PODCAST: What’s at Risk in the Ukraine?
Russia’s threat to invade the Ukraine is reminiscent of Germany’s threat to invade the Sudetenland, Austria, and Poland beginning in 1938. Whereas Hitler made good on his promise, the western world now waits to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin will do likewise to the Ukraine. Tensions in the region are at the same high level as in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
We would like to believe Putin is smart enough not to engage in a military operation that would trigger a major NATO retaliation, but if we have learned anything about Putin over the years, he’s a man who doesn’t like to bluff.
In theory, the trouble is being triggered by the Ukraine’s desire to join NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization). This concerns Putin greatly as he doesn’t want a wall of NATO countries on Russia’s doorstep. Most of Europe supports NATO, but there are still a handful of countries who do not, fearing the Russian bear to their East. This includes Austria, Belarus, Serbia, and Finland who is particularly sensitive to the Russian threat and walks a tight rope between East and West.
The vast majority of European countries have banded together around NATO, primarily to keep Russia in check. If these countries trusted Russia, there wouldn’t be a need for NATO. The fact remains though, they do not, and this is an affront to Putin.
Earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Putin and publicly claimed a negotiated settlement is still possible. If so, this would allow a way for Putin to save face and not invade. We’ll see.
Let’s assume the worst for the moment, and Russia does indeed invades the Ukraine. The news media is saying it could come any day. I tend to believe it will be shortly after the Winter Olympics. This would mean next week after the countries and their dignitaries have split up and gone home.
From a military perspective, there is really nothing to stop the Russians from sweeping into the Ukraine and taking over. Neither the Ukraine, NATO or the United States have enough troops on the ground to push the Russians back. In addition, there is only one U.S. Navy Task Group in the area, featuring the nuclear aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and five supporting ships. Do not underestimate the power of this task group, but it will not likely be enough to thwart Russian land-based aircraft and missiles. Hopefully, help is on the way.
Instead, the west will probably counter the Russians through economic and diplomatic sanctions. In response, the Russians will likely turn off the gasoline spigot to the world, thereby accelerating inflation, something we are already at a 40 year high. This would be a moot point if we were still energy independent, but this was curtailed by President Biden early in his administration as he wanted Americans to use less fossil fuels and move to “cleaner” energy.
Should Russia turn off their oil resources, not only will America have difficulty operating, but so will our NATO allies. Translation: prices are going to go through the roof, and our economies will be shaken to their core. This will inevitably slow business, raise unemployment, drive stock markets down and hurt portfolios; all because we rejected a policy of energy independence.
Let’s just pray the showdown abates. If it doesn’t, there will be short term gains for Russia but it will ultimately hurt them in the long-run, and regardless of how ruthless he appears, I do not believe Putin wants such a legacy as his 25 years in office slowly winds down to a close in 2024.
Keep the Faith!
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