Op-ed: Global conflict with Russia is one thing we can’t afford


Jessica Xing

The US must support Ukraine, while avoiding the possibility of war.

Melissa Rejuan , contributor

Over the past three months, Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun one of the largest attacks on a European country in decades. What was initially called a “special military operation” has escalated into a full-scale invasion. Throughout this period of frightful tension, Putin’s consistent disingenuity in regards to denying the invasion of Ukraine has proved that this war is not about denazifying Ukraine,” but rather about fulfilling a legacy. 

As the president of a leading nation, Putin’s motives should be aligned with the interests of his people. Many Russian people do not want war. Putin is acting on his own autocratic motivations and interests by sacrificing the lives of thousands of people for the sake of establishing himself as an imperialist. For lack of better words, taking over Ukraine is a means to boost his ego after feeling apprehensive over Ukraine’s westernization. 

This is Putin’s war, not Russia’s. Ukraine’s desire for sovereignty terrifies Putin since he wants it to become a part of Russia. Following the invasion, however, Ukrainian nationalism has never been higher, making it more difficult for the country to conform to Russia’s influence. Putin’s emotional ties to Ukraine and fear of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) expansion have led to an unnecessary and irrational war that threatens peace everywhere. 

The invasion of Ukraine has made Russia even more of a world-wide threat, as Putin attempts to reestablish influence in Europe and eventually the rest of the world. This prompts the question: how should the rest of the world respond to help Ukraine? One thing must remain absolute: we cannot afford a war.

In early February 2022, satellite images showed yet another act of Russian aggression, with the deployment of troops to the Ukrainian border. Over a span of a few months before February, Russian military resources were stationed in the north, south and east of Ukraine. Russia repeatedly claimed that they had no intent to invade Ukraine, but the deployment of troops and military equipment demonstrated otherwise: a clear act of Russian deceit and aggression. 

The United States and many other countries, including historically neutral Switzerland, have imposed strict economic sanctions on Russia as one means of deterrence, causing a hit to their economy that aims to slow down Putin. This strategy is a much safer approach rather than using military power, because it avoids as many casualties as possible. 

However, despite aggressive economic sanctions, Putin continues to execute military action on Ukraine, even though the Russian people are also suffering greatly from the aggression. On Feb. 24, it was estimated that Russian citizens had taken about 111 billion rubles out of the Russian central bank. The bank has doubled interest, and Russian citizens are having one of the worst economic crises since the ‘90s

Sanctions have not had strong effects in the past. For instance, in 2014, Western sanctions were placed on Russia as Moscow was accused by Ukrainian and Russian officials of seizing the Crimean Peninsula. Despite this, Putin still annexed Crimea. The current situation is also comparable to sanctions placed on Iran. In response to Iran’s nuclear program, the United States placed a plethora of economic sanctions to stop any more money from supporting Iran’s program and to prompt Iran to enter a diplomatic deal. However, Iran still managed to make its way around these sanctions by creating its own domestic products as an alternative to selling products from other countries. In addition, in comparison to Russia, Iran had a much weaker government. Russia is powerful enough to find larger loopholes around economic sanctions. 

What is important, however, is that Russia is still certainly taking a hit. Civil unrest, potentially being removed from the World Trade Organization, or WTO, suspension of multinational corporations in Russia and the deterioration of Russia’s largest banks are all strong dissuading factors. 

The bottom line is that sanctions are significantly more effective and avoid casualties to a much higher degree than the alternative option: war. It is imperative that the United States and other nations who have enacted sanctions on Russia continue punishing Russia to the point where it will back out, while also maintaining a balance of not pushing too far where Russia is prompted to expand military attack upon other nations. 

Another proposed option to resolve conflict in the region has been to admit Ukraine to NATO on an emergency basis. Even though Ukraine is entirely in support of joining NATO, and in fact requesting to do so, NATO does not want Ukraine to join. Although it seems unethical to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, as Ukraine is in need of Western support more than ever, it is an enormously consequential option. The admission of Ukraine to NATO would cause mass global casualties and put the entire world in a state of sheer havoc. If Ukraine were to join NATO, it would be Russia vs the entire West. Therefore, it is important to look at this dilemma from a consequentialist perspective. 

The United States and NATO acknowledge that it remains essential to support Ukraine even without their membership in NATO. The US has provided Ukraine security aid worth more than 1.2 billion dollars since January 2021. In order to stop Putin without causing an extended war, the West must keep moving in this direction, using financial support and sanctions on Russia to support Ukraine, without using NATO as a means of protection. While financially supplying Ukraine, NATO should also continue to pursue diplomatic conversations to maintain transparency and avoid provoking Russia. 

It is essential for American citizens to continue educating ourselves about Ukraine and advocate for action by our own governments. In addition, we must proceed to support Russian independent news organizations that expose information about the Russian government’s true intentions. 

With Ukrainian resilience, global support and especially protest from Russian citizens, Ukraine will stand a chance against Putin’s oligarchy. It is essential that the Russian public be persistent against Putin, despite his threats of arrest and propaganda. 

The United States and other countries should continue to supply Ukraine with the necessary supplies and artillery to defeat Russia, and continue to enact sanctions to slow Putin down. What we must avoid is war, and furthering an unfounded humanitarian crisis. 

Melissa Rejuan is a first-year data science and journalism combined major. She can be reached at [email protected]