By Taylor Boyd
Dr. Terry Young, Interim Vice President of Academic & Student Success Services at Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC), fielded questions and discussed concerns related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Young, who also serves as a professor of history and political science, said that while the conflict is more than 5,000 miles away, the rest of the world is or will feel economic impacts.
With the current inflation issues caused by the scarcity of goods and issues with the supply chains, Young said the impacts are already being felt by the United States. “We can expect that issue to be exacerbated,” he said.
Russia is a significant supplier of natural gas and oil, and with the economic sanctions many western counties have placed against it, gas and oil prices are expected to rise.
However, he noted that the United States has ways to deal with any issues caused by the economic sanctions. “It will be much more severe obviously in Europe, because they have been so heavily dependent on oil and natural gas from Russia,” he said.
Young said other sectors also will be affected by the sanctions, including the availability and prices of wheat. “Russia is a big supplier of wheat and so is Ukraine. I think I read in a New York Times article that one-fourth of the world’s exports of wheat come from those countries,” he said.
While the wheat shortage won’t be felt as much in the United States, countries like Turkey, which is heavily dependent on that wheat export, will feel its effects.
Young added that Russia is also a big exporter of palladium, which is used in certain manufacturing processes that impacts automobile manufacturing to an extend and battery production for some devices.
Young said the conflict could be traced back to 2014 when pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine were removed from leadership.
“That’s what initially spiked the tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Sort of in response to that, the Russians basically took over parts of Crimea that had been Ukrainian territory,” he said.
Following the ousting of national pro-Russian leaders, the Donbas region, which has a large ethnic Russian population with pro-Russian views, saw the emergence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, two groups and self-proclaimed breakaway states that wanted to secede from Ukraine.
Young said the best-case scenario would have been for the conflict to be limited to the Donbas region. “Instead, it’s clear that Putin’s (Russian President Vladimir Putin) intent is for Russia to exercise control over all of Ukraine. So, I guess we could say that it’s a larger conflict than the rest of the world would have hoped for,” he said.
Because the invasion is so widespread, Young said there is potential for a significant humanitarian crisis to develop in Ukraine.
“The reports are now that the Russians have surrounded several of Ukraine’s largest cities. The Russians have picked up their aggressiveness as far as shelling those cities and attacking those cities, so we don’t know how bad things will get within those locations,” he said.
Since the start of the invasion, Young said there has been a notable strengthening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United States’ role within the organization.
“A few years ago, there were a lot of strains between the U.S. and NATO. President Trump had certainly questioned the need (for the U.S.) to be involved in NATO, and was concerned about how much money the U.S. was spending,” he said, and added that other presidents also had questioned the level of commitment of some NATO members due to financial perspectives and related to military spending.
Because of the ongoing conflict, Young believes those questions are disappearing. He noted that Germany recently announced a significant increase in military spending, while countries like Sweden and Finland, which have traditionally been lukewarm at best regarding NATO membership, are now rethinking and warming up to the idea.
“I think European nations and Canada and the U.S. have sort of coalesced around this invasion and they’ve been united in economic actions and political actions taken to try to isolate Russia and put pressure on them,” he said.
Young believes the United States and NATO will do everything possible to avoid a direct military conflict with Russia due to Russia’s nuclear weaponry. He said the Ukrainian proposed no-fly zone was immediately rejected by the United Kingdom and the U.S. because it would mean a NATO member would potentially shoot down Russian jets if it entered the zone, and “that leads to war.”
Putin also has said the creation of a no-fly zone would be viewed as an aggression.
Young said he also thinks other countries in the region will try to dissuade Russia from thinking it has the greenlight to go into other countries like it did Ukraine. “Of course, the U.S.’s stated position, and the position of all NATO countries has always been if you attack a NATO country, it’s like attacking all of the other countries,” he said.
Young added that it is highly unlikely that Russia will do anything to expand the conflict, because it is already facing economic and political consequences for the invasion of Ukraine.
Additionally, “it looks like there are a lot of folks in Russia who are protesting and who are unhappy about the impacts that this is having on their economy,” he said.