A raft of sanctions and travel changes may be coming for global travelers due to the Ukrainian war, but what are they?
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Update: Russia/Ukraine War
The Russian military has been circling the capital city of Kyiv for several days. Despite a 40-mile convoy, Ukrainian soldiers have been able to repel some of the Russian invasion. According to reports, Russian forces captured several cities though key strongholds like the Black Sea port city of Odessa has been able to avoid Russian troops for now. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe was under siege and on fire putting a significant area at risk for a nuclear disaster.
Ukrainian officials and several news sources have estimated the number of refugees to exceed 1.45 million people. Still, the task is daunting and talks between President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zalensky for a ceasefire broke down this week.
The United Nations put a resolution to a vote condemning Russia’s actions. Just five nations voted against the resolution, this post explores collateral damage of the 35 nations that abstained from the vote.
Restrictions and Sanctions
The United States and the European Union have issued a raft of sanctions. Those nations along with Canada, Australia, and many others have closed airspace to Russian flights (note: this linked article is excellent.) This has essentially ended major international flights for Russia but has also adversely affected other countries that fly over the largest nation in the world as the Russian Federation reciprocated with a similar no-fly zone.
In the years since the end of the USSR, Russian investments have spread throughout the world further complicating a prohibition on Russian businesses.
Oil Prices and Cost Increases
Reuters estimates that the US imports 20.4MM barrles of oil (bbl) monthly or between 8-10% of all US oil imports (2021 data.) At the current price of $115/bbl, some have raised the point that the US is in essence financing Russia’s war with more than $28bn in annual revenue. The Biden Adminstration is said to be considering a ban on Russian oil imports which industry experts believe could push prices to $150/bbl.
“But even in the event of no sanctions on Russian oil, prices are set to remain very high and jump higher still because buyers and refiners are in a “self-sanctioning” mode, not daring to touch Russian crude and looking for alternative supplies.” – Oilprice.com
However, banning Russian oil will only ensure more pain at the pump which adversely affects travelers both through airline tickets as well as car travel. A Russian oil ban would also have knock-on effects throughout the wider economy due to higher costs of transportation for ordinary goods. That pushes airline ticket prices higher because of the supplies that feed those flights and doesn’t spare hotels, or taxis. The global economy has been besieged by 40-year high inflation levels, but now the absence of Russian oil will only compound the issue.
What can’t be understated is that demand for non-Russian oil as other countries reject Russian supply will push prices higher than any direct relationship to the loss of this one exporter due to scarcity of large volume providers with excess capacity.
Rerouting Flights Over Russian Air Space
Japan Airlines significantly altered a flight to New York to avoid Russian air space and cut some European flights. Finnair has stated its business model (connecting the United States and Europe to Asia) is “no longer economically sustainable.” United continued to fly over Russia (until this week) for Indian destinations which are now nearly impossible from the US west coast non-stop.
If the current restrictions remain in place, airlines and their customers are going to have to adapt. Some non-stop flights to Asia from the US east coast might make a technical stop in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Hawaii adding time and cost to the trip. Flights to the Inidian subcontinent might require a connection in southeast Asia, Africa, or Europe.
On the periphery of the Russia flight issue are countries that are not directly related to the conflict but may participate in some sort of a limited air space blockade. For example, if Cuba were to take a stronger stance with Russia and block European, Canadian, and US flights and airspace access, destinations like Jamaica, the Dutch Antilles, and the Cayman Islands would face serious additional cost and flight time. The same goes for Panama, Colombia, and Costa Rica in the Caribbean alone.
Moral Hazards of Traveling to Russian Partners
Nations that voted against the UN resolution are not likely to attract a great deal of travelers at the moment. Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea, and Syria have cordoned themselves off from the world through support of the war in Ukraine. However, a number of other countries that abstained from the vote or have not taken actions against Russia could pose a moral hazard for travelers.
Here are some of the 35 countries that abstained from the resolution that travelers may reconsider visiting:
- South Africa
Other countries, notably Mexico, has announced it will not pursue sanctions and has not closed airspace to Russian flights. This, in essence, is a choice for tourism dollars over moral fortitude. Mexico voted for the resolution along with 140 other countries, but then remained as one of the few tourist destinations in the world with a red carpet remaining in place for Russian visitors.
The question this poses to me, is whether there is a moral obligation to avoid those places who have aligned or intentionally not aligned against my views.
As the Russia/Ukraine war continues into yet another bloody week, our prayers are with Ukraine. It’s more than a platitude for me, I have four Ukranian nieces and nephews, ties to the region, and nearly connected in Kyiv, Ukraine returning from Armenia. Foreign policy matters are for another writer to cover, but as they pertain to travel and the new map we are seeing drawn with additional challenges just as the world reopens, travel providers and travelers face a new world, or potentially a very 30-year-old one.
What do you think? Will travel fundamentally change (routes, time, and distance?) Will travelers punish a country’s neutrality? Should they or does that penalize local tourism providers caught in the crosshairs?
Yup, banning Russian oil will make things more expensive. That’s the price we all pay to show a megalomaniac dictator that decisions have consequences.
Two points, 80% of the American public support paying high pump prices in exchange for oil auctions. However, The issue with these, and most likely why Biden is hesitating, is that Russia will just turn around and sell that oil to China and India. Unless of course we strike a quiet deal that the two countries will not buy excess oil from them.
Second, as you cited, which flights from the U.S. east coast to Asia would stop in LAX, SFO, or HNL for technical reasons? That’s way off the routing and incorrect. Any technical stops would most likely be at ANC. Further, which flights actually even need this? The old days of technical stops back in the 80’s on airlines like Korean from NYC were a result older aircraft types (747-200). Almost all modern aircraft would still be able to do what’s necessary to most destinations without a technical stop from the U.S. east coast. The only flights I see now needing technical stops are U.S. – India on the U.S. carriers.
“Japan Airlines significantly altered a flight to New York” should be “London” instead
Sorry, there was one of each but I included the link for London, and not for New York.
I think there is a moral obligation for USA and UK to start airlifting in refugees NOW. Around 1.5 Million Refugees already in Eastern Europe and Zero commitment from Biden on Refugees is a disgrace. BoJo mentioned a disappointing 200K which was corrected by Priti Patel to be 100K with a dozen strings attached while Dominic Raab acted like he had just heard the word Refugee for the first time in his life.
There is also a moral obligation to scrap the Casus Belli of the conflict – The Blinken-Ukraine Charter of Nov 2021 – https://www.state.gov/u-s-ukraine-charter-on-strategic-partnership/
Great post. Thanks for pointing out the moral obligation.
I’m supposed to travel to India and Dubai in May. This trip was postponed two years because of the pandemic. That being said, given recent developments I’m really struggling on if this is a good idea and if I should go to either of these places out of moral obligation, as well as the increased logistics of traveling there.
We are all in this together. And we will all sacrifice for ukraine.
Why only hit russian oligarchs? American oligarchs are no different. Some have grown rich the genuine way by improving quality of life for everyone. Rest have grown rich by lobbying, bribing and getting sweet, targeted tax deals. And the ones in congress have grown rich indsider trading. Time to take some wealth away from these two faced posers.
we are heartened by people from free world responding to call for fighters and people moving to ukraine to fight. But there are no women. All men. Women want equal rights but not equal responsibilities. It’s time free countries to brainwash women to think it’s ok to be blown to pieces. Feminists where are you? Stop powdering your noses.
Zelensky may be hero of ukraine but strategically he has been a failure. He overplayed his hand, overrelied on NATO and EU and now his country is paying the price. He should have just accepted neutrality and bided his time for a couple of decades till Putin was dead and more importantly ukraine was stronger. I think he should have learned, what women everywhere already know and practice, it’s better to be someone’s bitch and stay alive than be all principled and be dead. Graham and cruz may be on their knees and licking trump’s ass but they get reelected. While kinzinger and Cheney are in mortal danger. Courage is for GI grunts, politicians and diplomats have no qualms getting on their knees when it suits them.
Bummer there’s no way the US can produce oil domestically
There is, but unfortunately the current administration refuses to re-open federal lands for drilling. Back in 2019 the US became energy independent for the first time in 62 years. Sadly that changed when the current administration took office in 2021.
Any country that either abstained or voted not to condemn Russia will not get my travel dollars.
Schade, as there were a few of those that abstained were on my travel calendar for next year.
This must be hard for you, considering that you almost flew through KBP once… Your heart is in the right place, but let’s consider Mexico’s position here. They condemned the attack, but didn’t really do anything more then that. Other than tourism dollars they don’t really have a dog in this fight.
The USA has allowed conflicts to rage in Tigray, Darfur, Bangladesh, Xinjiang, Yemen, DRC, etc. with nothing more than words of condemnation. I hate everything about what is happening to Ukraine (a country I also believe I have a connection to), but for some places in the globe, it’s just another conflict. It’s a sad reality, and some conflicts are more relatable to certain people than others.
“This must be hard for you, considering that you almost flew through KBP once…”
I was wondering if anyone else was eye rolling at that.
Unfortunately, the sanctions will really not affect much the will of an oppressive autocrat who would love to recreate the Soviet Union. As many other boycotts, I believe it will hurt more the most vulnerable, whom I firmly believe do not agree with Putin, And yes, Putin is indeed very evil, and very clever at playing this game that has enabled him to take and sustain power. Beware about cornering a rat. (That is a tale Putin himself shares as a lesson.)
Guess condemnation and sanctions is just one more feeble attempt at saving face. Yes, Hitler’s actions were condemned by the League of Nations in the 1930s. Worked really well.
As far as I’m aware, along with Mexico, another notable country that has not banned Russian planes and tourists is the UAE. So for those with a moral conscious, you may want to reconsider on any upcoming Dubai or Abu Dhabi stopovers as well as flying the government-owned Emirates and Etihad carriers.