Then there are the refugees. Two million people have already fled the fighting in Ukraine, and while European nations have generously taken them in, their presence will put further strain on economies, social services, and health care systems already strained to the breaking point by the pandemic.
Moreover, while the war is currently confined to the borders of Ukraine, it is unlikely to remain so for long. Western intelligence analysts say Russia is already preparing massive cyberattacks in retaliation for the sanctions imposed on it as a result of its aggression against the Ukrainian people. Corporations will likely face crippling attacks, and the internet itself could be targeted.
Finally, there is the very real prospect of World War III.
Leaders need to think the unthinkable
The first draft of my piece on Covid-19 called the coronavirus an existential threat to every business. However, a couple of readers told me they thought that was needlessly hyperbolic, and so I took that out. It is a decision I still regret, and I kept a copy of that draft to remind me not to do it again.
That is why I am being less restrained in my assessment of the current situation. And I am not alone: many experts with better insights than I have into the mind of Vladimir Putin and the situation on the ground have offered similarly bleak warnings.
“... if anybody thinks that Putin wouldn’t use something that he’s got that is unusual and cruel, think again. Every time you think, “No, he wouldn’t, would he?” Well, yes, he would,” one of America’s top Russia experts, Fiona Hill, cautioned last week in an interview with Politico. “We have to prepare for those contingencies and figure out what is it that we’re going to do to head them off.”
Others have warned that even a Russian defeat in Ukraine will create serious and long-lasting consequences for the world.
“Even if Putin loses his grip on Russia, the country is unlikely to emerge as a pro-Western democracy. It could split apart, especially in the North Caucasus. Or it could become a nuclear-armed military dictatorship,” Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage wrote in Foreign Affairs. “Policymakers would not be wrong to hope for a better Russia and for the time when a post-Putin Russia could be genuinely integrated into Europe; they should do what they can to enable this eventuality, even as they resist Putin’s war. They would be foolish, however, not to prepare for darker possibilities.”
So, just as I urged leaders two years ago to start thinking about the many ways in which the coronavirus might impact their businesses, I am urging you today to take a hard look at your strategies and plans in light of these new events.
The questions you need to ask today
When you do, ask yourself – and your team – these questions:
1. How will rising fuel and food prices impact our business?
2. How will inflation impact our sales?
3. How vulnerable are we, and our business partners, to Russian cyberattacks?
4. What would we do if the internet went down?
5. How might the movement of people in Europe impact our operations?
6. How can we modify our plans and strategies to make them more resilient to these threats and ensure they still succeed?
7. What contingency plans should begin preparing right now in case they fail?
And let’s not forget about the pandemic. It isn’t over yet either.
Originally posted on Forbes.