Ukrainian conflict to impact gas prices, market

Escalating tensions in Ukraine will translate into the daily lives of Americans, predicted some local experts on Monday.

“Russia remains one of the world’s greatest producers of oil and natural gas,” said David Darrow, associate professor of history and director of the university honors program at the University of Dayton. “If you think gas prices have been volatile recently, this can only make things worse.”

Financial markets also have started to reel from the Ukrainian conflict, which flared over the weekend when Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into Crimea. That part of Ukraine is home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Reflecting concerns about possible economic sanctions of Russia, the Dow Monday sunk 153 points.

“Financial markets don’t like political instability,” Darrow said. “You’re going to feel it in your pocketbook when you go to the pump and you’re going to feel it in your retirement account.”

Russia is a significant supplier of natural gas to Europe and that means big money for the country, Darrow said. Transit lines for natural gas run through Ukraine into western Europe.

“Western Europe is heavily reliant on Russian natural gas,” he said. “That really limits the ability of the EU to throw its weight around.

“Selling natural gas to western Europe is one of the Russian Federation’s biggest sources of hard currency.”

The long-standing conflict between Russia and Ukraine dates back for centuries. The recent conflict centers on a dispute about whether the country should ally itself with the European Union or whether it should align itself with Russia, said Donna Schlagheck, chair of political science of Wright State University.

“Germans always wanted to get as many of the former Soviet Republics out of the Russian sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union,” Schlagheck said.

Russia, she said, is trying to push its borders out as far as possible. “Russia’s always been weak,” she said. “They’re insecure.

But, she added, “They want to be a great player and be part of the game.”

The worst possible scenario is a potential U.S. military confrontation with Russia, Schlagheck said. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this week, hopefully will be able to ease some of the tensions, she said.

Anastasiya Bilousko, who is a law student in Kiev, and was an exchange student at Graham High School in St. Paris in 2007, said Monday she has family in Crimea. Her cousin and uncle are Naval officers and her cousin is “protecting military bases from the attack of Russian soldiers.”

“We are very terrified about Russian troops in Crimea,” Bilousko said. “We finally deserve peace and European future but Putin treats our country as his colony. Ukrainians cannot win this fight for real independence without the help of the civilized democratic countries.”

Bilousko said local people can help by encouraging legislators to assist Ukraine and ask the American government to impose personal sanctions on Russian government officials who support war.

In southeastern Ukraine, there are two cities, Donetsk and Karikiv, that are heavily industrial cities where pro-Russian factions are, said Karen Dawisha, director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and post-Soviet Studies at Miami University. Those cities, that section of the economy, is very Russian-dependent and pro-Russian, Dawisha said. A significant part of the rest of Ukraine is pro-European Union, she said.

“Russia is not standing down,” Dawisha said. “Russia is going forward with the de facto annexation of Crimea. They are installing pro-Moscow leadership in Crimea.”

Bilousko said Ukrainians are not as divided as Russia wants the world to believe.

“Our nation is not that divided as they might have heard from the news,” she said. “Russians try to convince the whole world that Ukraine wants to be with Russia. It is not true. There are people who want that, but there are really not a lot of them. The majority of Ukrainians want to get closer to Europe and finally get a real independence.”

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