About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


A friend invited me to a fashion show featuring gowns and dresses by Italian designer Etro on the day Russia began attacking Ukraine.

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A woman associated with the fashion show joked with us that it was a bad day to be like her, a person of Russian descent. A couple of women laughed and told her not to worry, they wouldn’t tell anyone.

Many people at the show felt lighthearted, happy to be out again, finally released from the restraints of the Covid-19 pandemic even though the news from Europe was grim.

There was kind of a fleeting moral outrage at our table over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to seize sovereign Ukraine but scant conversation about the economic and geopolitical impacts that are certain to be felt from the war as far away as Hawaii — especially if Putin’s aggression lasts a long time and expands into other European countries.

University of Hawaii associate professor Jairus Grove says many in the islands view the war in Ukraine as a far away crisis, and that makes him sad. He thinks more people should be shocked.

“It is a watershed moment for global order. It is no coincidence that China sent nine warplanes into Taiwan’s secure airspace the same day that Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.

He says Russia’s naked aggression could embolden China to go after disputed land it claims it owns and wants to take back. And it could make China more eager in the future to test agreed-upon international boundaries.

Grove is chairman of the political science department at UH Manoa and the director of the Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies.

He thinks that even the increased support from Germany and other Western allies for swift sanctions still may not be enough to change what Russia has in mind.

He says even stronger sanctions may push Russia closer to China, which already signaled it might bail out Russia with economic support behind the scenes as it has done in the past.

“It is a different kind of world when China and Russia no longer see each other as competitors,” says Grove.

Beyond the geopolitical effects, the war will cause economic impacts that will increase prices for everyday needs in the United States.

Experts say gas prices are likely to spike due to the Russia-Ukraine war. Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat/2016

“The most obvious and immediate effect will be on gas prices that are already high, also the price of electricity and some foods. It is really an inflation story,” says economist Carl Bonham.

He says to understand it is helpful to think of Russia as a big gas station.

Russia is the third-biggest oil producer and the second-biggest natural gas producer in the world. To fight against sanctions, Russia could cut off some of its oil or gas supplies to Europe. The war will impact the global energy market, which will affect prices at the pump in the United States and ultimately Hawaii.

The effects of the lead-up to the Ukraine invasion already made oil prices soar from $70 a barrel in December to a spike, driven by uncertainty leading up to the invasion, of $97 a barrel on the day Russia launched its attack, says Bonham, executive director of the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and a professor of economics at UH Manoa.

Energy experts have warned of a possible climb in price of regular unleaded gas at pumps in Hawaii to $5.00 a gallon.

House Committee on COVID19. Dr. Carl Bonham from UHERO presents a report to the committee during meeting televised by Olelo.
Carl Bonham of UHERO says far-reaching consequences from the Russia-Ukraine war may delay Hawaii’s pandemic recovery. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Bonham expects that the continuing uncertainty driven by the war will lower UHERO’s next economic forecast for growth, delaying the anticipated return to normalcy from the pandemic.

“With economic uncertainty you have people pulling back from all kinds of big decisions,” he says.

Economist Paul Brewbaker says it is too early to tell what effect the Ukraine war will have on tourism in Hawaii.

“It will be difficult to disentangle what will be happening to the tourism industry from the increase in travel expected from the recovery from Covid,” he says.

Brewbaker says prices for gas in Hawaii that were already high can be expected to soar even higher.

He says also worrisome in the future is what he calls “the craziness of Putin.”

“In his last few speeches he has sounded insane, like a bad guy in a James Bond movie. He has revealed himself to be a much wilder card than we thought he was a few days ago.”

Brewbaker was referring to outbursts like Putin’s recent thuggish speech before the invasion of Ukraine in which he promised “consequences you have never faced in your history” for “anyone who tries to interfere with us.” A later speech trying to justify the invasion also contained a veiled threat of nuclear war against any country thinking of attacking Russia.

“Luckily the invasion is on the other side of the planet. It is not Pearl Harbor. But even so, there is going to be turmoil here. What Russia is doing will have an insidious way of worming itself into what was otherwise Hawaii’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic,” Brewbaker says.


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About the Author

Denby Fawcett

Denby Fawcett is a longtime Hawaii television and newspaper journalist, who grew up in Honolulu. Her book, Secrets of Diamond Head: A History and Trail Guide is available on Amazon. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat’s views.


Latest Comments (0)

Why Hawaii Should Care About The Russia-Ukraine War? This article correctly states that it will raise gas prices. It also makes the case that Russia could disturb the world order. Gas prices a little over a year ago were $3/Gallon and we simply allowed these prices to go up. No one said a thing as the US rolled back its energy independence. As far as the world order I don't think that is such a big deal however allowing people to peacefully pursue freedom is something that I hope we can now all agree on now. No it is not ok to make up a narrative and take over another country.

4whatitsworth · 1 year ago

Hope the U.S. is keeping an eye on a Russian Chinese alliance !That's some bad mojo !An alliance isn't that how WW11 started !

CFood · 1 year ago

Rather than try to explain to the American people the historical roots of Putin’s concerns with an expanding NATO membership, or the impracticalities associated with any theoretical reconstitution of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. political elite instead define Putin as an autocratic dictator (he is not) possessing grandiose dreams of a Russian-led global empire (no such dreams exist).It is impossible to reason with a political counterpart whose policy formulations need to conform with ignorance-based narratives. Russia, confronted with the reality that neither the U.S. nor NATO were willing to engage in a responsible discussion about the need for a European security framework which transcended the inherent instability of an expansive NATO seeking to encroach directly on Russia’s borders, took measures to change the framework in which such discussions would take place.Russia had been seeking to create a neutral buffer between it and NATO through agreements which would preclude NATO membership for Ukraine and distance NATO combat power from its borders. The U.S. and NATO rejected the very premise of such a dialogue.

mauisurfer · 1 year ago

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