The world is watching Eastern Europe, bracing for the geopolitical and economic impacts of Russia’s action in Ukraine.
President Joe Biden has announced a new round of US sanctions, condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin for “the start of a Russian invasion of Ukraine”.
“The effect this could have on the global system, not just on European security, is quite profound,” Fiona Hill, former White House chief adviser on Russia, told Tufts University on Tuesday.
For Hill, the latest developments are very troubling.
“This, I think, turns the whole calculus of European security on its head over the past 30 years, since the end of the Cold War,” she said.
One of Putin’s top experts, Hill said current events show a change in the Russian leader over the past few years.
“Something obviously happened to him on a personal level over the last two years that he would decide to take what, to most people, would seem like a very reckless and unnecessary step,” Hill said. “So I think we can be very concerned about that.”
Hill took part in a discussion Tuesday at the Fletcher School, where Christopher Miller is co-director of Tufts’ Russia program.
“I think we’ve only just started to think about how bloody, protracted, expansive this conflict could be,” he said. “I think it’s hard to imagine that if Putin manages to get further into Ukraine, that’s the end of his wish list. I think it’s easy to imagine other places that Putin would like add to the Russian sphere — Belarus, Kazakhstan, they would add a long list of countries.”
Meanwhile, an American public struggling with inflation and supply chain issues ponders how the conflict could affect the economy.
Rising gas prices will be one of the most obvious impacts, but experts say it won’t be the only one hitting US wallets.
“We’ll see it in fuels, natural gas, gasoline, as well as food prices,” said Willy Shih, professor of management practices at Harvard Business School.
Shih says many people don’t realize that natural gas is used to make everything from plastics to fertilizers.
“If you use a lot of fertilizer, like the farmers in this country use it, it will affect food prices,” he said.
And then there are exports. The most important for Russia and Ukraine are wheat and corn.
“You’ll pay more for anything that uses wheat, corn, and flour,” Shih said.
Experts say this could impact many goods and services whose prices have already risen.
Sal Lupoli, owner of Sal’s Pizza, says he has had to raise his prices several times over the past year. He says he doesn’t want to have to raise them again, but with his costs soaring, he fears small businesses and their customers will be hit by the crisis.
“How much can this blue-collar worker who comes home and takes care of his family, how much price increase can he absorb? And the answer is, ‘Not much more,'” Lupoli said.