Why Ukraine Matters

Although the majority of Americans are opposed to any sort of military intervention in Ukraine, most Americans do not know why Ukraine matters. Should Russia’s military cross into Eastern Ukraine as it seems poised to do, the implications and direct consequences would be catastrophic for the United States and its allies.

Most obviously, it would mean renewed conflict in Europe on a scale that has not been seen since World War II. Even though Ukraine’s military would hardly stand a chance against a far more powerful Russian military, it appears as though they will not go down without a fight.

As is the case with all warfare, the implications for human casualties for civilians and combatants alike would be severe. Furthermore, with Russia’s and Ukraine’s economies both on less than firm ground, a war could through both nations economies into even more calamity. This is to say that the world economy will surely feel a significant jolt, and it is likely that bailout packages to Ukraine will have a very minimal impact on correcting financial woes when a war is happening.

That being said, although the world will likely not fall into another recession, it should be understood that the steep costs of any conflict between Ukraine and Russia will be felt in the West as well. Any investment holdings or business assets in the region could be at risk.

Furthermore, the conflict would have significant complications for a possible arms race across the world. Why this matters is because if Russia is to invade Ukraine, it must be understood that it sets an example for the rest of the world that could have significant consequences the world over.

The world is watching what happens in Ukraine very closely. If Russia is to invade, then nations such as North Korea will have a reason to maintain their nuclear arsenals, and nations like Iran will have reason to pursue nuclear weapons.

This stems from the fact that Ukraine did indeed have a very significant nuclear arsenal up until 1994. During that year, Ukraine signed the Budapest Memorandum which guaranteed the nation’s protection in exchange for it forfeiting its nuclear arsenal.

Had Ukraine maintained its arsenal, it would not have been in this predicament. In the same sense, efforts for reducing the world’s nuclear arsenals and preventing new nukes from coming about will be undermined by any potential conflict.

Furthermore, this conflict could lead to an arms race with both conventional and nuclear weapons. If countries such as Poland or Finland see Russia invade Ukraine, it is likely that they will prepare themselves for a similar sort of conflict.

As well, if a country like Iran sees the conflict, its leaders may be redoubled in their previous efforts to pursue nuclear weapons. This could lead to an arms race in the region and a regional conflict with Israel or Saudi Arabia as has been noted in the past few years.

And this isn’t even considering the geopolitical implications of allowing the Russia’s open season with Ukraine. It is often remarked that Putin’s moves have already thrown the world into another West-East conflict that is reminiscent of the Cold War.

Considering the wide breadth of issues that require US and Russian co-operation, it becomes apparent that the recent freezing of relations threatens the world as a whole, but US interests in particular. Whether it is the resolution of the Syrian Civil War or continuing to ensure Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon, the American government relies on Russia’s co-operation.

This new conflict is remarkably dangerous because, as was seen in the Cold War, it has the ability to spread across the world. With proxy conflict, regional disputes can escalate into major wars rapidly.

And, all throughout the Cold War, there was the lingering threat of nuclear conflict. On multiple occasions, Americans and Soviets alike had their fingers on the triggers of the end of humanity. If Russia is to invade Ukraine, there is the potential for the political atmosphere to revert itself back to where it was during the later half of the last century.

Perhaps the most important fact of all of these considerations is the fact that they are all unknowns. If Russia invades Ukraine, the West will be without much power to stop Putin, and no one will have any ability to predict his next move. The consequences could be astronomical for the entire world, including the US. Furthermore, Putin’s actions will set precedent that could be used by him or other not so friendly entities. Why Ukraine matters to the world is clear, and if the US and its allies continue down the path of letting it happen, it may very well start to matter a lot more.

Opinion by Brett Byers-Lane

CBS News
Northeastern University
Business Insider