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Valley to see rising prices from war in Ukraine

Conflict between Russia and Ukraine likely will have both short- and long-term consequences not only for those countries and the NATO alliance, but also to the pocketbooks of Valley residents who buy gasoline and wheat-based products or invest in the stock market.

Youngstown State University professor Brian Bonhomme and Kent State University associate professor Andrew Barnes both say the widening conflict will affect Americans.

Bonhomme, a professor of Russian and environmental history, said the conflict’s most immediate effect to Americans will be the dramatic rise in gas prices. “Americans will notice that,” he said.

Barnes, who has expertise in post-Communist transformations, comparative politics and international political economy, added the conflict also is affecting the stock market.

“Wall Street does not like uncertainty,” he said. “Its effect will depend on the level and the length of the slide.”

Bonhomme emphasized this conflict may weaken the North American Treaty Organization.

“The United States, which has been NATO’s leader, has been the world’s policeman since World War II and this can signal a change in its ability to maintain that role,” he continued.

Bonhomme said Russian leaders have been upset since many of the 15 nations that were under the Soviet Union broke away for independence.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland joined NATO in 1999; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia joined NATO in March 2004; and Albania joined in 2009.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in leading up to this week’s incursion into Ukraine, insisted that NATO guarantee it would not allow the country to join its treaty alliance.

Barnes, on the other hand, said Putin’s calculus may instead cause NATO members to work even closer together.

“Germany, for example, for a long time was hesitant to shut down the Nord Stream pipeline from Russia into Germany until the invasion,” Barnes said. “When it became a viable full-on attack, it is no longer theoretical. This could strengthen NATO by focusing it members on a common agenda.”

Barnes said he could not guess how this will affect the views of the American public.

“American public opinion about Russia has changed over the least decade.” he said. “As people begin to see the level of devastation, public opinion may shift in providing a greater level of support” for Ukraine. “We know that American leadership is in support of doing everything it can to assist.”

Barnes said this invasion is different than what occurred in the relatively bloodless incursion in Crimea during February and March 2014 when Russia annexed part of the peninsula from Ukraine into Russia.

“Russia had a long-term lease on a naval base in Crimea and it was concerned about losing access to it,” he said. “It appeared to have had a plan on the shelf to quickly and non-violently occupy that territory.”

Barnes said what happened in the eastern part of the country was not so neat, nor as well coordinated. “Russia-backed local militia have remained in low-grade conflicts,” he said. “Russia claimed what was happening were local conflicts.”

This time, Russia openly declared war on Ukraine by sending tanks and troops inside of its borders, so the world’s reaction may be different.

“This is an unprecedented conflict in Europe since World War II,” Barnes said. “It may lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Barnes does not expect the sanctions by the U.S. and its allies will have much of an immediate effect on Putin’s actions.

“They may, in the long term, put increased pressure on him,” he noted.

Russia, Barnes noted, may have some early victories, but guerrilla opposition by the Ukrainian people may keep its military busy for a long period.

“It is far too early to tell what will happen,” he said.

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