In the wake of Russia’s open invasion of Ukraine, U.S. leadership needs to engage with its citizens about what a war with Moscow would mean for them. They should point out that a military conflict with Russia could disrupt European economies and trade, threaten Europe’s ability to defend itself, and raise the risk of a global nuclear exchange.
Americans want to believe that a diplomatic path will end the crisis, but the truth is that it’s too late for that. Majorities of American adults have favorable views of Ukraine, support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and have confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. However, they also have negative opinions of Russia and its ruler, Vladimir Putin.
Experts agree that in a toe-to-toe conventional fight, the U.S. military’s globe-spanning force would clobber Russia’s. But modern wars are not conventional, and geography, politics and terrain inevitably give one side an advantage.
The United States spends 10 times more on national defense than Russia, operates a fleet of 10 aircraft carriers while Russia maintains just one, and has a vast technological edge in other areas. But if the two superpowers escalated the conflict to a full-scale nuclear exchange, it would wipe out much of Russia’s population and leave the rest of the world struggling to survive in a dramatically altered world. For that reason, it is vital that the United States and Russia renew their arms control talks before New START expires.