Wicker: Putin’s War on Ukraine Will Affect Us All
Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Feb. 24 will be remembered as the day Vladimir Putin proved himself a war criminal.
The Russian dictator’s bloody massacre on his Ukrainian neighbors could have been prevented by decisive American leadership. Instead, President Biden tried to appease Putin, apparently believing he could reason with the tyrant even as he amassed 180,000 troops for a predictable invasion. Many of us had called on President Biden to hit Russia with punishing sanctions, but he refused. He also preemptively took options off the table, including close air support for our Ukrainian friends. Putin took all of this — together with our Afghanistan debacle – for weakness and decided this was his prime window to invade a sovereign democracy.
Putting heavy sanctions on Russia earlier would have been far more effective at preventing this war, but President Biden should unleash them now nonetheless. He recently announced new sanctions on Russian banks, Putin’s inner circle, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. But he needs to go further. He should dump every possible sanction on Moscow and push relentlessly for our European friends to join us. He should also dramatically increase weapons and supplies to Ukraine. We persuaded them to give up their nuclear stockpile, and we now have an obligation to help them defend themselves.
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As scores of Ukrainians now give their lives in defense of their country, we must recognize that Putin’s cold-blooded invasion will affect us here in America. President Biden should use his forthcoming State of the Union address to lay out the costs we can all expect.
Putin’s war has already caused energy prices to surge. Oil prices recently topped $100 per barrel for the first time since 2014, and U.S. gas prices are up 24 cents from a month ago. Financial markets are also at risk, threatening American savings, 401ks, and overall investment in our economy. The heavy sanctions Putin has brought on himself will also stifle global trade, driving up the cost of certain goods on our store shelves. Supply chains will face additional stress, even as they have already been disrupted by the pandemic. The global food supply will likely be disrupted as well. And we can expect to face pressure from our European allies to take in Ukrainian refugees, who are now fleeing their country in droves.
The war in Ukraine will also drive inflation even higher, resulting in less buying power for every American family. Inflation under President Biden has already reached a 40-year high. This crisis is likely to weaken the value of the dollar further, falling hardest on those living on fixed incomes and lower-income Americans.
We cannot control everything Putin does, but President Biden can immediately strengthen our position by ending his war on American energy. During his first months in office, President Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline project, banned new oil and gas drilling on federal land and waters, and rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, which will needlessly kill U.S. energy jobs. Because of these self-inflicted wounds, experts predict we will soon lose our status as a net energy exporter.
President Biden needs to reverse these decisions and unleash the full strength of our energy sector. Doing so would put downward pressure on gas prices and allow us to ramp up oil and gas exports to our European allies, making them less dependent on Russia for energy. Our Commander-in-Chief stumbled into this crisis through weakness, but he can reduce the worst impacts on our nation by pivoting to a course of strength.