A year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked the largest conflict in Europe since World War II, the repercussions continue to reverberate around the world. Not only has the war in Ukraine set off a geopolitical realignment, but it has caused economic hardship far from the epicenter of the fighting.
The Feb. 24, 2022, invasion has touched off a refugee crisis, as Ukrainians flee the conflict in their homeland and many Russian men seek to avoid conscription. Meanwhile, it has spurred a process toward expanding NATO, with Finland and Sweden pursuing membership after decades of official neutrality.
Ukraine and Russia are key exporters of wheat, barley, corn and cooking oil, particularly to African and Middle Eastern countries. Turkey and the United Nations brokered a deal last summer to allow Ukrainian grain to pass through Black Sea ports, but Russia is reportedly still hindering shipments. Russia is also a major producer of fertilizer and petroleum. Disruptions to the flow of these goods are compounding other supply chain and climate challenges, driving up food and gas prices and causing shortages in places such as Chad, Tunisia and Sri Lanka.
More than 8 million refugees have fled Ukraine in what the World Health Organization describes as "the largest movement of people in the European Region since the Second World War." Many have been involuntarily relocated by Russia. Others have put a strain on resources, as well as schools and hospitals, in Poland and Germany.
A 21st century war in Europe — led by a nuclear power — is pushing the world toward realignment. It has rattled NATO, the European Union and the U.N., forcing countries to take sides in ways that have led to escalating tensions and diplomatic shifts. For example, Turkey, despite being a NATO member, has increased trade with Russia since the start of the war and has thrown up objections to allowing Sweden and Finland into the alliance.
Russia is one of the world's largest producers of oil and fuel. European countries have banned the Russian oil, gas and diesel they relied on, which initially caused a steep spike in prices. However, moves by European nations to lock in alternative sources, along with conservation efforts and a mild winter, have largely alleviated those price hikes. Now prices have returned to pre-invasion levels.
Russia has more nuclear weapons than any other country. Its attack on Ukraine has notably reenergized NATO, with the U.S. and other member states funneling tens of billions of dollars worth of military equipment into Ukraine. Early weapons deliveries included anti-tank rockets such as the U.S.-made Javelin. In the latest moves, the U.S., Germany and Britain have promised to provide state-of-the-art tanks.
NPR's Will Chase, Alex Leff, Pam Webster, Desiree Hicks and Nishant Dahiya contributed to this report. The text and graphics build on previous work by Alina Selyukh, Connie Hanzhang Jin and Nick Underwood. [Copyright 2023 NPR]