ST. GEORGE — While dominating the airwaves and the news, the Russian invasion of Ukraine still may seem like a world away to people in Southern Utah.
But Sen. Mitt Romney said people locally should care not only about the suffering of the Ukrainian people but the ultimate result if the aspirations of Russian leader Vladimir Putin go beyond Eastern Europe.
“It’s been the experience of history that if tyrants stove for power, they will strive for more and more and they will never stop, and that will ultimately involve us,” Romney said in a Zoom press call in response to a question from St. George News. “Russia would make our life difficult.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its second week, with the Ukrainians continuing to hold off most Russian advances though reportedly losing the port city of Kherson, which is slightly larger than Salt Lake City in size and population.
Media reports depict sacrifices being made by men, women and children huddling in subway tunnels, taking up arms or the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. While nowhere near the same scope, Romney said people here also will need to make sacrifices at the pump and in their pocketbook to maintain economic sanctions directed at Putin.
“It’s very easy for politicians to say make sanctions, but we need to remember sanctions affect us as well,” Romney said. “The people I’m talking to say there’s a pretty significant effect on Russia’s economy. If so, Putin may decide to strike back. There will be sacrifices that we will feel here whether it’s gas prices or inflation. It comes at a cost but nowhere near the cost of blood.”
But should the military parents of Southern Utah be worried that their sons and daughters might be joining the fight themselves?
Romney applauded President Joe Biden for avoiding any U.S. military commitment in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address and said the U.S. and allies attack on Russia’s leadership should remain economic at this point. But he said Putin’s ambitions ultimately may involve U.S. forces if Putin expands his ambitions to the NATO countries that border Ukraine.
“I appreciate (Biden) wants to avoid a direct confrontation because that can escalate to a world war,” said Romney, who as a presidential candidate in 2008 called Putin America’s “largest geopolitical foe.”
“At the same time, we need to honor our agreements to our NATO allies. I’m not sure where a megalomaniac dictator is going to head, but the sanctions we’re putting in place have been far more impactful the he was anticipating or we were anticipating.”
As far as maintaining the economy and resolve at home, Romney said a key will be taking a new look at the nation’s energy policy – a topic he felt President Joe Biden fell short of in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address. While mentioning green energy as being part of that policy, he also said it includes being open to tapping oil and coal resources in Utah’s public lands.
“If we’re going to reduce the pain here and in Europe, we’re going to have to address energy options here,” Romney said. “That will mean drilling on public lands and opening the Keystone Pipeline.
“If Germany needs to extend nuclear a little longer, then we may need to supply uranium to Germany. If they need coal, we create a lot of coal in Utah. Our oil producers here have to produce more oil in the Uinta Basin.”
But along with traditional fossil fuel energy, Romney said red tape has to be removed from creating solar and wind farms to add to the power grid at home.
“We need a faster approval process for solar farms, ground storage for carbon,” he said. “We turned a 10-year process of creating a vaccine into a one-year process with Operation Warp Speed. We need to do the same with renewables.”
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