Beyond Ukraine

The impact of the Ukraine crisis is spreading well beyond the country's borders. A plethora of industries and governments around the world are grappling with new shifts in power and resources.

In this series, we will look at areas throughout the world where the impact of conflict is less well-known, despite the fact that they have the capacity to change the international order as we know it. We want to help organisations navigate this often complicated issue so they may be best prepared for the future.
Last updated: 15 / 06 / 2022

The conflict in Ukraine has led to devastating effects on the Ukrainian people, with the daily lives of large swathes of the country now disrupted. Loss of life, displacement and the halting of large industry operations are just some of the many difficulties Ukraine faces, with no immediate end in sight, due to negotiations turning into a stalemate. Even if a resolution is reached, rebuilding Ukraine will be no short endeavour and the complete recovery of the country will take years.

Many people may view the conflict as another war happening from afar and as long as fighting is contained within the country, there is no need for global concern over the fates of other countries. Unfortunately the reality is starkly different - even if physical fighting does not extend beyond Ukraine’s borders, other changes have already come into effect elsewhere in the world, as a result of the conflict.

Owing to globalisation, states have long ceased to be self-contained entities. As a society, we are highly connected and dependent on one another on an international scale. Supply routes run globally for commodities such as energy, manufacturing and food. In addition to supply routes, the political nature of states themselves are based on the complex international network of alliances and foes.

Ukraine is a pertinent example of a state that is one of the world’s largest exporters, meaning if there is any disruption to their infrastructure, a global ripple effect on supply chains is created. In addition to Ukraine’s vast production capability, the current dynamic between Ukraine and Russia influences the security apparatus of several countries across all regions. Private and government entities need to look beyond Ukraine to fully anticipate how international relationships may shift due to the conflict. This is exactly what our series will address, ensuring our audience is aware of the transformations going on around them which are not always widely reported, but may have an impact on them nonetheless.

Below we have included a brief, thematic overview of the different spheres already undergoing significant changes due to the conflict. This will provide an introduction to the type of developments our series will unpack in greater detail.

Energy

Both Russia and Ukraine are large exporters of gas and oil, primarily to the EU. For Ukraine, ongoing conflict has placed obvious strain on exporting these goods. Throughout the conflict, there have been countless missile strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including oil depots and gas pipelines. Ukraine has the largest gas transit infrastructure in the world, as its capability is continually decreased, it is necessary for the international market to seek alternative sources.

This search is already testing states’ willingness to revisit their current relationships. For instance, Venezuela has a moderate level of oil exporting capability but it is currently under US sanctions. The notion of lifting sanctions has generated vast criticism, raising concerns over fuelling another authoritarian leader whilst in the midst of creating the present conflict.

The same issues goes for US-sanctioned Iran, who once they realised the gravity of the conflict in Ukraine, quickly amassed 150 million barrels of oil on ships off its coast in mid-April, in hopes the world may view them as a viable alternative and renew talks over the infamous nuclear deal.

Power balances are clearly changing as states that have been constrained for years by western sanctions, are sensing an opportunity of necessity produced by events in Ukraine. The choice whether to pursue these options is certainly not a simple one. Looking at Iran in particular, if sanctions were to be lifted in order to supply the broader international market, would increase funds to the state simply be funnelled to militant groups that carry out attacks elsewhere in the world? Missile strikes on Abu Dhabi Airport in January 2022 and recently in Erbil in March and April 2022 have been traced back to Iran-backed militias.

If the capability of such groups were increased, the Middle East may witness a higher volume of advanced attacks, which may in turn, reverse the chosen more diplomatic foreign policies adopted by regional powerhouses like the UAE.

The above examples are just a fraction of the possible scenarios that choosing alternative energy suppliers leads to. Governments will have to carefully navigate this to avoid enriching malicious actors as a result.

Food production

Akin to energy, Ukraine is a large food producer for the international market. Specifically, in 2021, Ukraine produced about 80 MMT of grain (a category that includes wheat, corn and barley) and is expected to harvest less than half of that this year. A shortfall of 40 MMT is enough missing calories that a country like the UK could only make it up by having everyone stop eating for three years, highlighting the impact of such a drastic decrease.

Asia is historically a big recipient of Ukrainian grain, vegetable oils and fertilisers. Similar to Iran and Venezuela, but without the constraints of western sanctions, India and Australia may be able to step up to the plate to fulfil the production lapse. Already a large agriculture exporter, Australia’s success could be further multiplied by farmers currently experiencing bumper grain harvests, yielding an unusually productive volume of crops.

With that being said, the Ukraine conflict has highlighted the fragility of international food supplies based on a singular conflict in one location. Whilst Australia may be able to fulfil the demand in Asia for now, there are concerns over Australia’s temperamental climate including wildfires and floods. If climate change continues at its current pace, an extreme weather event could cause a regional breakdown in food supplies, just as we have seen with Ukraine.

Political security

Perhaps one of the greatest international implications from the Ukraine conflict is the political security of several states. The immediate concern is from the states physically close to Ukraine, nervous of Putin’s potentially expansionist agenda to regain any Soviet-era territory and of course, NATO’s response to such an incursion. However, as our series will highlight, the subtle shifts already taking place have far-reaching consequences. As Russia becomes politically and economically isolated by sanctions, they will work to consolidate power in states less close with the West. In Africa we are witnessing this strategy with activities of the Wagner group, making governments such as the Central African Republic and Mali increasingly dependent on their military aid. These countries offer rich precious metal resources which, if the West does not pay attention to Russia’s activities elsewhere in the midst of Ukraine, will lose out on particular resource contracts.

Finally, the Ukraine conflict may embolden state actors to pursue the same path as Russia. Our series will look at Taiwan in detail, and the likelihood of China to seize the mood and attempt to take back Taiwan. As with every incident of this nature, such a step would trigger international repercussions, specifically testing the United States’ dedication to Taiwan.

The take-away from our series will show the necessity for the world to not only look at Ukraine internally, but beyond Ukraine. There is no doubt the conflict acts as another butterfly effect incident of the twenty first century. We have seen these types of incidents occur before; 9/11 being another which changed the course of many countries' futures, the effects of which are still experienced today. To avoid another short-sighted approach, the ongoing global transformations must be identified and carefully harnessed to maintain international stability.

Beyond Ukraine so far

Putin’s playbook in the Western Balkans

By Amber Meadows
March 17, 2022

In the first instalment in our ‘Beyond Ukraine’ series, we have looked at the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). This includes providing a deeper understanding of recent developments in the country, and what the conflict could mean for Bosnia’s sensitive political environment. Bosnia has one of the most complex political systems in Europe, to understand what is currently unfolding, we have to revisit how the current system came to be.
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Geopolitics, self-determination and preparedness in Taiwan

By Laura Hawkes
March 31, 2022

For the second instalment of our Beyond Ukraine series, where we analyse the wider, international impact of the invasion of Ukraine, we have assessed the influence this conflict could have on the geopolitics and stability of Taiwan. Beijing considers self-ruled Taiwan to be a breakaway Chinese province that must be taken back, by force if necessary.
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The mystery missile attack in Erbil

By George Dagnall
April 13, 2022

For the third instalment of our Beyond Ukraine series, where we analyse the broader, global impact of the invasion of Ukraine, our consultants deployed to northern Iraq to assess the influence this conflict could have on the geopolitics and stability of Kurdish Iraq; and why exactly it has become a target of Iranian attacks.
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Putin’s chef serves the CAR on a silver platter

By Amber Meadows
April 27, 2022

For the fifth instalment of our Beyond Ukraine series, we have assessed the influence this conflict has had on the geopolitics and stability of Libya. As Ukraine's invasion continues, and its impact is felt around the world, it is useful to determine what are the intersections with other conflict zones, such as Libya, and in saying so, how Russian interests and operatives there too are impacted.
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Russia's shifting strategy and secret mercenaries in Libya

By Laura Hawkes
May 12, 2022

For the fifth instalment of our Beyond Ukraine series, we have assessed the influence this conflict has had on the geopolitics and stability of Libya. As Ukraine's invasion continues, and its impact is felt around the world, it is useful to determine what are the intersections with other conflict zones, such as Libya, and in saying so, how Russian interests and operatives there too are impacted.
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We will be looking at:
  • Geopolitical risk
  • Impact and implication assessments
  • Conflict indicators
  • State and corporate security threats
  • State identity
  • Resource fragility
and more, over the coming weeks and months.