Russia is a threat to America and the world

By Lukas Belzeski

Copy Editor

Russia is threatening war with Ukraine. Estimates show that around 100,000 Russian soldiers have been moved to the border and are currently conducting military exercises. Despite Russian claims that there is no plan to invade, all available data, experts, and common sense disagree.

Ukraine is an eastern-European country about the size of Texas, bordering Russia to the east and Poland to the west. It is also a former member of the Soviet Union, becoming an independent republic in 1991 after its collapse. Vladimir Putin, the president and effective dictator of Russia, in his most recent public comments framed it as a situation of American interference in Ukraine “at our doorstep.” He says this because Ukraine has recently made more efforts to join NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the alliance between the US and many European countries created to ward off Soviet invasion. Ukraine wishes to join NATO to deter Russian attack, but NATO is reluctant to let it join because it would obligate them to protect Ukraine. 

The White House has made clear that it believes Russian incursions are inevitable, any Russian offensive will be met with a “swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.” While unclear, experts agree that direct American military involvement is unlikely, instead our response would most likely take the form of economic sanctions. Actual war with Russia is unlikely. As of January 23, the White House has asked the family of Ukrainian embassy workers to come home, indicating it predicts invasion genuinely.

A glance at the headlines from the Associated Press or the BBC show that the modern world isn’t a stranger to this old-world kind of imperialism. This situation in Ukraine is just an extension of 2014, when Russia annexed, meaning to take over without fighting, Crimea, a southern territory of Ukraine. The Russia-Ukraine conflict as a whole is just another stage of the Cold War; Russia is trying to exert its influence and the other Western powers are trying to stop them. But, the wars of today are mostly fought with dollars, not rifles. China is the new second great power and is spearheading the modernization of the old art of empires. Its “Belt-and-Road” Initiative and similar projects in Africa offer loans and develop infrastructure. On the surface benevolent, these plans actually offer China significant leverage and control over the affected countries, much easier than war. For example, almost every country in Africa given a loan has recognized China in the UN as the “true” China, as opposed to Taiwan.

This all asks the question, “why should we care? Why should I care? Of course, I care about the people; I wish there wouldn’t be any war, but people die every day. People are dying over here!” That is an understandable position to hold, but it’s apathetic, and America is not an isolated country. We are dependent on the global economy, and war is extremely disruptive to economies. Additionally, empires don’t stop when it’s smart to. We learned the danger of appeasement as a foreign policy with Hitler and the Nazis eighty years ago.

Imperialism, however, is not limited to nations that America considers its enemies. The United Kingdom exerts political influence over its former colonial dependencies. France has 13 overseas territories around the world, totaling nearly 3 million people. Additionally, the effects of French and English colonialism still hold a presence in their former colonies. After decolonization, they drew borders for the new countries which would take their place. Often, these were intentionally drawn to ignore geographical or cultural boundaries, with the purpose of disallowing the former colonies from ever gaining power and growing to rival their old European masters. This practice is evident in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Much of Pakistan’s western territory is populated by ethnic Pashtuns, the dominant ethnicity of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has, since Pakistan’s inception, sought to gain this territory, permanently preventing normalized relations between the two.

The United States is not immune to the nature of nations. America, too, is an imperial power, from the annexation of Texas to the vassalization of Cuba to the war in Vietnam and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. It invaded Mexico in the old-world style and later occupied the Philippines. It overthrew presidents in Latin America and propped up dictators like Pinochet in Chile. It invaded Iraq and Afghanistan on pretenses of liberation and failed. Through institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, America exerts its influence identically to China, requiring countries to adopt neo-liberal policies to receive loans. America is, in the abstract, no different from any other nation-state in the sense of foreign policy.

A comparison is not, however, an equivocation. China and Russia are blatantly worse than America in their own borders. The US has its own criticisms, but China is a fascist, one-party state and Russia is run by a dictator and oligarchs, but one must not be blinded to a crime because it’s committed by a better criminal. The next international incident or conflict you hear of, beware reductionism. The game of nations is not a battle of good versus evil, but the conflict of the powerful fighting in their own interest.