people.
Inflation affects the poor and vulnerable most and contributes to increasing global inequality. According to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), less developed countries in Europe and East Asia are already facing a recession, i.e. a phase of the economic cycle when there is a general decline in economic activity.
Countries such as Armenia and Uzbekistan in Asia are already experiencing the consequences of the crisis according to all poverty indicators; Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Sudan in Africa; Haiti in Latin America; Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia. The repercussions could be particularly serious for people below the lowest poverty line in Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Yemen. The adverse impact could be greatest in Albania, Kyrgyzstan , Moldova, Tajikistan, and Mongolia.
However, it’s not only in the poorest countries that life will change. For example, in Britain, rising prices mean that more and more people cannot afford basic food and, therefore, are forced to turn to food banks. Suppose gas prices remain at the level of mid-2022: inthat case, electricity bills will rise even more, which will significantly impact consumers’ incomes in Britain and other European countries.
Food bankA charitable organisation that collects food products from manufacturers, trade organisations, catering establishments, and private individuals and distributes them to people who are food insecure.
Humanitarian and migration crises
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was the cause of one of the largest and most rapid movements of refugees in Europe since World War II.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, as of the 20th June 2022, the number of refugees worldwide exceeded 100 million, a third of which were children. These are record numbers, although a world high was already achieved in 2021, according to a UN report. The reasons for the displacement of peoples were wars, armed conflicts, rebellions, and repressions, mostly occurring in African countries.
At the end of 2021, the number of people forced to leave their homes reached 89.3 million. This is 8% more than in 2020 and more than double the statistics from 10 years ago. The highest internal displacement was recorded in countries such as Syria, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan. Now, Ukraine has joined the list. According to the UN, in June 2022, more than 14 million Ukrainians were displaced, and more than 6 million sought refuge in other countries due to Russia’s armed aggression.
Large movements of people create humanitarian problems. Even before the 24th of February 2022, the UN was trying to raise the money needed to provide the humanitarian aid that the world needs. However, in its 2021 appeal, the UN received even less than half of its requested funding. Every year, the gap between humanitarian needs and funding only increases. As a result, the World Food Program (WFP) even had to reduce the food provided to refugees and other vulnerable social groups in East Africa and the Middle East.
Large numbers of refugees can lead to extra burdens on host countries, particularly their education systems, healthcare, labour, and housing markets. This is especially noticeable when a vast number of people arrive not gradually, but at once, as was the case with Ukraine.
Another problem is that no precise mechanisms have been developed for safely arriving in another country. Because of this, people face additional dangers, such as the risk of encountering human traffickers or other criminal gangs. Additionally, it is not always possible for refugees to fully integrate into the host country. After the announcement of partial mobilisation in Russia, Russians began to leave en masse for countries where Ukrainians had received temporary asylum fleeing the war. This exacerbates tensions within countries and can lead to internal conflicts.
The world increasingly lacks solutions to these problems. Due to Russia’s daily war crimes and nuclear intimidation, more and more people are forced to flee, rather than return home. The UN Security Council is losing its ability to prevent armed conflicts and resolve lasting refugee crises that arise again and again.
The Russia-Ukraine war caused large-scale and severe damage to the environment and the health of humans. Some of these harmful impacts are already evident. Others will have long-term effects on the ecosystems of Ukraine and the world.
In July 2022, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a major report on the environmental problems Russia caused and continues to cause due to its crimes on the territory of Ukraine. The report found that the aggressor country shells forests, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, industrial facilities, transport infrastructure, water supply, and sanitation and waste management infrastructure. Due to constant attacks on oil refineries, chemical plants, energy facilities, industrial warehouses, and pipelines, the air, water, and soil are contaminated with toxic substances. This environmental pollution can cause long-term threats to people’s health. Many of these problems are transboundary and their impact will be felt not only in Ukraine, but far beyond its borders.
Military operations increase the creation of many types of waste: household, construction (of destroyed or damaged buildings), military (burnt equipment, fragments of shells, drones), and medical waste. Some are toxic and require special handling, transportation, and disposal. This requires the diligent implementation of waste disposal procedures or sometimes is impossible during active warfare. Toxic residue from ammunition can also enter the soil and contaminate the surface and groundwater. Additionally, undetonated ammunition poses a constant environmental threat.
The Russian military also targeted fuel depots and oil refineries across Ukraine, causing large fires and the emission of pollutants such as soot, methane, and carbon dioxide.
The aftermath of previous wars shows that these emissions will be spread across long distances, causing people far beyond the war zone to suffer. For example, in Kuwait in the early 1990s, Iraqi soldiers set fire to more than 650 oil wells, which burned for ten months. As a result, there was a large-scale leak of crude oil into the desert and the Persian Gulf. According to NASA approximately 300 oil lakes formed at the time. A layer of soot and oil fell from the sky, and mixed with sand and gravel, covered 5% of the Kuwaiti landscape with asphalt. Air monitoring indicated that burning oil accounted for 2% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Ice samples collected from Tibetan glaciers years later revealed that soot, blown hundreds of kilometres by the wind, covered the glaciers.
Ukraine’s ecosystems suffer from Russia’s actions, which affect the state of global ecology. Currently, 44% of the most vulnerable ecological territories of the country are located in the active warzone. Russian troops have already entered or conducted military operations in more than a third of the country’s protected natural areas, making the ecosystems there vulnerable. Ukraine possesses 35% of Europe’s biodiversity. There are more than 70,000 rare and endemic (those that exist only in a particular territory) species of flora and fauna, which Russia is also destroying with its war.
The corpses of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory present an additional problem. Over time, they decompose and produce dangerous bacteria that wild animals die from or spread through consumption. Harmful bacteria from the corpses of the occupiers contaminate the soil, affecting the plants and animals that will consume them in the future.
Battles that take place along the coast of Ukraine cause enormous damage to the aquatic environment. Already by June, several thousand dolphins were found dead on the shores of Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. War can also affect the general population and cause a mass migration of marine species to the south.
Russia also causes energy-related environmental consequences. They make it challenging to achieve climate change goals of the Paris Agreement. In place of a faster transition to renewable energy sources, the European Union now plans to replace a percentage of Russian gas with gas from the US, which will cause higher emissions.
The Paris AgreementThis international treaty on climate change implies measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2020.
Some environmental threats caused by war can become evident many years after the war has ended. For example, in 2016, a state of emergency was introduced in Russia due to an anthrax outbreak in Siberian settlements. Due to unusual warming in the region, anthrax bacteria was “awakened” from the permafrost. It was deposited there back in the 1940s, when the World War II was raging around the world. At the time, many herds of reindeer died of ulcers, and the pathogen of the disease became preserved in the bodies of animals buried in the frozen soil. Now, more than 70 years after the end of the war, locals once again feel its environmental consequences.
Russia not only blackmails the entire world with nuclear weapons, but also creates conditions that can lead to an actual catastrophe. Even scientists cannot predict the potential consequences of these actions.
At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Russia conducted military operations and stored tons of rockets near the Chornobyl nuclear power plant, where the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurred. Forest fires due to shelling near the Chornobyl nuclear power plant caused the release of radioactive substances into the atmosphere. Due to heavy traffic on the first day of the invasion, gamma radiation in the Chornobyl zone exceeded the annual norm by approximately 28 times.
Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first time in world history when a war takes place directly near nuclear power plants. It is also the first instance in which a nuclear power plant was forcefully seized, and workers were forced to run the plant at gunpoint ( Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP), located in the city of Enerhodar in Podniprovia and Zaporizhzhia region).
The occupiers also inflict constant rocket attacks upon neighbouring settlements near the ZNPP, and sometimes upon the station itself. In September, due to a mortar shelling of the ZNPP site, the emergency protection system was triggered and the 5th power unit was shut down. In August, three radiation sensors were damaged as a result of shelling. When international institutions and politicians called on Russia to create a demilitarised zone around the plant, it refused.
ZNPP is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. If an accident occurred at one of its active reactors, catastrophic consequences would befall not only Ukraine, but also neighbouring countries. The wind can carry radioactive particles much further than the epicentre. This would cause the pollution of large territories and the radioactive damage to millions of people. As historical evidence from the Chornobyl NPP shows, the consequences of the explosion would affect several generations to come.
Russian army regularly strikes nuclear power plants in Ukraine, blaming it on the Ukrainian military. During one such attack on the Pivdennoukrainska NPP in September, a rocket fell 300 m from the reactors. The shock wave damaged the station buildings and broke more than 100 windows.
Russia uses the possibility of nuclear terror as a weapon to threaten the entire world. A week before the 24th of February 2022, the Kremlin announced that it would move its nuclear forces into a training mode and that Putin himself would supervise missile launches. On the 20th of April , Russia tested a new long-range missile. At the same time, Putin warned everyone that this should “make those who, in the heat of reckless, aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten his country, think twice”.
During the announcement of partial mobilisation on the 21st of September, Putin once again threatened the use of nuclear weapons and said that Russia was ready to employ them in the event of an attack on Russian territory. Simultaneously, he announced the holding of pseudo-referendums in the temporarily occupied regions of Ukraine. This means that after these referendums, Russia would consider these territories part of Russia, and could take the Ukrainian military defence of these territories as a justification to use nuclear weapons. Russia’s manipulation and blackmail do not stop here, as various Russian politicians periodically make ambiguous statements about the potential use of nuclear weapons. On the 27th of September 2022, former President of Russia Medvedev claimed that Russia has the right to use nuclear weapons if necessary. On the 30th September 2022, Putin’s press secretary Peskov said, that the Kremlin does not want to expand on the subject of “nuclear escalation” and called on everyone to behave responsibly.
Russia’s terrorist activities have sparked Europe’s biggest security crisis since the Cold War, forcing European countries to join forces to help Ukraine confront Moscow. Russia violates international obligations and agreements, blackmails the entire world, and threatens the safety of millions of people.
The aggressor country is the biggest threat to international peace and security in recent decades because it systematically violates the sovereignty of other states. In the last 30 years, it has invaded Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
Russia ruined the foundation of security that the Europeans have built for years. It continues to neglect all international agreements made over the past three decades. In addition, it forces previously neutral countries to resort to strengthening their defence capabilities. Thus, Finland and Sweden submitted a request to join NATO. Other European NATO member states and the United States have also significantly increased their military spending. Other countries also understand the potential risks of being a neighbour to the Russian Federation and are implementing necessary security measures. For example, in its state budget for next year, Poland plans to spend a record 97 billion zloty for their army and defence.
Many nations spend significant portions of their budget to help Ukraine fight against Russia.. Ukrainians have to fight against an enemy incapable of diplomatic negotiations and peaceful coexistence, at the cost of their well-being and lives.
In the media, one can come across some opinions claiming that “problems in the world started because of the war in Ukraine”, but it is crucial to emphasise and remember who exactly is behind all this. Each of the listed crises is the sole responsibility of Russia, which started this war, and not of Ukraine, which defends not only its land and independence but also entire Europe. In addition, Ukraine is not just fighting for territories but also for existential values — freedom, the right to life, and the development of oneself as an individual and as part of an independent nation.
Launching armed conflicts and wars under the guise of “special operations”, “liberation”, or “peacekeeping missions” is an invariable style of Russia’s aggressive policy. Therefore, the international community must understand that the only solution is the victory of Ukraine. Otherwise, in the future, the aggressor may target other states.
This material was created with the support of International Media Support (IMS).
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