Situation Update #13: The Ukraine Crisis
Foreign Policy Brief #147 | By: Ibrahim Sultan | September 8, 2022
Header photo taken from: Heidi Levine / The Washington Post
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Here is a review of the major events in the Russia/Ukraine conflict during tke last two weeks.
Photo taken from: Reuters / Alexander Ermochenko
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has called for the establishment of a security zone around Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant to protect it from intense fighting. The occupation of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has sparked fears of a nuclear disaster as both sides trade blame for shelling the site. In 2021 more than half of Ukraine’s electricity was produced with nuclear power and it is likely that millions will now be without power during the coming winter.
Russia additionally has halted gas exports to Europe via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline. It cites punitive economic sanctions imposed by the West as responsible for the indefinite halt to gas supplies to Europe. Europe now faces its biggest energy crisis in decades as natural gas supplies from Russia have come to a complete halt. European gas prices spiked as much as 30% on Monday stoking renewed fears about shortages and gas rationing in the EU this winter.
Looking Eastward to Alleviate Economic Troubles
Photo taken from: Stanislav Kasilnikov / AP
Speaking at the eastern economic forum on Tuesday in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin said Russia saw more opportunities in entering markets in the Middle East and Asia rather than in the West. Of course, this is following the imposition of the most severe sanctions in modern history in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Putin said the sanctions are akin to a declaration of economic war. The Russian economy shrank by 4% from April to June compared to a year earlier and the economy is projected to experience a 12-15% inflation rate and have a deeper contraction next year.
Photo taken from: Zhao Juecheng / GT
Since the “Agreement Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes,” signed in Moscow on May 1972, Russia and the US have traditionally worked together on space exploration and science even when relations back on earth were fraught. With the end of the space shuttle program, Russian rockets over the previous decade were key in carrying American astronauts to the ISS.
However, recently with companies such as SpaceX having filled that void, there is no need for the US to rely on Russia to carry its astronauts, and tensions here on earth have made their way into space causing extraterrestrial cooperation to come to an end. Earlier this year Russia announced it would be pulling its participation with international partners from the ISS. It also announced that it plans to co-construct an international lunar research station with China.
This comes as the US and its partners announce a Lunar space station of their own. Both the US and China are spending billions of dollars to put humans back on the moon to gain access to resources on the lunar surface and possibly send spacecraft to Mars. Terrestrial rivalries are now making their way into space, creating factions where there was once cooperation with each country vying to become the dominant space power.
Demographic Cost of War
Photo taken from: Al Jazeera, The World Bank
Both Russia and Ukraine have not shared numbers of the number of soldiers killed and wounded. US intelligence agencies estimate that there are 80,000 Russian casualties, with about 15,000 Russian soldiers having died on the battlefield.
The Ukrainian side is estimated to have lost 10,000 soldiers, nearly 6,000 civilians, and millions who have fled the country. The number of lost lives presents a large problem for both countries, Russia and Ukraine have had declining populations since the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. Russia’s population fell by 311,000 in the first four months of 2022.
The outflows of working-age people as well as a low birth rate for those who remained behind have taken a toll on the demographics of both countries. Life expectancy in both Russia and Ukraine is about 66 years for men and 76 for women, one of the lowest in the developed world.
The birth rate in Ukraine stands at about 1.23 children per woman, and 1.5 in Russia which has in recent years pushed hard to increase the country’s birth rate. A low life expectancy, declining birth rate, and large emigration outflows have put the two countries in a tough spot for the future of their workforces, economies, and armies.
Recently in a show of the looming demographic crisis, the Russian government announced it was reviving the Soviet-era honorary title “Mother Heroine” for women who have 10 or more children. Any woman with 10 or more children would be awarded a lump sum of 1 million rubles ($16,645). The Ukrainian population is projected to shrink by about half over the course of the next generation or two, and Russia’s will likely shrink by 25%, assuming there is no migration to either country.
An important part of the reconstruction effort after the war will be for Ukraine to encourage refugees to return home and ensure a future for their country.