A few days ago, President Joe Biden visited a former Soviet Union satellite country that neighbors Ukraine, Poland, to hold a speech. He closed the speech by speaking off the cuff, and saying “this man cannot remain in power.” Some people may say this is the principled human reaction after hearing a lot of terrifying stories from that day. Biden has also called Putin “a butcher” before. At the same time, European allies such as the French and U.K. governments distanced themselves from this stunning comment. In this case of this speech, we can see different countries reactions are based on different calculations.

For the U.S., it will be the best situation to be an offshore balancer in the invasion, and the US can spend less to exchange for the most benefits. President Biden urges his allies to be prepared for the long-term conflict several times in different ways, while the US does not consistently urge Ukraine and Russia to stop the fire and negotiate. If this war continues to degrade into a long-term conflict, the US can profit in two aspects. Firstly, the EU may rely on US’s security protection more than before, and NATO‘s soldiers and equipment will be deployed to the borders of its members, which demonstrates the persistent significance of US military capacity. In addition, the US will increase sales of its natural gas supply, not only increasing EU reliance, but also to earning it more revenue. Furthermore, the US has the biggest military-industrial complex in the world, and those firms will earn lots of money from the conflict. The US can not only maintain its power by being an offshore balancer, but capitalize off of protracted conflict.

For the EU, this invasion is an awful situation, so they want to seek an efficient way to end the conflict. On the one hand, they cannot intervene in the conflict. On the other hand, they cannot do anything to influence the two sides to make peace. Still, they are influenced significantly by this conflict, receiving refugees and facing energy scarcity. Now the EU has announced that all Ukrainian refugees will receive temporary protected status. However, how those refugees will affect the EU’s society, but it will take time to see how. Compared to the refugee issue, energy problems will affect the EU quickly and directly. Russia is the primary source of the natural gas of the EU, and now the governments of the EU may be blamed by their civilians, who either do not have gas to use or pay much more for energy. In this case, EU governments have distanced themselves from the US because they do not want to see the conflict escalate. 

For Russia, this off of script remark from President Biden can be a great weapon during this conflict. Russia can exploit this comment to escalate or even increase demands for security guarantees. On the internal side, Putin can use the comment to make propaganda to stabilize his legitimacy and centralize his power. Externally, it can make an excuse saying the US wants to change the regime’s power to provide cover when the Russian military uses biological weapons, or even nuclear weapons, to “protect” themselves. 

In conclusion, different countries pursue their interests in different ways under the conflict, but it appears some in the US may hope the conflict develops in the long-term situation, the EU wants to end the conflict as they can, and Russia wants to achieve its war goals. While under structural realism, Ukraine is the biggest victim, they not only need to suffer from this conflict, but also can not benefit from external gains either.

Staff writer: Eddie C

Editor: Ari B