How a Russian invasion of Ukraine might impact the U.S.

Pic of Dr. Dovile Budryte

Dr. Dovile Budryte 

One might think Ukraine is far removed from the United States. Ukraine, the second largest country in Eastern Europe gained its independence in 1991 and is more than 5,500 miles or a nearly 12-hour flight from Atlanta. While the possibility of a Russian invasion of the country seems like it might not impact the U.S., Dr. Dovile Budryte, political science professor and chair of the political science faculty at Georgia Gwinnett College says that the ramifications of such a move could very likely be felt locally.

Pain at the gas pump

“Of course, it is difficult to predict whether Russia will invade Ukraine again. However, if this happens, it is likely to have an impact even on the ‘average Joe’ in the United States,” said Budryte. “Russia is a major energy producer, and global energy supply would be disrupted.”

Budryte explained that the U.S. and European countries are threatening sanctions on Russia, which is a major oil and gas producer. This means that gasoline prices in the U.S. would be affected as well, and may start to inch up, which is not good news to Americans who have already seen a steep increase in gas prices.  

Potential military action

If Russia invades Ukraine, Budryte said the conflict may spread into the neighboring countries, such as Poland, which is a NATO country. As a NATO member, this would put pressure on the U.S. to consider intervention. NATO has traditionally been a very successful alliance, capable of preventing aggressive acts by a hostile power. It was able to successfully deter the Soviet Union during the Cold War.  

Budryte said if conflict spilled over to other countries, the cost of U.S. military engagement may be high, escalating the conflict. Because Russia is a nuclear power, such intervention would mean a conflict between nuclear powers. 

Increase in refugees

Finally, Budryte said such conflicts always involve a human element. 

“There is also a potential refugee crisis that comes with war,” she said. 

More than 11,000 refugees were admitted to the United States in the 2021 fiscal year, which was well below the Biden administration’s refugee cap. For fiscal year 2022, the administration recently raised the ceiling from 62,500 to 125,000, according to news reports.

“Most refugees would probably be fleeing to European countries,” she explained, “But the U.S. may decide to take in some refugees.”

Above all, Budryte said, an invasion would redefine the current security order in Europe, which would mean a return to severe tensions between Russia and the Western community. 

“The Cold War lasted for 50 years,” said Budryte. “If Russia decides to invade Ukraine, the relationship between Russia and the West will certainly deteriorate.”

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