A year of war in Ukraine has reshaped the world in ways few had predicted. Far beyond the front lines, the ripple effects of Russia’s invasion have reordered lives and upended economies.
Here is a look at the war’s consequences in six key areas.
The war helped push global grain prices to record highs, given the importance of Russia and Ukraine as exporters of food crops including wheat. The United Nations warned that millions of people, especially in parts of Africa and the Middle East, were threatened with famine. In July, Moscow and Kyiv signed an agreement to release millions of tons of grain stuck in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports because of a de facto Russian naval blockade. Although Russia briefly suspended its participation in the deal in October, the agreement has largely held, and global grain prices have returned to prewar levels.
The war unleashed the worst global energy crisis since the 1970s. Energy prices soared in many parts of the world as nations reduced or cut off their purchases of Russian fossil fuels. In Europe, gas bills nearly doubled and electricity costs spiked about 70 percent in the first six months of the war. European Union diplomats in December agreed on a $60-per-barrel limit on the price at which Russian oil can be traded outside the bloc in another bid to deprive Moscow of revenue for the war. But with global supplies tight, Russia has remained a dominant exporter, selling more oil and gas to China and India over the last year.
The global economy was just emerging from the pandemic, and the energy crisis and slower growth contributed to higher inflation. Soaring prices ate away at people’s savings and paychecks, causing real wages to fall in many countries and slashing purchasing power. High inflation has become a political headache for leaders in countries including the United States, France and Britain, with governments raising spending to ease the pain for families and businesses using price caps, subsidies and reduced taxes.
President Biden said this week in Warsaw that “NATO is stronger than it’s ever been.” Mr. Putin may have hoped his invasion would exacerbate divisions in NATO, but the alliance has been galvanized. Finland, which shares a border with Russia, abandoned its policy of neutrality and applied to join the alliance, as did Sweden. NATO leaders have said they expect that both will win approval, although Turkey has raised objections over Sweden’s treatment of Kurdish groups that Ankara regards as terrorists. In September, Ukraine applied to join, although its bid is considered a long shot.
More than eight million Ukrainians fled as refugees to other parts of Europe, particularly in the early stages of the war, according to the United Nations refugee agency. Another five million are estimated to be displaced inside Ukraine. The highest number of refugees, more than 1.5 million, are registered in Poland. At the same time, the war has enhanced the influence on the continent of Poland and the Baltic States, which have embraced stout defense of Ukraine and pushed for greater and faster supplies of military aid. Europe’s traditional leaders, France and Germany, struggled early on with the delicate task of reorienting their longstanding policies of a European security structure that included cooperation with Russia.
China has walked a fine line during the war, calling for peace while refraining from criticizing Russia, an increasingly important partner. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, on a tour of Europe this week, told his Ukrainian counterpart that he did not want to see the war “prolonged and escalated.” At the same time, China is holding joint military drills with Russia and South Africa, and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, is expected to pay a state visit to Moscow in the spring. The Biden administration is watching closely for signs that China may cross the line into providing direct military support to Russia and has warned it against doing so, but Beijing has pushed back strongly against the U.S. accusations.