Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a ripple effect of emotional, physical and economic distress.
The independent country of Ukraine obviously sits at the head of that list, since it’s fighting for its very survival against overwhelming odds.
Other neighboring European countries, some bordering on the Russian Federation, also have taken courageous stands against this ruthless attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government and occupy a sovereign nation, ranging from accepting thousands of Ukrainian refugees to enacting harsh economic sanctions.
That includes both Switzerland and Sweden, longstanding neutral nations — even throughout World War II.
Some, like Germany, have virtually rewritten their constitutions in order to supply those outmanned Ukrainian forces with badly needed weapons, like handheld “fire and forget” rocket launchers.
In fact, the entire European Union, comprised of 27 countries, has undertaken harsh economic and diplomatic measures against Russia at a far greater risk than we in the U.S. can appreciate.
Here, we generate headlines because the average cost of a gallon of gasoline in Massachusetts climbed almost 50 cents in the past week, due to a rise in crude-oil prices, an international acknowledgement of this conflict’s destabilizing effect.
Crude oil prices are expected to increase above $130 per barrel.
Massachusetts motorists now spend an average of $4.15 per gallon, about a penny higher than the national norm.
And that could rise even higher if President Biden decides to make Russia pay an even higher price for its brutish behavior.
In 2020, the United States became a net exporter of petroleum for the first time since at least 1949, but returned to net importer status in 2021.
Although the vast majority of our imported oil comes from Canada — roughly 50% of the overall total — we still buy about 7% of our oil from Russia, the same amount we import from Saudi Arabia.
At this writing, the Biden administration has yet to play that sanction card, but if he does pull the plug on Russian oil, expect another jump in gas prices, which could exceed $5 or $6 per gallon in the near future.
While an inconvenience, it pales to the economic price the EU and other NATO countries potentially face.
Germany has canceled its participation in Nord Stream 2, a natural-gas pipeline originating in Russia.
But Germany, like many other European countries, relies heavily on Russia for that energy source, which supplies 50% of its needs.
Italy’s right behind Germany, importing about 40% of its natural gas from Russia. For Hungary, Slovenia and Slovakia, Russia supplies 60% of their natural gas.
In fact, the EU comprises the largest importer of natural gas in the world, according to its Directorate-General for Energy, with the biggest share coming from Russia (41%), Norway (24%) and Algeria (11%).
As in this country, natural gas fuels European countries’ power plants that provide electricity, as well as heating homes and businesses.
While we in the U.S. fret about the potential of $5 gasoline, Europe faces the possible loss of its main supplier of electricity generation and a primary heating source, for the combined sanctions imposed on Russia.
Blessed with abundant reserves of natural gas and the ability to produce significantly more oil, we in this country should take pause to understand that the greatest burden of Russia’s aggression falls squarely on Ukraine and other nations an ocean removed from our shores.
It’s a price they’re willing to pay — one that exponentially exceeds our minor gas pains.