Russia invaded Ukraine last night for the first time since 2014. I’ve seen a lot of comments lately about how it doesn’t matter to us and that we should go about our lives. “We should let them do their thing,” “it’s way over there in Eastern Europe,” but that is the wrong answer. The United States is often late to most things, and we only joined both World Wars after excessive provocation. This writing won’t be about the Just War Theory or whether or not we should directly engage with Russia but instead for the average American to understand the current predicament in Eastern Europe.
When you make trade agreements or deals with foreign nations, they need to have the best interests of your people in mind. That best interest should not simply be the cheapest option or the option that appeases one portion of the government (green earth policies.) Suppose Europe and the West continue to make deals with Russia and even China to a point where they are dependent on a resource. In that case, it severely disables their ability to counter any adverse actions should they arise. This is precisely the predicament that Europe, the majority of which are our allies, faces.
The European Union currently gets about 50% of its gas from Russia, and if (when) prices go higher from that source, it will mean they will have to look elsewhere for a viable option. This will naturally increase OPEC prices and prices from our inevitable exports to Europe. If we were energy independent and had a viable alternative such as the Keystone XL pipeline, our ability to barter and pressure Russia would be more significant.
The point here is that trade to non-allies should be more heavily scrutinized, and Germany under Merkel put too much faith in that relationship. A natural countermove to aggression is financial sanctions, and the intent for the West to remain diplomatically engaged is the right move. However, something can be said that Russia is not jaded by our actions, and as always, chess is a long game. He can lose half his pieces and still be the victor. The sanctions that will be leveled against Russia are intended to harm their economy, not necessarily to cripple it. Russia knows that Europe in its current state can’t survive long without its gas/oil exports and is banking on being able to outlast the sanctions against them. Furthermore, Putin’s war chest of around 635 Billion will be able to deter any short-term financial woes.
The long and the short of it is this, Putin is still insulted at the deterioration of the USSR and the loss of its member states. He does not want Ukraine to join NATO as that will bring the collective “us” closer to his border. This will weaken their ability to protect their country, but furthermore, he still sees the ending of the Cold War as a loss for Russia and is trying to turn back the pages of history to an era when they had more power. I don’t have an opinion on whether Ukraine should join NATO. per se, but I know that NATO should not entertain new nations to join that are currently in disagreement with one of the largest powers in the world.
The pressure of geopolitics is affecting us more as we look to exit the Covid environment of the last two years. Trade and the transportation of goods from abroad are impacting our daily lives as labor shortages across the globe are inherently deteriorating. This is why it is important that we elect good people from both parties that have the people’s best interest at heart. Lessening our dependence on oil is not a short game and as we have seen, shutting down the Keystone XL pipeline inhibits us from being able to effectively deter threats from abroad. Global stock markets affect us, and their losses directly result in losses by our exchanges. Today, the current gas prices, inflation, stock losses, and foreign influence impact our daily lives. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee America as the future is uncertain, and even the Hobbits had to leave the Shire to fight for what was right.
Featured Image (Soviet T-34 tanks of the 3rd Guards Tank Army on the streets of Lviv, (in 1939 Poland, then USSR) now, Ukraine. Summer 1944. Color by Olga Klimbim)