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The Russo-Ukrainian War: Why the U.S. is Spending so Much on Ukraine

As the largest and most prosperous economy in today’s world, the U.S. has never shied away from issuing foreign aid to support developing democracies or fortify its alliances around the world.

Since the start of its conflict with Russia, Ukraine has taken the top spot on Washington’s foreign aid expenditure list. Between January of 2022 and May of 2023, America has shelled out $76.8 billion, no small sum. 

After the Second World War, America and the Soviet Union quickly found themselves at odds with each other. The democratic, free-market principles that guided America directly contradicted the autocratic, socialist rhetoric of the Soviet Union.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russian authoritarianism returned with Vladimir Putin taking office in 2000, creating a host of geopolitical challenges for America and its allies ever since. 

Ukraine became an independent nation upon the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and has made gestures towards Western-style democracy on multiple occasions. However, Putin cites in his 2021 essay titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” that the peoples of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are a single people, bound together by historical ties of a shared cultural identity and genealogy.

A pivot towards the West is a clear red line for Putin, viewing Ukraine as an integral historical territory within the Russian sphere of influence. From the Russian perspective, the gradual expansion of NATO further and further to the East provides credibility to Putin’s claims of Western anti-Russian sentiment. This, of course, does not take into account that each country is within its own right to join NATO if they please. 

The U.S. takes the position that Ukraine has the right to self-determination, that the country has a sovereign right to choose to align itself with the West, regardless of whether it comes at the expense of Russian interests in the region or not.

Additionally, America has its own incentives to foot the bill for Ukraine’s war. U.S. global hegemony depends largely in part on the security of its allies in Europe, hence the creation of NATO after the Second World War for this exact purpose. 

Vladimir Putin is questioning the integrity of not only European institutions but the current world order at large, which has been spearheaded by the U.S. for almost 80 years now. The moment that integrity is compromised is the moment that U.S. interests are put at risk.

A resurgent Russia risks fracturing European unity by once again dividing Europe into East and West. If the stakes are the security of America’s most important allies, then it should come as no surprise that the wager is $76 billion and counting.

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