Feb. 24, 2022, Russia launched missiles at several cities in Ukraine and hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers invaded shortly after. The Western world was quick to rush to the aid of Ukraine, sending over weapons, supplies and vehicles to help the Ukrainian people.
The war between Russia and Ukraine was originally expected to be short, with Russia easily marching to the capitol of Kyiv and taking control of the country. But with the remarkable resilience of the Ukrainian people and help from dozens of foreign countries, the war has reached the six-month mark, with Russia still far from victory.
Despite the fact that this war is raging thousands of miles away from the U.S. and Wisconsin, citizens are still feeling the effects. Since the beginning of the war, the U.S. has felt two main consequences of the Russian invasion — economic strain and political conflict.
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Russian supplies account for 8% of imported oil in the U.S. After President Biden placed a ban on the purchase of Russian oil, gas prices immediately began to rise. March 2022, the national average for gas hit $4 per gallon for the first time since July 2008.
In addition to increasing gas prices, the cost of many other basic necessities is rising as a result of bans on Russian products and imports. The combined landmass of Russia and Ukraine is considered one of the world’s seven major “breadbaskets.” This area produces massive amounts of wheat, corn and fertilizer, and as long as the war rages, minimal amounts of these products will be produced and sold to other countries.
As the supply of such products has dropped significantly, inflation has skyrocketed all across the U.S. — and Wisconsinites aren’t exempt from these changes. In Wisconsin, the price of groceries has risen between 15%-18%, utility costs have risen between 17%-36% and the cost of vehicles has risen by 15% over the past year.
Since the war’s onset, the U.S. has continued to supply aid to the Ukrainian people. Aug. 24, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. government would send another $3 billion in arms and equipment to Ukraine and its forces.
Though supplying aid to Ukraine has been strenuous for the U.S. and its citizens, it is vital that the U.S. continues to show its support abroad. By adopting an isolationist policy, the U.S. would set a dangerous precedent, showing President Vladimir Putin that it will not interfere with his imperialistic tendencies in Eastern Europe.
But inflation and economic changes are not the only side effects of the war felt in the U.S. While the rise of inflation has made essential items such as bread and gas more expensive, Democrats and Republicans are actively debating what role the U.S. should play in the war, if any.
President Biden and the vast majority of members of Congress across party lines have continued to advocate for any possible aid for Ukraine, but some of the more radical Republicans have become less enthusiastic about supporting the massive aid packages being sent to Ukraine.
Many Republicans who still associate with former President Donald Trump are pushing for a more isolationist outlook regarding Ukraine. They argue that massive aid packages being sent to Ukraine should instead be used to address domestic issues, such as the floundering economy.
The varying political perspectives about how to address the war in Ukraine affect everything from local politics to the 2024 presidential race. With the 2022 midterms approaching quickly in November, the topic of how to support Ukraine will likely be an important issue for many voters and could have a significant influence on the polls.
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Though it is clear the war in Ukraine is putting a strain on the American economy and political sphere, one thing is clear — the U.S. must continue to support the Ukrainian fight for freedom. The temporary inconveniences Americans face are insignificant compared to the broader struggle for democracy Ukrainians face as their country is under siege.
Further, by halting aid to Ukraine, the U.S. would be setting the precedent that it would not interfere with Russia’s imperialist tendencies, which could ultimately lead to Russia attempting to take over other countries along its borders.
Russia is actively attempting to strip Ukrainians of their rights and institute a pro-Russian leader. As long as the U.S. champions itself as the protector of freedom and justice, we must fight to protect countries like Ukraine. For if Russia is successful, the world must prepare for a Cold War-caliber struggle for democracy.
Josh Standal ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in history.