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Consequences of the Russia-Ukraine War

  • 28 Apr 2022


History of International Relations has presented us with an arbitrary reminder that conflicts which occur in an anarchic world order have consequences. The conflicts that turn into large-scale wars have immense potential to create destruction and chaos, not only during the passage of war but also in the long future of the countries involved and as well as the world.

It doesn't take much effort to know that the present-day Ukraine-Russian War would have an impact on both countries in the coming years when the war supposedly ends. This is for an obvious fact that the countries involved in the war will see a direct impact on their sovereignty, economy, citizens, resources as well as the behaviour of the future individual state. However, this is not the only direct manifestation of war. Another dimension of war is that it impacts the world. The bigger picture, in the era of globalisation, includes all the countries of the world, in one way or the other and its consequences on the world order.

It is a task to lay out all the future implications of the Russia-Ukraine war, especially when the war is still ongoing. The implications are manifold - humanitarian, economic, and environmental to name only a few. This blog would aim at something more basic and is in no way a complete inquiry of the problem. I will try to sketch the implications of present-day war in three parts. The first part will deal with the implications on Ukraine, the second part will speak of how the war will affect Russia in the future, and the third part will try to see its present-day and near-future implications on the world at large.

The Effect on Ukraine

We have to remind ourselves that the war is still ongoing. There has been no ceasefire and the possibility of peace does not seem to be in the picture immediately either. But hypothetically speaking, even if the war was supposed to end tomorrow, imagine how it would continue to affect the country in the times to come!

War is seen as a breach of the sovereignty of a nation. In the present context of Ukraine, it is difficult to state how and to what extent Ukraine would be further affected. No nation would ever wish to be attacked as it threatens its very existence.

In Ukraine, due to the conflict, the health system will continue to collapse as there's damage to hospitals. The staff to handle medical care is declining while the number of people requiring medical intervention has increased. The WHO warned that the oxygen supply to Ukraine is severely low. Also, the risk to public health continues to be threatening as there is the contamination of water and air.

The post-war period will be immensely difficult as there is enormous destruction of infrastructure and a massive economic loss. The humanitarian crisis will be altogether another story that will require years to get even a little better. The hallmark of war is that its consequences are felt long after the war is over and it takes decades to restore and rebuild. Furthermore, the loss of civilian life and its effect on the country's resources is a story that will be grieved for decades.

Ukraine's loss in terms of human life, economy, environment, resources, and infrastructure, is massive. Even with the solidarity and support provided by international organisations and other countries of the world, the country would still require decades to pull itself from the plunge of war.

Possible Implications for Russia

While the implications on Ukraine are evident, the future of Russia will also be a reminder that war affects everybody, including the aggressor. It is believed by some scholars that this war would deteriorate the socio-economic conditions of Russia since the sanctions by the West are already in place. Some hawks are saying that the Russian authorities might lose control of law and order too in case there are large scale protests and opposition to the war within the country. However, on the contrary, it's very much possible for the authorities to gain more control than to lose any. This is because there is some evidence that suggests that there is an influence of anti-liberals and anti-West among the Russian elites who make important decisions. For example, the security services (Siloviki) do not see a failure of negotiations with the West as negative. Instead, they see it as a way to increase their power.

Criticism within the country will deal with repression. The war has already pushed Russia into isolation from the international world. In such a scenario, the government would try to suppress or at the least, control the media. It is expected that the business elite in the country might have to face an economic shock. The truth of Russia's economic condition is a different picture from the government which claims that it is enough for Russia to sustain itself.

It is possible to witness the control of elections by the government. The quest for "traditional values" or conservatism would gain momentum. In case of any expression of dissatisfaction, it would be met by suppression. There could be an increased control of security services within the domestic politics of Russia. However, the actual consequences of the war within Russia would only be known with time and much later in future. One thing that can be said with certainty is that, there will be consequences on the domestic politics of the nation, and they can very much alter Russia's future. This is following the opinion on the present situation.

Implications for the world

Inflation in Economy

The conflict that occurs in one part of the world has an immense ability to destabilise the whole world’s economy. In this case, where one of the major powers like Russia is involved, it is undoubtedly going to impact the economy in the long run. The unrest is already being experienced in the financial markets. The world had not even recovered economically from the damage inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic when the war presented itself on the international stage.

Since the European countries are most dependent on Russian oil and gas, it's predicted that the economic consequences of this war will be hard on the region. It's not possible, at least immediately, for Europe to replace the Russian supply of gas and oil. According to a publication of Coface in March 2022, it is estimated that "at least 1.5 percentage point of additional inflation in 2022 which would erode household consumption and, together with the expected fall in business investment and exports, lower GDP growth by approximately one percentage point." This can even bring the GDP to zero if the trend of inflation continues.

Apart from Europe, the other countries of the world will feel the economic shockwaves in the form of inflated prices of various commodities. The most affected items would be food products and energy. There is a wheat grain crisis that is beginning to take its shape. This is especially felt in Sub-Saharan Africa, which imports one-third of its 85 per cent of total wheat imports from either Russia or Ukraine. Countries like Egypt import almost 80 per cent of their total wheat from either country.

When inflation occurs, there will be a decrease in demand, and since Europe is affected the most, the decline of the market in Europe will impact international trade. If we see the area of Asia-Pacific, most countries, like China, Japan, India, Taiwan and Thailand and South Korea, will have to deal with a very high increase in energy imports. The North American region is less dependent on Russia for trade. Hence the significant impact would be felt through its linkage with European countries' decreased demands. However, it would not affect the North American Region as much as it would impact other countries of the world.

IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva, expressed that we live in a more shock-prone world and we need the strength of the collective to deal with the after effects of this war. Since the war is ongoing, and the implications will continue to change, it is clear that the economy of various regions will suffer a blow, of course at different intensities, where some will be able to balance while others might have more detrimental consequences.

Humanitarian Crisis

Russia's attack on Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis in Europe that hasn't been witnessed in a long time now. To avoid the brutality of war and escape the impact on personal lives, more than hundred of thousands of Ukrainians started to leave their homes and were pushed to search for shelters that could provide for them with refugees in crisis.

The neighbouring countries are mostly affected by the refugee crisis. As per the UN refugee agency, four million people have been displaced to neighbouring countries, namely, Hungary, Moldova and Poland. Currently, it's estimated that almost 10 million people are pushed to seek shelter and safety. The number of citizens that have turned to be refugees would be a quarter of the Ukrainian population.

Source: Data from UNHCR

The casualties estimated will be dependent on the vulnerability posed by the Russian attacks on highly populated cities. Those who could not flee from the country are left with no choice other than to rely on an acute shortage of water, and no electricity. It'll be a matter of deep concern if Russia employs heavy weapons and destroys civilian areas, like the major cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv.

To some extent, the worsening of the refugee crisis has been prevented by mobilisation exhibited by European nations. Poland has set up temporary shelters, hospitals and food and medical supplies along with information centres for the incoming refugees. The country has absorbed more than 2.2 million refugees so far. A huge number of refugees have taken shelter in other neighbouring countries, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Belarus, and Moldova to name a few.

The European Union has shown its solidarity through a unanimous decision of permitting Ukrainians to enter EU states for three years while sparing them to apply for the long procedure of asylum. Regardless of the efforts by various countries, and international organisations, the war would displace more people from their homes and the refugee crisis is expected to create an urgent need for humanitarian assistance. As of 31 March 2022, UNHCR has calculated that more than 10.5 million people have been displaced either within Ukraine or abroad as refugees, around a quarter of the population.

Environmental Crisis

One aspect often ignored until the devastating consequences are evident is a true story of an environmental crisis. On March 3rd, the Environmental Peacebuilding Association published an open letter backed by 75 countries, to convey their concern over the environmental consequences of the war. It stated that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is leading to massive air, land and water pollution as well as raised concern over the threat of such attacks in an industrialised country.

In an article published by Business Insider, the director of Research and Policy at the Conflict and Environmental Observatory, Doug Weir said that "Every conflict has a unique environmental narrative. For Ukraine, it revolves around the number of technological hazards posed by its large industrial and energy sectors and the increasing intensity of Russia's military actions". He further stated that the short term environmental emergencies could result from damage or disruption to energy or industrial facilities. Whereas in the long term, the environmental issues could go unaddressed.

Environmental damage takes place in every war. The intensity of the crisis can however be more in industrialised countries, like Ukraine. The country has a huge industrial sector, and this can wreak havoc. According to the same report of Insider, Ken Conco, a professor of international relations warned that "War in industrialised areas creates extensive risks of toxic contamination, given the concentration of power generating stations, chemical plants, metalworking, factories and the like."

When Russia took control of Chernobyl, the international community was alarmed because any strike near a nuclear power plant can turn into a nightmare, in no time. Strikes in the vicinity of nuclear reactors, underline the serious risk to human health as well as the environment. It was reported by the Ministry of Environment of Ukraine that there is a rise in local radiation levels due to the stirring of "radioactive dust". These sites already require environmental management and the attack in these areas will cause results that have not been imagined so far.

To conclude, since the war is still not over, the exact magnitude of environmental consequences is difficult to calculate. It is believed that the realisation of the environmental impact of the crisis would take some time. Regardless of that, the presence of environmental damage is obvious. What remains to be done is to decipher the extent to which environmental consequences would be witnessed and the ways by which they will be dealt with. Scholars suggest that the Russia-Ukraine War could leave an everlasting impression on future climate policy.

 Annie Pruthi 

Annie Pruthi is currently pursuing her masters in Political Science from JMI, New Delhi and is a first division Arts graduate from Delhi University. She is an avid reader and an award-winning best-selling author. Her book "Will You Stay?" recently won the title of "Most Promising Book, 2020 (Fiction)" in the Coimbatore Literary Awards.

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