Editorial: Russia-Ukraine conflict induces anxiety on microscopic, macroscopic scales

American intelligence is decidedly certain that Russia is going to invade Ukraine. This past weekend, the president of Finland said that the world is now in a “colder war.” The long-running tension between the United States and Russia that defined foreign and domestic politics in the mid-20th century has now been sequelized for the 21st century. 

While President Vladimir Putin has been exhibiting threatening behavior towards Ukraine before – and has been doing so once again for the past month – in recent days things have approached a boiling point. 

Russia will extend its weeks-long presence in Belarus, which borders Ukraine, into the week of Feb. 21. The deployment consists of 30,000 soldiers, under the pretense of training drills. The military presence has been accompanied by rumors of Ukrainian plans to invade Belarus, which are speculated to be a Russian-ploy to justify an invasion of Ukraine. According to pentagon press secretary John Kirby, Russia – in classic Moscow strategy – is framing itself as the victim. 

Biden has remained open to diplomatic solutions. And on Feb. 20 French President Macron and Putin discussed the possibility of a ceasefire

But on Feb. 19, the White House released a statement indicating that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time. Biden met with the National Security Council on Sunday, Feb. 20 but at the time of writing, the outcomes of that meeting haven’t been published. 

Beyond the actual destruction and loss of life in all-out war – or a “colder war” – the Russia/Ukraine conflict will have global ramifications. According to the New York Times, Europe is dependent on Russia’s natural gas, and any disruption – war, Putin holding the pipeline hostage or even the introduction of economic sanctions – could have devastating consequences. According to CNN, Europe’s food supply chain could also be impacted. In the past, Ukraine’s agriculture industry has been called “Europe’s breadbasket.” 

These recent events have been part of a month-long escalation in tensions. Fiona Hill, who was on Trump’s National Security Council and served under Bush and Obama, wrote for the Times on the topic back in January. Hill said the Russia/Ukraine conflict is part of Putin’s grander scheme to “evict the U.S. from Europe.” 

On a local, maybe myopic level, this fallout from these international anxieties will affect the Grand Valley State University community. 

If students haven’t already been driven to a semi-permanent state of anxious terror by the events of the last five years, Cold War II – or, worse, the explicit all-out conflict of World War III – will probably do it. 

Students, professors and staff at GVSU have, alongside the rest of America, experienced the turmoil of the Trump presidency, the global pandemic, the proliferation of debt and all-but-absolute absence of homeownership in their grim economic futures and the exponentially rapid process of the planet becoming uninhabitable for humans. Members of the GVSU community have either been desensitized to global and national politics, or they remain conscious to fully witness the anxieties of the near-certainty of international military conflict. 

However this unfolds, events have already transpired which will define the future of the United States’ relationship with Europe might be damaged beyond repair and the pretense of a peaceful coexistence between nuclear superpowers has been dropped. In the worst-case scenario, our generation will see a war in their lifetime that stands to further tarnish the United States’ reputation on the international stage and threaten the country’s physical and digital infrastructure.