WASHINGTON — Many Americans may be wondering why they should care about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Observers say it could have far-reaching implications for the United States. Here are some reasons why:
INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, TERRORISM
Russia and the United States frequently do not see eye-to-eye on international conflicts. Russia is a major trade partner of Syria’s and has resisted U.S. and international efforts to take a harder line against President Bashar Assad. And Russia’s cozy relationship with Iran has long been a point of contention with the U.S.
But in other cases the two countries have a more productive relationship. Russia has applied diplomatic pressure on North Korea in response to its attempts to develop nuclear weapons, for example.
Russia and the U.S. have also collaborated against terrorist threats, especially those posed by Islamic extremists, said James Warhola, professor and chairman of the University of Maine’s political science department.
Warhola, who specializes in the political dynamics of Russia, Turkey and Eurasia, said U.S and Russian anti-terrorism cooperation been broader more effective than many realize.
“If we go back to a sort of Cold War disposition, it would make it more difficult for the U.S. and Russia to cooperate in areas where cooperation is useful for both sides,” said Warhola. “Not only trade and commerce but also anti-terrorism efforts . . . and resolving conflicts.”
Russian intervention in Ukraine also sets a dangerous international precedent.
Laura Henry, an associate professor of government at Bowdoin College who focuses on Russian politics, said the United States does not have a strong interest in Ukraine.
“The real interest right now is Russia is violating so many international norms with impunity, and that is not in the U.S.’s interest,” said Henry, the author or editor of several books on Russia and acting chairman of Bowdoin’s Russian Department.
The United States needs to be able to work with Russia on international crises. But Russia can’t be allowed to violate territorial boundaries and international laws without fear of repercussions, she said.
“I think that is the big concern for the U.S. and other governments,” Henry said.
With Americans weary after years of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. military intervention over Ukraine is extremely unlikely. Henry said diplomatic efforts could still bear fruit.
Until being overtaken by the U.S. last year, Russia had for years been the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. European nations rely heavily on Russian energy shipments, so sanctions against Russia would hurt Europe as well.
Thanks to its booming domestic oil and gas industries, the U.S. would be more sheltered from those impacts – but not entirely, because prices here are affected by prices on global petroleum markets. Prices that Mainers pay for gasoline and heating oil would be affected as well.
The mere possibility of disruptions in Russian shipments were enough to cause crude oil prices to climb 2 percent – more than $2 a barrel – on the New York Merchantile Exchange on Monday and by more than $2.55 on the European energy exchange. Prices dropped significantly Tuesday as tensions appeared to ease.
A long-term deterioration of U.S. and Russian relations would almost certainly affect commerce between the two nations.
In 2013, the U.S. exported $11.2 billion in goods to Russia and imported nearly $27 billion of Russian products.
The U.S. and Russia are not major trade partners. The $36 billion in trade between the two was just 1 percent of the $3.8 trillion in total U.S. trade with other countries last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
The two countries have been discussing a pact to expand trade. But the U.S. suspended those conversations Monday as the situation in Ukraine appeared to escalate.
Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at: