WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after the end of 20 years of war, President Joe Biden now finds the United States entrenched in a conflict in Ukraine, even without sending American troops, which could have a deeper effect on a larger cross section of Americans than Afghanistan or Iraq ever did.
The fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the lives of more than 6,900 American soldiers and more than 7,500 American contractors, and American expenditure exceeded $2.3 trillion. But these wars had little impact on how the vast majority of Americans lived their daily lives. It was a 20-year period when people experienced both the Great Recession and America’s longest economic expansion, touchstones that were little influenced by the two crushing conflicts.
Today, five months after the end of the war in Afghanistan, the longest in US history, Americans are entering complicated territory with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While Biden promises there will be no US forces on the ground, he acknowledged that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war could have a real impact on Americans’ wallets.
“A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has costs around the world,” Biden told Americans in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
The financial tumult of the most important military campaign in Europe since the Second World War is already being felt.
Last week, US crude oil prices jumped around 13% to around $113 a barrel and the cost of natural gas hit a record high in Europe as the war fueled market fears of a shock. supply.
Major stock indexes, volatile for weeks, posted further losses as French President Emmanuel Macron warned that “the worst is yet to come” after a lengthy phone call Thursday with Putin.
Yet in Washington – as well as in European capitals – there are signs of growing determination to confront Putin and a willingness to take on some economic hardship in the process.
It’s a markedly different tone than that which followed the September 11 attacks that sparked the war in Afghanistan. Then-President George W. Bush then implored Americans to “stand up against terrorism by getting back to work” and suggested Americans “go to Disney World” as his administration tried to restore the confidence in the American airline industry. Over the next 20 years, American servicemen, including more than 52,000 combat wounded, and their families would bear much of the burden.
In Washington, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, has outstripped the White House in recent days in pushing for sanctions directly aimed at Russia’s energy sector, the engine of Putin’s economy. The administration has been reluctant to target Russian oil, fearing such a move could also jeopardize the economies of the United States and Western allies.
“Ban it,” Pelosi said of Russian oil imports.
The senses. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, introduced a bipartisan bill to do just that. The legislation would halt imports of Russian oil into the United States by declaring a national emergency, which Biden could also do on his own.
“If there was a poll and they said, ‘Joe, would you support another 10 cents a gallon for the Ukrainian people?’ … I would be happy,” Manchin said.
Whether this opinion is widely held in the United States could go a long way in determining whether Biden’s popularity will rebound after plummeting to dismal levels.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said sanctions against Russia could raise interest rates, slow the economy and drive up inflation and gasoline prices. He suggested that the Americans were ready to sacrifice themselves.
“It comes at a cost,” Romney said. “Nowhere near the cost of blood that would be involved if we let (Putin) run amok, but it’s not without sacrifice.”
Public polls suggest Americans increasingly believe the United States may need to do more to help Ukraine. Forty-five percent of Americans said in the days after Russia invaded that the United States was doing too little to help Ukraine. another 37% said the United States was doing the right thing; just 7% said the effort was too much, according to a Quinnipiac poll last week.
American politicians have shown greater determination about what lies ahead as Ukrainians have shown, in Biden’s words, “pure courage” in intense battles against Russian forces. There was also a substantial shift in European attitudes as the Russian army bludgeoned Ukraine’s biggest cities.
In Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz was quick to put Nord Stream 2, a recently completed $11 billion Russia-Germany gas pipeline, on indefinite hold once Russia invaded, a reversal of Germany’s previous position. .
The German government also reversed its longstanding policy of not sending weapons to a conflict zone and announced that it would send anti-tank and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. The German government – one of many European countries that have been slow to meet NATO nations’ pledge to spend 2% of their GDP on defense by 2024 – has said it will roughly triple its budget from defense in 2022.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck even called on his country to confront Putin in another way.
“If you want to hurt Putin a little, save some energy,” he said.
Even Hungary, whose pro-Russian strongman President Viktor Orban resisted denouncing Russia before the war, condemned Russian military action, expressed support for sanctions and agreed to grant temporary protection to Ukrainian refugees entering Hungary.
At the White House, officials said the hardening of resolve among European allies came after many showed wariness in confronting the Russians. US national security officials released a steady blob of intelligence for more than two months before the war, suggesting that Putin intended to carry out a full-scale invasion.
But even so, in talks with Biden’s national security team, some European allies seemed convinced – until just before Putin acted – that he would do something less than a full invasion.
Talk of reacting with half measures quickly dissipated – even among some of the more reluctant European allies – once it became clear that Putin had his sights set on disputed territories in eastern Ukraine. .
Now, as costs to Western economies mount, the pain threshold of Biden and allied leaders will be tested further. Asked about the administration’s confidence in unity as the costs of war rise, the White House press secretary sought to refocus attention on Putin.
“We are taking action to defend democracy, to defend democracy against autocracy, to resist the actions of a brutal dictator,” Psaki said. “It is because of his actions that we are in this situation.”
Edward Frantz, a historian at the University of Indianapolis, said Biden appeared to be headed for a foreign policy “sweet spot” after the chaotic end of the US war in Afghanistan. In the final days of this war, 13 US servicemen were killed in a suicide bombing while taking part in evacuation efforts at Kabul airport.
As tangled and heartbreaking as the pullout was, Biden had fulfilled a campaign promise to end the war, which his three predecessors failed to do. It has also allowed him to focus more Washington’s attention on what Biden sees as America’s main foreign policy challenge: dealing with the rise of China’s economic and military adversary.
“Now, instead, we’re back to the Cold War,” Frantz said. “If this is a long project – and it looks like it certainly will be – the president is now faced with the challenge of selling to Americans why it is important to bear some impact on our economy for Ukraine. It’s not going to be easy.
(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)