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How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could affect West Michigan


As Russian forces continue to advance into Ukraine Friday, the affect on the rest of the world is beginning to take shape. 

Immediate reaction saw the United States and other nations levy sanctions against Russia, but the attack is likely to influence things around the globe, especially financially.

More: Russia hits Kyiv with gunfire, rockets but US says Moscow’s momentum has slowed – live updates

Heather Tafel, a political science professor at Grand Valley State University, said potential ramifications for the rest of the world could include other European countries and NATO members increasing defense efforts and the potential increase of refugees leaving Ukraine amid the conflict.

“That’s something that has been a major issue in Europe since at least 2015 with refugees from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Libya,” she said. “What European countries will do in terms of refugees is another part of this.” 

As for West Michigan, Tafel said the most immediate effects will be seen at the gas pump with potential energy and stock market effects down the road depending on how long conflict persists.

“Oil prices are the most immediate one likely to be affected,” she said. “In the future, potentially energy prices as well. Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter, although that affects Europe more directly.

“Other than general price increases and increasing pressure on inflation, that is what people in West Michigan are going to feel.”

To that end, gas prices in Michigan already began rising Thursday morning. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, discussed the situation during a press conference Feb. 24.

Due to Michigan’s price cycling system, DeHaan said, stations in the state were already increasing prices to $3.49 per gallon Thursday. The state average was $3.36 on Monday.

“Our price hike alert system detected stations starting to go up,” he said Thursday. “A lot of that has already spread out and that will likely spread very quickly given that prices are up significantly. Stations will likely, almost all of them, go up to $3.49 (by Friday).”

The roots of the conflict have been in place for some time, Tafel said. She pointed to a pair of revolutions in Ukraine — the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 — as two events that Russia sees, without evidence, as coups to bring fascists to power.

She said the Russian government has been “relatively successful” in convincing the Russian public that the US and NATO were behind these events.

Tafel added claims by Russian President Vladimir Putin of wanting to “denazify” Ukraine are misinformed and “problematic in its foundation.” 

Tafel, an expert on Russia and post-communist Europe who has done extensive research on Putin, also commented on discourse in the United States about whether a different presidential administration would have been able to keep this situation from happening.

“This is beyond, in a lot of ways, U.S. partisan politics. I believe this would have happened irrespective of the president in office,” she said. “ I was not entirely in agreement with the Biden administration statement that invasion was inevitable, but I commend them for revealing intelligence and trying to bring NATO members together so they were all in agreement that what Russia is doing is unprovoked against Ukraine.

“I think it’s important to consider that the U.S. is not in the middle of this. I’m not sure any president would have been able to stop Russia, short of deploying U.S. troops into Ukraine.”

— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at mboatman@hollandsentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch





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