Analysis: Why a Russian invasion of Ukraine would hurt Americans too

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If President Vladimir Putin sent his tanks into Russia’s smaller democratic neighbor, he would send shockwaves around the world and trigger one of the worst and most dangerous national security crises since the Cold War.
And while not his primary intention, Putin would cause significant damage to Biden’s prestige and inflict real-time consequences on Americans in an already tense midterm election year — including with likely further price hikes of gasoline already rising which often act as an index. voter anger and perceptions of the economy.
The president’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Sunday summed up a weekend in which the tone of Western governments warning of a possible invasion grew more alarming, heightening feelings that Russia’s weeks-long buildup around of Ukraine could be rushing towards a decisive moment.

“The way they built up their forces, the way they maneuvered things into place, makes it possible there will be major military action very soon,” Sullivan told Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” from CNN.

Referring to a chilling scenario of mass conflict in Europe, Sullivan warned that an invasion would likely begin with a prolonged barrage of missiles and bombings that could cause major civilian casualties.

“If Russia advances, we will defend NATO territory, we will impose costs on Russia, and we will ensure that we emerge from this as a stronger, more determined, more determined West than we are. we’ve been in 30 years, and that ultimately Russia incurs a significant strategic cost for military action,” Sullivan told Tapper.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby added to the impression that this could be a fateful week, telling Fox Sunday that the United States had good intelligence sources that pointed to a “crescendo opportunity for Mr. Putin.” .

Domestic backfire

The United States will not send troops to Ukraine to defend it. The former Soviet Union republic is not a member of NATO, the alliance that has been defending the Western world since shortly after World War II. A direct conflict between Russian and American soldiers is therefore unlikely. Biden, however, ordered several thousand troops to the frontlines of NATO states to deter further Russian adventurism – including into Romania and Poland, two countries that were once behind the Iron Curtain but are now members of the alliance – much to Putin’s fury.
A Russian invasion of Ukraine would crush democratic principles and the idea that people can choose their own leaders – principles on which the United States has built decades of foreign policy. This could embolden China to take action against the democratic island of Taiwan, which it considers Chinese territory, in a conflict far more likely to drag the United States into a major war than an invasion of the United States. Ukraine.

But more immediately, a Russian invasion could have a significant domestic backlash in the United States in a way that would impose more economic pain and ultimately hurt the prospects of Biden and his Democrats in the November election.

The president promised Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday that the United States would impose measures that would “promptly and decisively” punish Russia. This response would transform American foreign policy and add a new crisis to Biden’s crowded plate.

For the first time in 30 years, the United States and Russia – the two countries with the largest nuclear arsenals – would be locked in a direct stalemate. Tensions could rise further if the United States goes back to killing Russians. There have been calls in Congress for a US-funded insurgency in Ukraine to mirror the Washington-led one that helped drive Moscow out of Afghanistan in the 1980s and hastened the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia would respond to such a campaign – and has the ability to disrupt US goals and diplomacy around the world, including on vital issues such as the nuclear challenges posed by Iran and North Korea, all of which have two the potential to soon pose a direct threat to US national security. Security.

A Russian invasion of Ukraine could also drive up oil prices and translate into direct pain at the pump for American drivers. High gas prices, currently averaging $3.48 according to the American Automobile Association, have contributed to Biden’s declining popularity. The president cannot afford a crisis that could push them even higher just days after key data on Thursday showed inflation rose 7.5%, the worst figures since 1982.
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A Russian invasion could also send stocks tumbling in a way that would affect voters’ perceptions of economic security and prosperity, deepening concerns that would further bite into Democratic hopes of avoiding a rout in an election that could hand over the House of Representatives and the Senate. to Republicans. Then there’s a psychological and political backlash that Biden could face with an already disgruntled electorate if a Russian invasion of Ukraine added to the impression of a world spinning out of control in a way that would, as well as states United, look maneuvered.

Republicans have already tried to paint Biden as weak and give the impression that the United States’ robust efforts to convince Putin not to invade – including preparing for the most painful sanctions that the United States and the West ever imposed on Moscow – failed to influence the Russian leader. Former President Donald Trump makes an argument that will become familiar if an invasion occurs. He claimed in a Fox interview on Saturday that Putin had been encouraged to defy the United States due to the chaotic evacuation of Biden’s team from Afghanistan.

“When they looked at all of this, I think they grew bolder,” Trump said. The former president also claimed he would have stopped Putin from taking such a stance, adding: “I know him very well, I got on very well with him. We respected each other.” Trump claimed that no administration had been tougher on Russia than the one he led. While his administration had a solid policy toward Moscow — including sending arms to Ukraine — Trump often seemed to follow his personal approach, which involved pandering to Putin and adopting the Russian leader’s perspective on issues. keys — including Putin’s refusal to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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A second Trump presidency would raise real questions about NATO’s future that would again play into Putin’s goal of dividing or even destroying the alliance. The New York Times reported, for example, in 2019 that Trump had spoken privately about stepping down from the organization he frequently criticizes — a move that, if moved forward, would represent a massive victory for Russia. Any action in Ukraine that hurts Biden could help Trump and his pending campaign, a factor that could play into the calculations of a Russian leader who has already interfered in the US election in an attempt to help the 45th president.

A presidency already in difficulty

Trump’s comments over the weekend were clearly meant to signal to Republicans how to prosecute Biden in the event of a Russian invasion. The GOP has spent months crafting a midterm election message centered on the idea that Biden is weak and incompetent and that the world has lost respect for the United States with the departure of strongman Trump.

Biden issued a direct warning to Putin about US actions — including sanctions that could cripple the Russian economy if an invasion takes place — in a phone call on Saturday. But his frequent contact with the Russian leader risks making him vulnerable to appeasement charges if Putin ignores US warnings and marches on Ukraine anyway.

Republican leaders also want to point to high gas and commodity prices, mostly brought on by the pandemic, to paint Biden’s economic handling as a disaster despite some of the highest employment numbers in decades. So many cascading events that would result from a Russian invasion of Ukraine could work in their favor.

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Biden’s presidency is already in shock. His approval rating fell to 41% in a new CNN/SSRS poll released last week, and a Russian invasion of Ukraine would deepen the sense of crisis that is already tightening its grip on the White House. History suggests that struggling presidents suffer crushing defeats in midterm elections during their first term. The CNN survey, conducted in January and February, found that only 45% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters wanted to see the party renominate Biden in 2024, while 51% preferred a different nominee. There was no better news for Trump, however, with 50% of Republican and Republican voters wanting the GOP to nominate him again and 49% wanting an alternate nominee.

Biden is unlikely to receive much credit from voters for what, despite some rhetorical missteps, was a multi-pronged and successful effort to unite America’s NATO allies and create a punitive set of consequences. for Moscow if he invades Ukraine.

Any decision by Putin to stop on the brink of an invasion and withdraw his forces would allow the president to make the case as the midterms approached that his strength and sense of statehood had set Russia back. But the Russian leader is unlikely to ease the pressure on Ukraine – even if he doesn’t mount a full invasion – and no doubt plans to be a constant headache for the United States and Biden.

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