Barrelled over: Can the world cope without Russia’s huge commodity stash? (The Economist – March 12, 2022)

High prices will outlast the war

In 1866 nikolai nekrasov, a Russian author, started publishing “Who is happy in Russia”, a four-part poem describing how the abolition of serfdom, enacted a few years before, had failed to enrich most peasants. “The chain has been broken,” its first chapter concludes, and the recoiling ends have hit both sides at once.

A century and a half later his verses are a parable for the ostracism of Russia—and its likely fallout. Crushing the world’s 11th-largest economy, comparable in size to Australia, should not necessarily cause global mayhem. But since Nekrasov’s time, and further still since the Soviet Union collapsed, the chain of dependence linking Russia to the world economy has strengthened and grown more complex.

Russia ranks number one, two and three, respectively, among the world’s exporters of natural gas, oil and coal. Europe gets the bulk of its energy from its eastern neighbour. Russia also accounts for half of America’s uranium imports.

It supplies a tenth of the world’s aluminium and copper, and a fifth of battery-grade nickel. Its dominance in precious metals such as palladium, key in the automotive and electronics industries, is even greater. It is also a crucial source of wheat and fertilisers.

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