Ukraine: the war that will damage Alaska
The tension between Russia and Ukraine will hurt Alaska, which has significant trade with Russia, China, and other countries in the area, as well as Canada. The conflict may not break out until the second half of March, so there is still time for peace, but not much: the countdown of the war clock is “ticking” away.
February 22 marks eight years of armed clashes between Russia and Ukraine, since 2014 when nationalist and pro-European demonstrations (Euromaidan) resulted in dozens of deaths and the fall of the pro-Russian Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Russia then invaded the Crimean Peninsula and the Dombash war broke out between Ukraine and Russia.
Since January 2022, Ukraine’s possible entry into NATO and its rapprochement with the European Union (EU) has angered Russian President Vladimir Putin, who considers it a threat to national security and a challenge to Russia’s political and economic influence. Europe fears a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin has the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The EU and NATO’s unity of external action is compromised. The United States announced in February the dispatch of three thousand troops to Eastern Europe (Poland, Romania, and Germany), to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Any tactical move can be a ‘casus belli’ (provocation of war) and peace has never been more at risk since the end of the Cold War.
Alaska, 3.7 km from Russia
The coast of Alaska is 82 kilometers from the Russian Autonomous District of Chukotka on the mainland and 3.7 kilometers in the Bering Strait, where the Diomedes, or Gvózdev, islands are located. The western island, Diomedes Major, is Russian; the eastern, Diomedes Minor, belongs to Alaska. Our state experiences frequent maneuvers by Russian military aircraft bordering U.S. airspace, but without violating it. These flights provoke the takeoff of US Air Force fighters to intercept them.
Repercussions in Alaska
If Russia invades Ukraine, the conflict will damage Alaska because it maintains significant trade with Russia, China, and other countries in the area, plus Canada.
Alaska’s largest imports and exports are traditionally with Asia. In September 2021, our state exported primarily to China ($164M), Canada ($156M), South Korea ($136M), Japan ($119M) and Germany ($92.5M). The largest increase in these exports was in zinc ores and concentrates, frozen fish, and fish fillets. These five countries have accounted for approximately 75% of our foreign sales for almost a decade.
As for imports, Alaska’s main supplier countries are South Korea ($205M), Canada ($82.7M), Vietnam ($63.2M), Russia ($37.9M) and Germany ($35.6M). Traditionally, South Korea, Canada, China, and Russia are usually, in that order, the top four exporters to Alaska and account for over 80% of our imports.
War can wait
Sol de Medianoche has contacted Hispanics in Kiev (Ukraine) and Moscow (Russia), as well as Ukrainians and Russians who have, or have had, ties to the Latino world. Curiously, they tell us that life in both capitals is going on with a certain normality, except for the fact that store supplies in the Ukrainian capital are starting to be scarce. There is no “pre-war atmosphere,” but there is the reproach towards Western countries that they have not considered, so far, that armed clashes have been constant for eight years (2014), due to the Russian invasion of Crimea and the war in the border region of Dombas.
“There seems to be more war consciousness in Brussels and Washington,” one of them tells us ironically, alluding to the capitals of the European Union and the United States, respectively.
Putin has the support of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who for his part has been maintaining his particular open “trade war” against the United States since Trump’s presidency. Russia and China can agglutinate the support of other countries, mainly Eastern, many of them declared enemies of the USA, as in the case of North Korea, Syria, or Iran.
The stakes are high, but Xi Jinping is not willing to allow an international war to dampen the Winter Olympic Games, which have been taking place in Beijing since Friday, February 4, and which will end with the Paralympic Games on Sunday, March 13. Until then, it seems that the war can wait. From then on, we will see how things develop.