Russia launches Ukraine offensive with missile strikes, here's what it means for USA
It appears Europe is at war again. Over 68 years after the end of World War 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced military action in Ukraine late on February 23, 2022. Within hours, the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Odesa, and the capital of Kyiv were all reportedly struck by missiles. In his announcement, Putin said the goal of the operation was "demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine."
The shocking move comes just a day after the USA and western allies imposed a range of sanctions on Russia, in response to Putin's recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Led by French President Emmanuel Macron, Western allies have been attempting to de-escalate the situation diplomatically, but the Russian president has shown little interest in coming to the negotiation table. In fact, Putin has made it very clear his demands are non-negotiable.
As of now, the situation has not been declared a war, but it is almost certain it will be. Not only are Ukrainian cities being shelled, but airspace in Ukraine has now been shut for commercial operations. Europe has warned there is a "high risk" for civilian aircrafts in the region. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also tweeted Putin "has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine."
What does it mean for the US?
Putin's declaration is expected to have repercussions not just for Ukraine and Europe, but the entire world. The US in particular is expected to be hit hard by war, even if it is on another continent. The effects are widely expected to be economic, but could also touch other areas as well.
Firstly, expect oil and gas prices to shoot up. Russia is one of the world's largest producers, and conflict with the nation will almost certainly impact production and shipping. Oil prices have been creeping up slowly over the past weeks due to the crisis, but could now jump up massively. Similarly, Russia and Ukraine are key exporters of wheat, so a war could constrain global supplies of the much-needed raw material affecting everything from bread to breakfast cereal, and biscuits to pizza.
In general, inflation is expected to jump up as war causes a massive spike in demand for both raw material and finished goods, while commodities aren't easily available. The pandemic and supply chain crises have already left the US struggling to stock shelves, a condition that might only worsen. Consumers are also expected to cut back spending, which could be bad for not just the US economy, but the global economy as well. "The level of economic uncertainty is going to rise, which is going to be negative for households and firms," noted economist Maurice Obstfeld to The New York Times.
There are also the effects of sanctions. "The premise of sanctions is to hurt the other guy more than you hurt your own interests. But that does not mean there will not be some collateral damage," Doug Rediker told NPR. The US isn't expected to face as drastic consequences as Europe, but there will definitely be some effects. Economically, the greatest threat to the US is oil prices, over which it has little control. General inflation will also be a major issue, but the government does have some tools to make it less painful for consumers.
Effects of direct action
There's another aspect to consider - the effect of getting directly involved in the war. Should the US send troops to fight in the frontlines or continue supplying Ukraine and Europe with weapons and material, Russia could choose to attack the nation directly. Of course, it's highly unlikely the US will be hit by missiles the same way Ukraine is, but there's one major challenge the US is not insulated from - cyberwar.
"The Russians are the best in the world at this. And we don’t know the extent to which they have burrowed into our systems," noted Obstfeld. Should Russia want to cripple US support, it could simply choose to target key US infrastructure from banks to the defense systems, and could have devastating consequences. Furthermore, should the US decide to get directly involved, there is also the massive loss of life to consider, especially after President Joe Biden just pulled out of Afghanistan for the same reason.
Overall, things don't look good for the US, or the world right now. Putin is clear he wants Ukraine, so the question is - how will the world respond? However they chose to, it appears that Europe is once again going to be a battleground for yet another war.