By Lucas Eaton
Ukraine does not export much directly to the US, making up about 0.1% of US imports, but this does not in any way mean that the Russo-Ukrainian War will not have consequences on the other side of the Atlantic, especially if Russia’s recent threats of nuclear action if Ukraine continues to hold its eastern territories are to be taken seriously. Of course, if you have family, friends, or anything else in Ukraine that you value, then the war is definitely going to affect you personally more than the average person, but that is not what this article is about. Though everyone seems to agree that Russia is objectively in the wrong, with senior William Quinn saying that it is “unequivocally obvious that Russia is in the wrong,” Many of the average people around here have very little of an idea about the war’s impacts outside of the death and destruction in the actual region beyond the vague idea that it affected gas prices, despite it indirectly and directly affecting other countries and industries, including the US.
It had quite the effect near the beginning of the war. Russia, due to the war and sanctions, is no longer exporting oil at the amount it once was, driving up global gas prices. When asked if they knew what kind of things that Russia and Ukraine export, students had little to say beyond “I know Russia exports a lot of oil” and “I think Russia has something to do with gas, maybe” Despite this, Ms. Pfanstiehl, who teaches various social studies classes, including comparative government, has noticed a significant uptick in interest about this region of the world in general along with increased interest in international politics since the beginning of this war, saying that it is, “making people more globally plugged in and aware then they might have previously been.” and noting that some people are coming into class with information they want to discuss. This has been corroborated by sophomore Asher Staley, who when interviewed noted that he sees memes about the war, and Ukraine flags whenever he is on social media. Despite this, someone overheard this interview and was surprised to hear that Russia is losing, so the level of knowledge heavily depends on the person. That could lead to a conversation about the perceived indestructibility of large militaristic nations, but that is a conversation for another time.
So, what do Russia and Ukraine export that affects the US? According to the government, the most important answers beyond oil are neon, which had its price increased by 5000%, and palladium, both of which are necessary for the computer components that are in everything nowadays, and palladium is used to make the catalytic converters that cars need. The US sources a large proportion of its palladium from Russia, and though this does not affect the US, a lot of countries import food from Ukraine and are now facing food insecurity. Before the war, Egypt imported 84 percent of its wheat from the “breadbasket” that is Ukraine.
However, this leaves the question of how the Russo-Ukrainian war ending with either side actually gaining their intended objectives would affect the US. At the end of the day, the world will adapt, and everything will stay fairly normal for those in the United States, that is, if Russia’s nuclear threats are to be ignored. According to the Washington Post, Russia is now claiming that several parts of eastern Ukraine that they minimally control (see image) now belong to them, and that attacks on that “territory” may be repaid with “low-yield nuclear weapons.” Analysts say that the odds of this actually happening are low, being a last resort for Russia after conventional war, sabotage, etc. fail to bring victory, but it is still concerning that political figures are advocating for the use of weapons that have not been used on people since the 1940s due to their sheer destructive power. The collateral damage and innocent deaths that could be caused in Ukraine by such weapons, not to mention possible catastrophic damage to the nuclear power plants the country uses, are far too large for this to be a thing that can be allowed to happen. Especially considering that this always has a chance to escalate to an extinction-level war. Once again, this is considered to be a very unlikely scenario, but it is still possible. As a final note, one important thing that Ms. Pfanstiehl mentioned was that not everyone in Russia supports the war, and many that do only support it due to Russia’s state-owned media telling them to. As is often the case here, the actions of the government do not match the opinions of the people.