Here are four ways the world has changed in the 10 days since war returned to Europe.
The invasion of Ukraine didn’t usher in a new era of big power politics. It was the violent exclamation point confirming one of the most significant changes in the geopolitical world order since 9/11.
By that time, Putin had already shown he was keen to upend the post-Cold War order.
But Putin remained an important player and partner, albeit an unsavory one, for leaders from Washington to Warsaw during the 2010s. Russia was important factor in the fight against ISIS; Europe’s main energy supplier; and helped negotiate major diplomatic pacts like the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Last week’s invasion may have ended that. After a quarter century of the Western world dealing with Putin, he may have finally pushed the envelope and become a pariah.
In response, the Western world has hit Russia with unprecedented sanctions that have crippled its financial institutions, sending its economy and the ruble into a tailspin, and even targeted Putin and some of his inner circle personally.
A more unified Europe
Though the bloc has for years been one of the world’s most powerful economic players, it had failed to turn that strength into equivalent geopolitical might. The EU has, historically, been divided over exactly how much central control Brussels should have over foreign policy. This has stood in the way of the EU’s lofty global ambitions, as policy proposals were watered down in negotiations or simply vetoed.
Europe’s thinking on defense, security and foreign affairs has evolved light years in the matter of a few days. It is now waking up from a decades-long dream that the stability provided by an interconnected world would prevent war breaking out and that, should the worst happen, America would sort it out.
The shock of war returning to Europe has unified the EU’s 27 member states. The bloc is now wielding its economic might for geopolitical purposes, targeting Russia with the strongest package of sanctions it has ever imposed.
The bloc has, for the first time ever, provided finance to purchase weapons for Ukraine. Germany, which has for decades been averse to a militarized approach to foreign policy, is now taking part in arming Ukraine and boosting its own military spending in response to the invasion.
A million people on the move
“I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years, and rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees.
The future of the refugees remains unclear. If Russia topples the democratically elected Ukrainian government, will these people want to return home? And what if, after the fighting, they no longer have homes to return to?
Food and fuel
The fighting in Ukraine has had economic and human costs across the globe, especially when it comes to energy.
The conflict is also a pocketbook issue that could determine whether families can put food on the table. In Ukraine alone, three to five million people are going to need food support immediately, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley said.
But Russia and Ukraine are also some of the world’s leading producers of wheat. Together, they account for 23% of all global exports, according to S&P Global.
Though Ukraine is dubbed the breadbasket of Europe, concerns are particularly acute in the Middle East — Kyiv’s third-largest wheat buyer in the 2020/2021 market year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. More than 40% of the country’s recent wheat exports went to the Middle East or Africa alone.
CNN’s Luke McGee, Matt Egan, Chris Isidore, Nadeen Ebrahim and Eoin McSweeney contributed to this report
Four ways the world has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine