03.08.2023 | A Free World, If You Can Keep It
By Robert Kagan - Foreign Affairs

Before February 24, 2022, most Americans agreed that the United States had no vital interests at stake in Ukraine. “If there is somebody in this town that would claim that we would consider going to war with Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with The Atlantic in 2016, “they should speak up.” Few did.

Yet the consensus shifted when Russia invaded Ukraine. Suddenly, Ukraine’s fate was important enough to justify spending billions of dollars in resources and enduring rising gas prices; enough to expand security commitments in Europe, including bringing Finland and Sweden into NATO; enough to make the United States a virtual co-belligerent in the war against Russia, with consequences yet to be seen. All these steps have so far enjoyed substantial support in both political parties and among the public. A poll in August last year found that four in ten Americans support sending U.S. troops to help defend Ukraine if necessary, although the Biden administration insists it has no intention of doing so.

Russia’s invasion has changed Americans’ views not only of Ukraine but also of the world in general and the United States’ role in it. For more than a dozen years before Russia’s invasion and under two different presidents, the country sought to pare its overseas commitments, including in Europe. A majority of Americans believed that the United States should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own,” according to the Pew Research Center. As pollster Andrew Kohut put it, the American public felt “little responsibility and inclination to deal with international problems that are not seen as direct threats to the national interest.” Yet today, Americans are dealing with two international disputes that do not pose a direct threat to the “national interest” as commonly understood. The United States has joined a war against an aggressive great power in Europe and promised to defend another small democratic nation against an autocratic great power in East Asia. U.S. President Joe Biden’s commitments to defend Taiwan if it is attacked—in “another action similar to what happened in Ukraine,” as Biden described it—have grown starker since Russia’s invasion. Americans now see the world as a more dangerous place. In response, defense budgets are climbing (marginally); economic sanctions and limits on technology transfer are increasing; and alliances are being shored up and expanded.

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Центр миру, конверсії та зовнішньої політики України
Інститут євро-атлантичного співробітництва
Центр "Україна - Європейський вибір"
Defense Express
Центр європейських та трансатлантичних студій

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