U.S. will see slight fallout from Russia-Ukraine, says GV professors

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GVL / Bri Conway

Joshua Alburtus, Staff Writer

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has begun, eliciting condemnation and impacting nations throughout the world – including the United States.

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion early on Feb. 24, Russian forces have moved rapidly in capturing strategic areas and installations throughout the country. 

According to CNN reporting, during the first 24 hours of the invasion Russian forces had already taken up positions in the Chernobyl nuclear facility and the Antonov Airport about 25 miles outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

In an address to the nation on Feb. 24, U.S. President Joe Biden condemned the attack.

“The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine without provocation, without justification (and) without necessity,” Biden said in his address.

Biden was joined by a chorus of world leaders who similarly denounced the Russian invasion. 

In a live press statement on Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admonished President Putin as she announced a package of economic sanctions against his country.

“We will not let President Putin tear down the security architecture that has given Europe peace and stability over many decades,” Leyen said in the press statement. “We will not allow President Putin to replace the rule of law by the rule of force and ruthlessness.”

Sanctions imposed on the international stage are designed to punish a country by hindering their economic abilities and, in many instances, the ability to trade with one’s own country.

As global leaders have acted swiftly to penalize Russia for the attack, President Biden announced the United States’ own economic sanctions against major Russian banks, wealthy Russian oligarchs, Belarusian individuals and President Putin himself.

“I’m authorizing additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be exported to Russia,” Biden said in an announcement. “This is going to impose severe costs on the Russian economy both immediately and over time.”

Biden said other international sanctions with the Group of 7 (G7), made up of the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada, would hinder Russia’s ability to develop their military and technology.

Because of restrictions to trade and resources brought on by sanctions, fears over rising prices prompted Biden to commit to using presidential power to stave off growing costs at the gas pump.

But according to trading numbers and experts in the field, the United States will likely feel much less of an impact on areas like gas prices as a result of the invasion.

Much of Russia’s trading activity comes from its vast oil and natural gas reserves. While Russia is a major exporter of crude oil, it contributes much more to European oil supplies than it does to the U.S. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Russia only provided around 3% of U.S. crude oil imports in November 2021 and seven percent of natural gas imports in the EIA’s latest numbers from June 2015.

Dr. Heather Tafel, a professor of political science at Grand Valley State University working with a focus on Russia and Eastern Europe, said she believes the U.S. will feel less of the impact.

“That actually doesn’t affect the U.S. as much, it’s more Europe,” Tafel said. “The U.S. is more removed in this regard.”

In other areas, Tafel said that Russia does not have enough economic prowess to cause any major price hikes or disruptions.

“Otherwise, Russia’s industries are not as big as a lot of other countries’ industries,” Tafel said. “That’s why, to a certain extent, I think that the U.S. is more comfortable in sanctioning Russia even though there may be some American companies that are affected.”

Data from the U.S. government only bolster Tafel’s conclusion. 

Russia’s highest import to the United States in 2019, mineral fuels, accounted for $13 billion according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Canada, a much closer trading partner of the U.S., provided about four times as much of the same resource to the U.S. in that same year ($86 billion).

But that hasn’t stopped some economic ripples from making landfall in the United States already. 

As global oil prices spiked on Thursday over fears of supply shortages, gas prices in several western states began to climb to around $4 per gallon.

And with an already fragile economic situation in the U.S. characterized by growing inflation, the shock in global oil prices and supplies could be enough to exacerbate rising gas prices in places like Michigan.

Working with Tafel in GVSU’s political science department, international relations and foreign policy professor, Dr. Polly Diven, said she believes it could be a possibility.

“I mean, we won’t be, I hope, sending troops into war, but there will be some cost to making it hard on Putin to continue to function in a western economy,” Diven said. “That will cost us too and part of that probably will be increased gas prices.”

At the same time, Diven urged against panic-buying at the pump if prices were to rise.

“I also think there’s a general need to not exaggerate the problem,” Diven said. “I don’t want to see people go panic-buying because that will shoot prices up right away.”

In the face of the swift invasion and the effects it could have around the globe, Diven said she believes it’s an important reminder to keep informed on events around the world like this one.

“We tend to hyper focus on one thing at a time – and I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay attention to this – but keep in mind that there’s always a lot to be learned by keeping abreast of what’s going on in the world,” Diven said.

With Ukranian soldiers and civilians clashing with Russian forces in Kyiv, delegates from Ukraine and Russia have arranged to meet on the Ukrainian-Belarusian border. However these coming days unfold, they’ll be critical to the future of global politics.