Three weeks into the war in Ukraine it seems hard to predict the outcome, except for the fact that Ukraine will be left in ruins. What we all hope for is that the Ukrainians will get out of this war as a free and democratic country. And perhaps it should be added that a lot of us also hope for the fall of Putin as a consequence of his totally unjustified attack on Ukraine.
What we do already see the contours of, is a new approach in the West towards securing their own energy supplies, to be able to get out of the Russian grip. We have also been reminded of how vulnerable we are as Ukraine and Russia are the leading suppliers of wheat, sunflower seeds, gas and ingredients for making fertilizer. The war, in addition to the recent pandemic, has already caused shortages, and experts warn of even higher prices of food as farmers all over the world will face shortages of fertilizer, resulting in less productivity and thereby higher prices. The higher prices of food, fuel and electricity are already duly noted by consumers everywhere.
The question now is, how are we going to meet the challenges we are facing? For sure, not being dependent of oil and gas from Russia is a good start. Will it be a push to the green shift, or not? It has also become evident that supply chains can be highly unreliable, and so it has sparked a debate about self-sufficiency in some countries, like in Norway.
High food prices is of great concern all over the world. For the middle class, they might be able to re-prioritise their spending, e.g. cut down on “luxury” spending like vacations, new furniture, and new cars. For the poorer segment of society, it will add to their hardship. They do not have much to spend in the first place. Increased prices on both energy, fuel and food will hit them very hard. What will the various governments do to ease their strain? Because if nothing is done, there will be a risk of violent protests, like the Yellow Vest movement we saw in France only a few years ago, or the Egyptian revolution in 2011.
The Ukrainians are fighting for their sovereignty, freedom and democracy. Values that the West seems to take for granted, even though we have had a couple of reminders over the past few years that we should not. What happened in USA during the time Trump was president, and what happened after the 2020 elections should be carefully noted. Poland has also been moving in a less democratic direction lately, as have Viktor Orban’s Hungary. In France extreme right-wing candidates are ranking high on the polls before the upcoming elections this April. Perhaps Putin’s war in Ukraine will help undermine them, as we are now reminded of what extremism and despotism look like.
The Russian people are obviously asking themselves these days if they are heading back to the way of life they experienced in the Soviet Union. No freedom of speech, no Western import goods, restricted travel, high inflation etc. In other words, is Putin about to pull a new iron curtain between Russia and the West?
The young generation of Russians have grown up with access to everything we have in the West. Will they accept going backwards? Is there any chance they will be able to change the direction their country is about to take? Considering the massive protests against the war it certainly looks like they will not let themselves be oppressed without fight. Others are simply leaving their country.
Most European countries have decided to expand their military spending, in addition to seek solutions to an acute energy deficiency. They have also been very a wide consent regarding the sanctions against Russia, and what is at stake in a broader view. Democracy in itself is threatened. How are we going to cope with that?
Frankly speaking, I have more questions than answers these days. The latest news is that Putin has laid out his demands for peace, but the details are not yet known, adding to my list of questions.
Whatever happens over the next weeks, the world will not be the same as it was before February 24, 2022.