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5 Reasons Why the Russia/Ukraine Showdown Should Matter To You

Photo: iStockPhoto-Cracked brick wall painted with a Ukrainian flag on the left and a Russian flag on the right.

1. A Russian invasion of Ukraine would impact Americans’ pocketbooks.

If Russia does invade Ukraine, and the two countries come to blows, gas prices could soar. Russia is the second largest oil producer on the planet, behind the U.S., and Ukraine is a key energy transit hub— a large amount of Russian natural gas exports to Europe flow through it. An invasion of Ukraine could result in Russian fears of sanctions from Washington D.C. on its energy resources, which would likely cause Putin to weaponize exports of natural gas and crude oil. While this price spike will impact Europe the most, as Europe relies primarily on Russia for natural gas, crude oil is a globally traded commodity and prices at the gas pump are based on world oil prices. While it’s impossible to determine how high gas prices could go, and how long these prices would stay high, a Russian invasion of Ukraine will surely increase prices at the gas pump.

2. A Russian invasion of Ukraine would significantly change the strategic situation in Europe.

A Russian takeover of Ukraine would add Ukraine’s population of 45 million people and its industrial base to Russia, place pressure on Turkey, transform the Black Sea into a Russian lake, and require remobilization of NATO forces and the deployment of a significant amount of forces to Poland and Romania. Poland and Lithuania would likely face Russian troops, along the corridor from NATO, that would need to be met with a deployment of U.S. and European ground and air forces. And, since the U.S. is Europe’s primary security guarantor, it will need to provide Europe, especially NATO allied countries, with military support. A new Iron Curtain, and a military standoff we haven’t seen since the Cold War, could be possible.

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3. A Russian invasion of Ukraine would undermine the sovereignty of all countries.

Ukraine has a right to exist as a sovereign nation, despite Putin’s assertions that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people.” This idea in an important part of international law which
was designed to prevent countries from claiming other countries simply due to members of their own nationality residing there, as Germany did in claiming Czechia because of the Germans residing there during World War II. Allowing Russia to invade Ukraine without steep consequences, and thus bowing to Russia’s claims on Ukraine, would undermine the sovereignty of all countries and provide precedent for other powerful countries to invade their less powerful neighbors. Be sure that both China and Taiwan, who are in a similar situation to that of Russia and Ukraine, will be watching to gauge the U.S.’ reaction.

4. A Russian invasion of Ukraine would undermine the status of Western democracies and
U.S. global power.

Biden has built his foreign policy around the idea that democratic countries must stand up to autocratic regimes. If the U.S. and its allies are unable to deter Russia or provide a strong and severe response to any invasion of Ukraine, it will tarnish the credibility of Western democracies and could undermine perceptions of U.S. global power. This blow to the West, and the U.S., could be very damaging, especially with the rise of an autocratic China that is vying to take America’s place in the global order.

5. A Russian invasion of Ukraine could result in a larger war.

Once wars start, they can be difficult to contain. World War I, and its beginnings in Eastern Europe, acts as a perfect example. An invasion of Ukraine could potentially prompt war to break out in Eastern Europe outside of Ukraine, either in response to, or to deter, further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and the Baltic region. Many of these Eastern European and Baltic states are NATO members and thus U.S. allies. This could prompt the largest clash of conventional armies in Europe since World War II, and the U.S. is likely to be heavily involved as Europe’s primary security guarantor. There’s also the possibility that, if war in Ukraine were to occur, China could take the opportunity to invade Taiwan, creating a possibility of the U.S. fighting a two-front battle as they did in World War II. While war of this magnitude is in no way set in stone, a Russian invasion of Ukraine could potentially prompt a larger global conflict.

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