By: Aidan Burgess ‘23
(Note: This is a developing and ongoing story, with hourly and daily changes. Information presented in this article is accurate as of March 8, 2022.)
On February 23, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin began his unprovoked and unjustified war against Ukraine, ending the peace enjoyed by Europe since the end of World War II in 1945. This war comes after months of tension between Russia, the United States, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), over Ukraine’s desire to join NATO. Putin specifically wants to seize Ukraine because he wants to reunify the 15 countries part of the Soviet Union. He believes that Ukrainians and Russians are one people – historically, Ukraine had been part of the Russian state in its numerous forms until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The modern-day Russia-Ukraine crisis has been ongoing since 2014 when Russia illegally annexed Crimea in Southern Ukraine and provided military aid to separatists in the east of Ukraine. In March of 2021, the crisis was amplified when Russia stationed at least 70,000 soldiers on the Russia-Ukraine border. In July of the same year, Putin gave a hate-filled 1,500-word speech that attacked Ukraine and the West and expressed his desires to invade the country. In December of 2021, U.S. President Biden warned Putin of a firm response against any actions he might take in Ukraine, saying, “things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now.”
As a result of the Russian invasion, the United States and NATO have taken harsh and strict measures to punish Putin. In a speech on February 24, Biden criticized Putin for his “naked aggression” against Ukraine and promised to make Putin a “pariah on the international stage.” He also pledged that Putin and Russia would “bear the consequences” for their actions. Biden reassured the American people that he would not directly send troops to Ukraine to fight the Russians. Instead, he authorized U.S. troops to be deployed in Germany and Poland and promised that America would defend its NATO allies if Russia advanced beyond Ukraine. Biden also unleashed a round of harsh sanctions on Russia, targeting Russia’s banking, technology, and aerospace sectors. Biden and NATO also agreed to limit Russia’s role in the international banking system, SWIFT, severely hindering Russia’s ability to do business with other foreign entities, thus crippling their economy. Though these sanctions have been criticized in America for not punishing Putin enough, because they initially did not target Russia’s oil and energy sectors that allow them to finance their campaign against Ukraine, they have been considered the most significant for a country of Russia’s economic size and influence on global markets. On March 8, the Biden Administration, likely influenced by these critiques from both sides of the aisle, decided to ban the importation of Russian oil, though it is uncertain if Europe will follow suit. Additionally, many Western businesses such as MasterCard, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Netflix have ceased business operations in Russia.
While the White House has taken concern to the Ukrainian invasion, there are still many average Americans and congressmen and women from both the Democratic and Republican parties that aren’t concerned. Experts and analysts across news channels agree that there is much at stake in Ukraine, which is why the United States needs to be involved. The Russians’ full-scale attack on Ukraine is not just an attack on the sovereignty of a country; it’s an attack on democracy and the principles that the United States has stood for since its founding. While Ukraine is a democracy, Russia maintains a dictatorship masquerading as a parliamentary republic. If Russia were to take over Ukraine, this would set an ugly precedent that authoritarian regimes can take whatever countries they want by force. China, a Russian ally, has been looking to take over Taiwan since the Chinese Communist Party took over China in 1949. There is a growing concern throughout the West that Taiwan, which still claims to be the Republic of China, is the following country on the list to be invaded. America cannot allow Ukraine and Taiwan to be invaded, and as the leader of the free world, America has a duty to protect democracies across the globe.
The Ukraine crisis will also have an economic impact on Americans. The price of oil and gasoline has hit historic highs in the United States, which will likely cause inflation to rise. In addition, sanctions placed on Russian goods are likely to increase the price of many commodities in the United States, including agricultural products and groceries. Despite the impact on every American household, President Biden has emphasized the need for the United States to act in the interests of its allies overseas and the security of the United States itself. To this end, President Biden has rapidly increased the deployment of U.S. troops and military assets to Eastern Europe as a proactive deterrent to further Russian aggression. This buildup has been paired with humanitarian and lethal aid to Ukraine. Still, President Biden remains steadfast in keeping American troops off the battlefield for fears of retaliatory escalation by Russia. These tactics are working to undermine the Russian war machine along with their economy and should continue to be pursued by the U.S. and its allies in this form.