I’ve been reading, watching, and consuming different perspectives regarding the potential invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. I’ve written earlier that I see little stopping Russia from invading.
Now I have to question if Russia is the aggressor, or if the U.S. and NATO are egging them on? I think it may be some of each. The threat of war benefits both Putin and Biden by distracting their citizens from bad news, like inflation and COVID. It gives the talking heads something to discuss rather than the cost of gas. Blaming Putin also gives Europeans dealing with increasing electricity and heating prices a boogeyman so they won’t take their anger out on their leadership.
The problem is, when you beat war drums, sometimes you get a war. While threats, rather than bullets and bombs, may be the strategy at the top level, the guy in the tank or the trench doesn’t know that. One mistake, one “oops,” and a battle could start. Somebody fires a barrage by mistake; someone on the other side d fires back. In moments, soldiers up and down the line are firing. Will commanders on the ground be able to pull back and break off? Or will a perceived threat that happened by accident kickoff a war?
Then there’s the question of timing. Some say Putin won’t insult the Chinese by invading during the Olympics. The counter argument is that this would be the perfect time because people are distracted. Others say this is the perfect time because the ground is frozen, so Russian armor won’t get bogged down in the mud.
The U.S. says Putin wants to occupy Kiev. I don’t doubt it. The question is, can Putin politically sustain the losses it would take to hold it? Biden has mentioned a minor incursion, but no one can consider seizing the capital to be minor. The U.S. would be forced to act. Even the UN might have to take notice.
Ukraine says it doesn’t think an invasion is imminent and has warned Biden to tone down his rhetoric. The threat of war is disrupting their economy. I would expect some Ukraine citizens are taking long vacations in other countries.
What this Means to You and I
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that in February, Russia invades Ukraine. What does that mean to those of us safely ensconced in the U.S.?
Higher Energy Prices
I expect the cost of gasoline and natural gas will jump immediately after an invasion. First, because we will send every available BTU of natural gas to Europe as LNG to heat the homes of people who relied on gas from Russia. That kind of demand will drive up costs. It may also shut down some industry in Europe, which could cause a ripple of effects throughout the economy and problems such as an even greater shortage of fertilizer.
Second, that kind of market disruption causes uncertainty, which makes people rush out to lock in supplies, driving futures contracts higher. This could contribute to more economic woes, not only in the U.S., but globally.
Possible Cyber Attacks
If Biden slaps a bunch of sanctions on Russian banks and companies, expect Russia to unleash its hackers. They could target U.S. banks and businesses in revenge. Worse, they could launch electronic attacks on our utilities, leaving parts of the country without power. Last year’s attack on the pipeline that caused a weeklong gasoline shortage in the South and Mid-Atlantic states could be just a taste of what we should expect.
That means you must be able to weather some service disruptions, not only with utilities, but in other areas. For example, they hit multiple towns and counties with ransomware attacks last year. Sometimes these disrupted computers used by 911 operators and emergency services. What’s stopping Russia and its troops of hackers from disrupting these services again, plus hospitals, trucking companies, food suppliers, grocery business, etc?
Other Unconventional Attacks
We think of unconventional war as guerrilla warfare or resistance fighters operating against organized military units, but if we are at loggerheads with Russia, it might include clandestine warfare that we have not seen since the cold war. This could include anything from aiding and arming terrorist groups who wish to make attacks in Europe and the U.S. to assassinations. When the gloves come off, we should expect to see more incursions into our air space, Russian boats threatening fishing boats in international waters, arrests of Americans for made up reasons, “accidents” in space, and other disruptive actions or secret attacks that are not definitely linked to Russia.
My advice would be to cancel any travel plans to Russia. You don’t want to become a hostage or a bargaining chip.
A quick “shock and awe” campaign in which Russia quickly takes Kyiv and continues to push west could embolden Russia and cause panic in Poland and other Eastern European countries. NATO troops would flow into member countries that border Ukraine. This would also be a tremendous loss for Biden, who many American voters would see as too weak to stop Russia.
A long, drawn-out ground war in which a Russian attack bogs down partway into Ukrainian territory would be another worst-case scenario because it would last so long. Ukraine might try to draw in other countries to provide arms and money to support it. Our CIA would no doubt funnel arms to Ukrainian resistance fighters, and we’d probably have Special Forces personnel in the country assisting them and gathering intelligence.
Either scenario would be bad for Europe, as refugees would pour into neighboring countries and make their way across Europe. Poland would panic, thinking they were next. Finland and other countries might decide to join NATO, which could anger the Russians even further.
How to Prep for it
Besides topping off your gasoline storage tanks and having plenty of drinkable water on hand, continue to stockpile food, ammunition, spare parts, pet and livestock feed, and any equipment you might need in the next three to six months. For example, if you have not ordered your seeds for this spring, you should do so.
I would also lock in a source of income and look for a side gig or second job, as this could hurt both the stock market valuations and the economy. That can lead to layoffs and company closures. Likewise, continue with efforts to make yourself and your family as self-reliant and self-sufficient as possible.