The article’s main photo shows a bright yellow Ukrainian rapeseed field under a blue sky which looks like Ukraine’s flag.

The article’s main photo shows a bright yellow Ukrainian rapeseed field under a blue sky which looks like Ukraine’s flag.

Wales, Ukraine and the war

Published 03/05/2022   |   Reading Time minutes

Now in its third month, the war in Ukraine continues to reshape the global order.

Like all nations, Wales cannot escape its repercussions. The First Minister called  for people to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, but also highlighted this may involve “making some sacrifices”.

To date, the focus has understandably been on Wales’ humanitarian response.

But what about other impacts?

This article describes how the war has impacted international relations, food and energy supplies, the economy and UK-EU relations. It provides an update on steps taken by the Senedd to stand in solidary with Ukraine.

Wales’ place in the world

Political parties have been united in their condemnation of the invasion, supporting sanctions on Russia and measures that help Ukraine.

Members quickly joined calls for the International Criminal Court’s investigation into alleged Russian war crimes, which is now supported by 41 states. The Counsel General, Mick Antoniw, is exploring whether Wales could gather testimony from Ukrainian arrivals to submit as evidence.

Members have shared their views of Wales as a “land of empathy” (Tom Giffard), “a nation that supports other nations” (Mick Antoniw) and a “nation of peace” (Heledd Fychan).

When a ship carrying Russian cargo was diverted away from Milford Haven port, Paul Davies, MS for Preseli Pembrokeshire, made clear that Russian vessels are not welcome at UK ports and Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, called for no Russian oil to enter Welsh ports. This was supported by the First Minister on 1 March.

On International Women’s Day, the Llywydd led Members in tribute to the women of Ukraine. Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jane Dodds, described reports of sex traffickers targeting women and children which the Minister for Social Justice agreed to raise with the UK Government.

Members have also paid tribute to Wales' armed forces, deployed to Estonia to lead the UK’s battlegroup on NATO’s eastern flank.

Food security and the Agriculture (Wales) Bill

The World Bank warned of a “human catastrophe” of hunger on 21 April.

The war threatens international food security because both Ukraine and Russia rank among top global exporters of wheat, maize, sunflower and barley. The closure of Black Sea shipping alone has cut off around 90% of Ukraine’s grain exports and half of its total exports.

On 8 March, Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies, asked the First Minister whether the Welsh Government’s planned Agriculture (Wales) Bill will reflect international developments and called for a food summit of farmers, processors and retailers.

The First Minister accepted that the Bill has a new context and that he:

  • will carry out Wales-specific assessments of the food security impact of the war to contribute to UK Government assessments;
  • has requested that food security be discussed by the four nations;
  • would explore hosting a food summit and later advised that the Minister for Rural Affairs meets regularly with stakeholders.

The Senedd passed a motion on 23 March noting the negative impact on global food security stemming from the invasion and its direct effect on people in Wales.

On 27 April The Minister for Rural Affairs referenced the war as one of the “challenges” in preparing the Bill and advised she is closely monitoring its impact on Wales’ agricultural sectors. She also explained that the war adds “another layer of difficulty” for Wales’ food and drink sector.

A “full energy embargo” of Russia?

The war threatens European countries’ energy security as they are reliant on Russia for oil, gas and coal to some degree. While many have announced plans to reduce their reliance on Russia, most experts, including the International Energy Agency, agree that entirely replacing Russian supply cannot happen quickly.

Wales (and the UK) is less dependent on Russian oil and gas, however, the Minister for Economy explained that changes to the interdependency with Russia still “means there’ll be challenges in energy supply in this country”. Plaid Cymru has called for a “full energy embargo” of Russia and for Wales to “ramp up renewable energy developments.”

The UK Government has since pledged to end Russian oil imports this year and published an energy security strategy, which emphasises offshore wind, hydrogen and nuclear capacity. BBC Wales analysed what the strategy means for Wales. Calls to restart fracking as a solution were ruled out by the Welsh Government on 30 March.  

“Every one of us will feel the impact”

The International Monetary Fund compares the war’s economic impact to “seismic waves, its effects will propagate far and wide”.

On 11 April, the World Bank predicted that the war will lead to “significant economic losses”. Ukraine’s economy is predicted to shrink by 45% and Russia’s GDP output will fall 11.2% because of sanctions.

On the day of the invasion, the First Minister called for sanctions that :

bite into the [Russian] economy...and that will mean that every one of us will feel the impact.

By 8 March, the Minister for Finance and Local Government, was describing a worsening economic forecast, partly resulting from the war. The next day, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, called for “nothing less than a total economic embargo” of Russia.

The Minister for the Economy, also warned that reduced supplies exacerbate the cost of living crisis, in line with the World Bank’s prediction of a global “spike in poverty levels”.

Senedd Commissioner Ken Skates explained steps taken by the Senedd Commission and partners to ensure they hold no investments in Russian entities. Welsh local authorities have also announced that they will divest from their holdings in Russia. 

Brexit and EU membership for Ukraine

Essential items collected in Wales for Ukraine have been held up at the UK-EU border. Llyr Gruffydd described how “hundreds of thousands of items” were delayed by new post-Brexit checks.

Reports cite confusion over the paperwork needed for items with humanitarian, and not commercial, purposes. On 8 March, the Trefnydd suggested discussions between the Welsh and UK governments may have taken place. A customs easement to simplify the process was announced two days later by the UK Government.

Elsewhere, in a historic move, the EU initiated Ukraine’s EU membership at a joint EU-Ukraine press conference on 8 April. President Zelensky submitted Ukraine’s questionnaire on 18 April and expects a decision in June.

Article 781 of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) provides a role for the UK when new countries apply for EU membership. The EU must notify the UK of requests to join the EU, provide the UK with information on how its accession would impact UK-EU agreements and take into account any UK concerns. The Partnership Council, which oversees the TCA and has powers in this area, is attended by the Welsh Government.

Senedd acts to help Ukraine

On 9 March, the Senedd agreed a motion condemning the invasion and expressing solidarity with Ukraine. The motion calls on states to join the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in response to an increased risk of nuclear war. 

The Senedd also supports Wales becoming a ‘super sponsor’ of Ukrainian refugees and has passed legislation to:

  • Exempt Ukrainians from charges when using health services that would otherwise apply to overseas visitors; and to
  • Speed up the process for pets arriving without the correct vaccinations or documentation ordinarily required. The Welsh Government estimates that 100-200 pets could arrive from Ukraine.

What next?

The First Minister has already described limitations on other important commodities to Welsh industry, such as the doubling of the price of nickel, used by producers in semiconductors, smartphones and electric vehicles, and temporary measures taken by some supermarkets to ensure the fair distribution of a small number of goods. The Minister for Rural Affairs has also acknowledged the impact of increases in fuel and fertiliser prices on Wales’ agricultural sectors.  

As experts predict a protracted war, Wales can expect to feel more of its impacts in future.

Article by Sara Moran, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament