Worries over Ukraine tend to focus on the very immediate concerns of the conflict. These include potential economic downturns, the increasing influence of Russia in the world, and most obviously, the potential for Ukraine to be invaded aggressively by Russia, among many others. However, these concerns are part of what should be greater worries about the current crisis and its potential for a spillover effect.
Over and over again, analysts have recently been bantering about a supposed “gas war,” that could be sparked over the Ukraine Crisis. Because Russia provides roughly a third of Europe’s natural gas, and any shut off of gas to Ukraine (which Putin has threatened) could mean a shut off for all of Europe, there are significant fears that Europe could be poised for some serious economic strife.
A fresh recession is not exactly what Europe needs with several sovereign debt crises among other economic woes in their leader’s minds. The EU is on tedious economic footing, and the punishing impact of a gas war could push them over the edge.
Any fresh economic crisis in Europe would affect the United States and the world over by consequence. Seeing as the EU is the largest trading partner of the US, new fiscal and monetary disasters would likely trigger the same sort of difficulties in America.
And this is not even including the effects of Ukraine needing more and more money just to stay afloat. Nor is it considering the potential costs of deploying NATO forces to strengthen the resolve of Allies in the region. Both of these things add to a very expensive situation.
These amongst other important factors create a “piling on,” effect that could have significant economic consequences throughout the world. Any further escalation of conflicts in Ukraine would result in further stresses on the global financial systems.
Aside from that, there are paramount concerns about what this situation could imply for the world in a geopolitical sense. Russia’s actions in Ukraine could create numerous precedents and start a series of serious events which would undermine American interests.
If Russia is to act with impunity, other not-so-friendly entities may be emboldened in their bad conduct. It sends a message to the world that aggressive and illegal action will result in virtually no significant consequences. For instance, Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria which has been engaged in the mass slaughter of its own people over the course of the past three years will be emboldened to finish the job he has started.
And the implications of Russia’s new stance in the world can already be felt in the Syrian Civil War. Once again, Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons, this time with impunity. As well, those chemical weapons that were supposed to be entirely surrendered to Russia by early February? They are still in Syrian hands.
Furthermore, indications are present that Russia will be breaking away from other nations and circumnavigating Iran sanctions. These actions, combined with the political implications of Putin’s dealings with Ukraine and the West, could embolden Iran to start their centrifuges once again.
The apparent spillover effect is not restricted in any sense. Essentially, any and all Western interests in the world could be habitually undermined by Putin if the Ukraine Crisis intensifies or sets a standard for international conduct.
It is clear then that the Ukraine Crisis is in no way a phenomenon that is exclusive to some distant European nation which the US has no interests in being involved in. It is in fact a direct threat to the general peace and stability that the world has enjoyed since the fall of the Soviet Union.
For these reasons, inaction and laziness are frankly anti-American. Doing nothing should be as reprehensible as surrendering American foreign interests and the global economic system entirely. Clearly, looking at it from that perspective, doing nothing should not be an option at all.
And this is not a series of slippery slope fallacies either. The economic threat is readily apparent and the IMF is already warning about its implications, and the geopolitical meltdown can already be seen. It is not to say that Murphy’s Law will certainly apply, but it is to say that the potential for worse events to spiral from the Ukraine Crisis is very real and readily visible.
And the potential aforementioned crises could not happen without a complacent West that allows Russia to do as Russia wishes. Simply by taking the back seat, the US has been undermining itself and its interests in the world. Essentially, the world’s supposed superpower is not being all too super or all too powerful.
What then should be done? Of course, Putin should be stopped. He truly should have been stopped before Crimea, but seeing as that is no longer an option, he should be stopped before Eastern and Southern Ukraine fall victim to his vision for the world.
This is admittedly more difficult than one might assume, and the risks are high. Essentially, because Russia has openly defied the West with the usage and the threats of the usage of violent force, the West ought to defy Russia. Installing a missile defense shield in Europe, sending NATO overseers and peacekeepers to Ukraine, and better funding and equipping of Ukraine are all good first steps.
As well, sanctions against Russia cannot be light; they must be redoubled, and Russia must be crippled. Political isolation should also be practiced until Putin can take his finger off of the trigger and back away from Ukraine.
With the spillover effect and the implications of that effect on the potential outcomes of the Ukraine Crisis, there is hardly anything more offensive that the West could be doing than what the West is doing now: that being sitting idle. Simply put, inaction is unjustifiable. The world stands at the edge of the economic and geopolitical cliff, and if the West lets him, Putin may very well push us off.
Opinion by Brett Byers-Lane
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