As we continue to evaluate whether or not we should see the Ukrainian War as a postnormal phenomenon or as something else, we must look beyond the 3Cs and their overlap, onto the characteristics of postnormal change: Speed, Scope, Scale, and Simultaneity. The 4S's.
Today many reporters and experts often look for similarities between the Chechen and Ukrainian wars. However, one critical difference is found in the speed with which the events unfolded. The Chechen wars that Russia led in the early1990s, especially the First War in 1994-1996, occurred in a relative slow-motion; any radical actions and claims (as in Budenovsk) took place months after its beginning and the territory’s occupation. In the case of Ukraine, rapid escalation had Putin threatening the world with nuclear weapons only a week after the invasion. Also, causalities in the earlier weeks of the conflict far exceeded the toll of all previous Russian aggressions. Though it is almost impossible to determine definitive figures of the dead and captured from either by the Russian or Ukrainian, it is confirmed that within the first three weeks of the war, the Russian army lost four major generals, which was greater than what had been lost during the decade long war in Afghanistan over thirty years prior.
The cascading effects were unprecedented. Vladimir Putin had to discard his initial plans for an easy military operation on the Ukrainian territory with a handful of inexperienced soldiers. Advanced recruitment was called for at the onset of the war, which triggered an exudation of the male Russian population from the country. As for the Ukrainians, the invasion pushed the level of national consciousness to the extreme. Throughout the country, people consolidated themselves into organized self-defence militias. The sanctions that the EU and the US imposed on Russia achieved what all previous decades of green economics and the Paris Agreement failed to do. As Russia supplies from 10% to 25% of the world’s oil, gas, and coal export, many European countries experienced a shock by an unexpected cut in their supplies. This has added increased urgency for the creation of an energy system that depends on solar, wind, and nuclear reactors.
The wars in Afghanistan, Syria, or Iran paled in comparison to the global impacts unleashed by the Ukrainian war. The global economy was hit first, being the most fragile component of the world order due to the disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fearful expectations for the future were already the standard, now even more so. And there are many reasons for that. Firstly, both Russia and Ukraine belong to the “breadbasket of the world,” supplying nearly 30% of the world's wheat. The Ukrainian ban on exporting wheat, oats, and other staples to avoid a humanitarian crisis has sent some ripples over the global food market. The rising prices encouraged the producers and disheartened the leading importers. In the past, these same triggers set off the turmoil and tumult of the Arab Spring.
But now, the turbulence has been felt deep into the heart of the Western economy, causing a commodity crisis. Since the beginning of the war, commodity prices rose 26% higher than at the start of 2022. The crude oil market experienced the biggest supply shock since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The panic broke up in Europe, almost tripling gas prices due to the fear that the eastern pipelines might be blown up. The rocket-speed rise of nickel prices put a halt to trading in London. Though the world is less sensitive to the energy crisis now than it was in the 1970s – yet last year, the EU relied on Russian for 40% of its gas consumption – food is still critical for the majority of the global population.
The war is altering billions of lives. The Ukrainians are already googling "how to leave in a nuclear war". Russians are flooding the checkpoints of neighbouring countries. While international brands have abandoned the Russian market, their local substitutes pop up everywhere to fill in the vacuums left behind.
The sign over the building “Pel'mennaya” (Dumpling House) Photo from Chehov Times, VK
While the EU and the US increase weapon supplies to Ukraine and the number of sanctions on Russia, they have to make up plans for internal economics and paralleled domestic political turmoil. Soon, Western leaders will need to face furious voters, particularly in the US’s mid-term elections in November 2022. So, what might they reap in their homelands while protecting the world against an aggressor? In addition to higher interest rates and taxes, more ethnic tension, and disbalance between rich and poor nations appears likely where it is not already being experienced.
In coping with the 4S’s we need to remain alert as to what else can come up in the long run, and what unthoughts this war might still bring about?
Vachagaev, Mairbek. (2022). Voyny Rossii v Chechne i Ukraine – v chem skhpdstva? [Russia’s Was in Chechnya and Ukraine: What are the Similarities?]. Kavkaz. Reality. April 8. https://www.kavkazr.com/a/voyny-rossii-v-chechne-i-ukraine-estj-li-shodstvo/31788584.html
Kochkina, Katerina. (2020). Khronologiya Pervoy Chechenskoy Voyny [The Timeline of the First Chechen War]. Nastoyaschee Vremya. June 12. https://www.currenttime.tv/a/budyonnovsk-25-years-war-timeline/30665967.html