Welfens, P.J.J.: Russia’s Attack on Ukraine: Economic Challenges, Embargo Issues & a New World Order

JEL classification: F50, F51, N44, Q48

Key words: Ukraine war, Russia sanctions, economic effects of the war in Ukraine, US, EU, international economic order, aid for Ukraine


The launch of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, has resulted in great suffering for the people of Ukraine and has created turning point in Europe. Western countries and Japan have imposed very comprehensive sanctions against Russia, the aggressor. The country is largely politically isolated on the international stage, but seemingly has China - still - on its side. Large movements of refugees are to be expected, along with sharp price increases for gas and - somewhat less so - for oil, but also for wheat, with Russia and Ukraine being important exporter countries of that commodity representing together a combined 28% share of the world market. Some economists have suggested Germany impose an energy import boycott against Russia. A realistic analysis, however, arrives at significantly higher losses in real income than the 0.5% to 3% found, for example, by Bachmann et al. (2022), although additional retaliatory measures (e.g., tariff increases) by Russia and other effects must indeed also be considered: -6% in terms of real income and increased unemployment rates are conceivable as an overall effect in Germany; and there will be negative Russian spillover effects to central Asian countries which also have not been considered in the Bachman et al approach. On March 23rd, President Putin declared that Russia’s energy exports to “unfriendly countries” would have to be paid for in Rubles in the future, which is a clear strategic move in terms of the international economic conflict between the West and Russia. The latter could itself impose an energy supply boycott on Germany and also other EU countries. Additional supplies from, say, the US - in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) - would be limited in relation to the redistribution of supplies within the EU, as the pipeline network is still poorly integrated. Poland, Bulgaria, Austria, Germany and Italy are likely to face particular problems with natural gas supplies in the event of an energy import boycott. As of May 24th, 2022, US citizens will not be allowed to accept interest payments from either private Russian companies or the Russian state; this measure is peculiar and hardly compatible with the idea of a constitutional state, since even companies from Russia that are not actually in danger of bankruptcy will be artificially pushed toward bankruptcy – with the US switching to preventing Dollar bond payments to April 6th (due to the Russian massacre in Bucha, Ukraine), the first Russian bond interest payment missed concerned Russian Railways on April 11th. The very high current and expected numbers of refugees will have positive demand effects in certain countries in 2022 and positive supply effects in overall economic production thereafter. The global economy will be marked by a new economic slowdown and higher inflation rates in 2022/23; it could face a breakup into regional “blocs” and a reduced effectiveness of international economic organizations in the event of international economic conflicts. The weakening of the international legal order should be countered by OECD countries. The figures presented by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy for combined humanitarian, financial and military support to Ukraine are grossly misleading; if one takes into account the important spending on refugees from Ukraine and the corresponding (implied) pledges by OECD countries, EU spending in favour of the Ukrainian people is significantly higher than that of the US, and Germany's spending is also significantly higher than shown in the Kiel study. A new and lasting order for peace in Europe is urgently required. An EU eastern enlargement to include Ukraine will bring about new BREXIT-type risks and could destabilize the EU considerably.

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