Does the Ukrainian tragedy affect us in Louisiana?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

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When I bring up the subject of Ukraine with friends here in Louisiana, the response is more often than not some interest and a bit of concern, but that’s about all. They don’t feel they are really affected. So should my state feel more empathy about events half way around the world?
Maybe it’s just me. But I never thought such an event would happen. To think that in 2022, Russia went to war attacking Ukraine, and in doing so upended the balance of power across Europe and the Baltic countries. And in so doing, we here in the Louisiana and throughout the nation will see a substantial hit to our own pocketbooks.
It’s concerning that I write this column sitting in my comfortable armchair and drinking coffee while at this very moment somewhere in Ukraine, people are fleeing bombs from Russian artillery. Mothers leave all their worldly possessions and escape with crying children to questionable protection in underground subway stations. Over a million Ukrainians forced to flee to other parts of the country or to other countries. One moment you are shopping, going to a local Starbucks and enjoying family meals together. Then you quickly flee the onslaught of tanks and the raining down of missiles.
This is not an effort of ethnic cleansing like the Nazis undertaking the elimination of the Jews. You wouldn’t be able to tell any physical difference between Ukrainians, Byelorussians and Russians. They share a similar culture and speak the same or close to the same language. No, what we are seeing unfold is a warped effort to stamp out the flame of democracy. We are watching Putin’s regime moving quickly towards a resemblance of Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany.
And this military uprising directly affects our living standards here in Louisiana. The price of oil has risen to over $100 a barrel, doubling what the cost was in January. We are seeing the price of gasoline at the pump rise significantly above four dollars a gallon. The cost of most consumer goods, particularly items at the grocery store, will take a significant upsurge.
Products across the board are both imported and exported from the Soviets. Louisiana sends aerospace products, automotive products, machinery, chemicals, poultry, soybeans and soybean meal. The state brings in from Russia Crude Petroleum ($424 Million) Refined Petroleum ($321 Million), Iron Ore ($82.7 Million), Palm Oil ($60.3 Million) and Coffee ($57.5 Million). In fact, 12.6% of all Louisiana imports come from the Soviet Union. All these purchases have been frozen, with suppliers having to look for other markets, often at much higher prices.
Our investments in the financial markets are taking a hit. No one knows how long this will last. All these figures show that we here in Louisiana are not exempt from the effects of these world events. We all pay a significant price.
This international instability also raises the question of America’s defense capability. We in America are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks. There are loud calls for more military spending that could require raising taxes. And will a compulsory draft be reinstated?  I volunteered for military service during the Vietnam era, but will my grandsons have to fight again?  I sure hope not.
Investment adviser Vitaliy Katsenelson pointed out a historic model of how quickly world events can change, and gave as an example Russian Dmitry Shostakovich’s 7th, “Leningrad” Symphony. Shostakovich completed it in 1941. He was in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), and the city was surrounded by the Nazis, blockaded, completely cut off from the rest of Russia. The Germans were bombing day and night. People were dying of hunger.
This symphony starts out peacefully – the first seven minutes are just about normal everyday life. Then, in minute seven, you start hearing the faint sound of drums – that’s the German army marching on Russia. Minute by minute the drums grow louder, and then all peace is gone and all there is war. This symphony portrays well the irony and tragedy of what is happening right now. If Shostakovich were alive, he would have renamed this symphony “Kiev.”  Yes, we all have a stake in this war, and we all need to be concerned, whether we like it or not.
Peace and Justice

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at  Readers can also review books by Jim Brown and many others he has published by going to