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Americans react to how the Russian invasion of Ukraine could impact them


The war in Ukraine is thousands of miles away from the U.S., yet many Americans still worry how the conflict might affect their lives. North Country Public Radio's Emily Russell reports from upstate New York.

EMILY RUSSELL, BYLINE: I meet Heather Moon at a gas station just outside the small mountain town of Saranac Lake, N.Y. She's wearing a red hoodie from her kid's high school. When she heard the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine, she said she immediately worried the war could impact her here at home.

HEATHER MOON: My first thought was my son, of course, and our family.

RUSSELL: Moon's son is in the Army. She's worried Russia's invasion of Ukraine could result in her son getting sent overseas.

MOON: It could cause him to be deployed. And for how long, we wouldn't know. So that's a scary situation for us.

RUSSELL: President Biden has said he won't send U.S. troops into battle in Ukraine, though more than 10,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to different parts of Europe to reassure NATO allies.

Some people I talked to in upstate New York, like Sammy Yelle, say they're worried the war could escalate fast and require a lot more troops.

SAMMY YELLE: When this started months back, my parents were like, oh, you know, potentially a draft. And, you know, like, my husband's that age that he could still be drafted.

RUSSELL: The United States doesn't have a draft, nor has there been any proposal to implement one. Yelle is standing in the parking lot of a local grocery store. She's in her 30s and is a professional circus performer, though most of her work dried up during the pandemic. Yelle says money is tight right now. She's worried the war in Ukraine could make things like food and gas more expensive.

YELLE: I can barely afford my groceries now. Like, I'm literally walking in there with my last hundred dollars.

RUSSELL: Gifford Hosler is also heading in to buy food. He's against the war. He says the American military shouldn't need to get involved, that we have enough problems here at home.

GIFFORD HOSLER: We have hunger. We have homelessness. We have veterans in the street. We have kids who don't eat.

RUSSELL: Hosler is a Vietnam vet. He was drafted in the 1960s. He says what Russian President Vladimir Putin is doing in Ukraine is not right, but he thinks the war could've been avoided if Donald Trump was still president.

HOSLER: When Mr. Trump was in office, Mr. Putin was in his place. He's not in his place anymore. I think he feared Donald Trump more than he fears what we have now for a president.

RUSSELL: This political divide among Americans is clear here in upstate New York. The region's representative in the House, Republican Elise Stefanik, has focused most of her response to the Russian invasion on President Biden, blaming him for the chaos there and calling him weak.

In downtown Saranac Lake, Heidi Kretser says this moment is really frightening but not totally surprising.

HEIDI KRETSER: Maybe I'm cynical, but it seems like with the divisions that we've been seeing just in our own country of nationalist ideals that the world is a ripe ground for this kind of conflict.

RUSSELL: People say they're worried about how much worse this can all get, both thousands of miles away in Ukraine and here at home.

For NPR News, I'm Emily Russell in Saranac Lake, N.Y.

(SOUNDBITE OF DISKRET'S "ODES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Russell