Most experts did not expect the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that began in winter 2022 to still be taking place at the outset of winter 2023. After a failed peace negotiation in the early months of the conflict, Russia has taken control of significant portions of Ukrainian territory. With ongoing attacks and counter-offensives by both sides, the stakes are higher than ever. The world is seeing a potential weaponization of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, ever-growing numbers of casualties and refugees, and increased militarization on both sides.
The United States has taken an active role, including providing both humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine and imposing economic sanctions on Russia. In the early days of the conflict, many American citizens were vocal in their support of Ukraine. The blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag became ubiquitous across US social media.
“The war in Ukraine says so much about where global politics are right now,” says Eugene Plotkin, speaking on the issue of the war and its effects on US politics. Plotkin is a Russian-born fintech entrepreneur and expert in Russia-Ukrainian relations who has been closely watching the conflict and weighing in on its effects.
He now lives in NYC and has seen firsthand not just the war’s material effects on the US but its pervasive effect on US public opinion, national politics, and policy. “Directly and indirectly, it’s going to have a massive role in the midterms this year. Ukraine is a polarizing issue. Most Americans are acutely aware of the situation and there are many opinions about the extent and nature of US involvement.”
US interest and action in Ukraine
“The US has a long-standing relationship with Ukraine,” says Plotkin. “Although most Americans were not as aware of our relationship with Ukraine as they became after February 2022, the State Department has been very focused on Ukraine as a strategic ally since the days of Presidents Bush and Obama.”
The US has been supporting Ukraine for many years with billions of dollars in aid along with training and equipment for the Ukrainian military. According to the US, this support is to secure in Ukraine a democratic form of government, a free market economy, and a regional ally.
“The US places great value on strategic alliances,” explains Eugene Plotkin. “Ukraine is in a region of the world that was historically within the Russian sphere of influence, so it is not surprising that the US has tried to make the most of what it perceived as an opportunity to realign Ukraine from a Russian-centric orientation to a NATO-centric orientation.”
The US has seen a number of geopolitical impacts from its alliance with Ukraine, including an increase in the demand for US energy products, a weakening of Russia’s economy, and a boost to the US military-industrial complex.
“The real question is one of perspective. If you see the world as a zero-sum game between the NATO countries on the one hand and Russia/China on the other, then you are likely a supporter of the US policy. On the other hand, if your primary concern is domestic issues then you may prefer a greater focus by the US government on matters closer to home.”
Ukraine and the US Midterms
The US midterms this year are historically close and the current polls predict a toss-up between Democrats and Republicans for control of Congress. “Voting patterns will likely hinge on a few key issues. Domestically, it’s likely the economy, healthcare, and law and order. For foreign policy, it’s all about Ukraine and Taiwan,” says Eugene Plotkin.
It’s clear that the conflict is high on the minds of US citizens as they look toward the next two years. Plotkin and other analysts note that Ukraine and Taiwan are not issues that split along party lines. While Democrats are generally in favor of the current policy, some Republican candidates support the current course and some want the US to reduce its international entanglements.
“There is a cultural war in the US between folks who want more government and those who want more individual freedom. People do not think of it in those terms, but that is what it amounts to,” notes Eugene Plotkin. “The war in Ukraine is a microcosm of that argument.”
Inversely, Plotkin points out, that it is important to consider how the outcome of the midterms could affect the war. “Both Ukraine and Russia are going to be watching US elections closely. Depending on the make-up of the new Congress, the US government may decide to push for either a continuation of current policies or a push for a more rapid peace settlement.”
Eugene Plotkin is a Soviet-born, Harvard-educated finance, business, and technology professional. During his time at Melvin Capital, he realized his passion for new financial technologies. Today, Eugene Plotkin is a consultant for fintech startups and the CEO and co-founder of TechWallet. Eugene Plotkin has a special passion for helping as many people use technology to understand and organize their finances as possible.