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The War Beyond the Warzone

by Luna Radonjanin

When it comes to war, images of destruction and casualties are first to come up, but citizens around the world also feel the effects in other ways that impact their daily lives.

On the 24th of February this year, Russia invaded Ukraine with bombardments, and so began the war in Ukraine. Today, reports state over 1000 Ukrainian troop casualties and additionally more than 1000 Ukrainian civilian casualties. The rising number of casualties is a direct effect of the war, but it is not the only price that people are paying. In the wake of the war, the prices of energy, goods and services, raw materials, and food are all rising.

The New Price of Oil

In the US, a barrel of oil for the price of $139 at the beginning of March 2022 marked the highest price for oil since 2007–2008, which had been caused by a struggle between lower production and higher demand. This rise in oil prices follows uncertainty surrounding the war and what this means for Russian imports and exports because Russia continues to be the EU’s main energy supplier, supplying a whopping “40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil imports.” The graph below shows that some European countries rank among the highest in receiving Russia’s oil exports.

Figure: Russia’s biggest oil customer: China by far, Source: World Economic Forum

Due to the EU’s reliance on Russia’s energy supply, even the possibility of a potential ban on these imports in Europe has already sent prices escalating in anticipation. Furthermore, going through with this ban would result in an increase in energy prices to entirely unprecedented peaks. Nonetheless, the moral duty to take measures against tyranny remains, which can be summed up by the words of Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis: “We cannot pay for oil and gas with Ukrainian blood.”

If Oil Prices Go Up, so Does Everything Else

The increase in oil prices may appear to only affect the individuals which drive a car, but this is not the case. While individuals are urged to counter the price surge by lowering their car use, even people without a car are subject to paying higher prices for heating, electricity, and all goods and services as a result of higher energy prices. For all people, being unable to afford even some of these necessities is a question of survival.

Back to the Basics: Raw Materials

In the first week of March, the prices of raw materials have also increased as follows: nickel by 19%, aluminum by 15%, zinc by 12%, and copper by 8%. The price of gold has risen due to its position as an investment “safe haven” and palladium, a material used for catalytic purposes, has experienced a price rise particularly because Russia accounts for 40% of global palladium production.

The price changes in energy, goods and services, and raw materials are not only a massive blow to the economy but also threaten basic human security. Yet, one huge additional factor remains to be discussed: food.

New Food Prices Mark a Global Crisis

The war in Ukraine directly affects the price of crops by quashing crop sources. One crop particularly affected by the war is wheat because Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of wheat in international trade. This month, not only have multiple Ukrainian ports shut down, but the destruction of land has also partially halted food production. As a result of this, the price of wheat has increased by 60% just in the first week of March 2022.

Russia is also one of the largest producers of ingredients needed for fertilizer. Svein Tore Holsether, the boss of Yara International, a chemical company focusing on fertilizer, stated, “Half the world’s population gets food as a result of fertilisers… and if that’s removed from the field for some crops, [the yield] will drop by 50%.” In light of this, he states it appears as though we will be entering a “global food crisis,” with only the extent that this crisis will reach up in the air for the time being.

With already unsteady food prices due to the pandemic and climate change, this additional problem poses an even bigger issue regarding the accessibility of food to all people.

In the Face of a Global Crisis

War continues to be one of the most devastating events to occur on any scale. In addition to lives being lost each day, energy and food security around the world is diminishing as governments take their time to carefully plan out their next move. In the meantime, people can only search for ways to lessen the blow of what seems to be an impending “everything” crisis.

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