Russo Ukrainian War and the View from America
Although Biden made several controversial statements in Europe last week, one that drew attention was his statement that the US is “helping train the Ukrainian troops that are in Poland.” It didn’t take long for the White House staff to “walk back” that presidential statement.
On the face of it, the Biden statement wasn’t that controversial. The US currently has 10,500 troops in Poland according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. This is part of the 100,000 American troops in Europe. Since some of the troops in Poland are concerned with transferring weapons to the Ukraine, it’s obvious that some interface between the soldiers of the two nations would take place.
The training statement was also denied by the US military. General Tod Wolters, NATO’s supreme allied commander contradicted Biden by telling a Senate Armed Services Committee, “I do not believe that we are in the process of currently training military forces from the Ukraine in Poland.”
The general added some nuance by continuing, “There are liaisons that are there that are being given advice, and that’s different from [what] I think you are referring to with respect to training.”
The general noted that NATO expects to learn from Russia’s tactics and how they may impact NATO’s defense posture. General Wolters said the invasion offers the opportunity to “reexamine the permanent military architecture that exists on the continent.”
What is the Average American Thinking?
Although some critics said that the idea of training Ukrainian troops was a huge provocation to Russia, there may be another reason for the change. After all, the large shipments of weapons to the Ukraine, the intelligence provided to the Ukrainian commanders, and the shipping of a former Soviet S-300 to the Ukrainians is provoking, in addition to Biden calling Putin a “War Criminal.”
The fact is that despite the wholehearted support of the Ukrainians by the US, there are some people, on both sides of the aisle, that oppose America’s wholehearted support of the Ukrainian government.
More than a dozen Democratic leaning organizations sent a letter to Biden urging him to seek a diplomatic solution to the war and to avoid doing anything that would cause a further escalation. Compromise is necessary to diplomacy and will save lives,” the letter said.
The letter also said that any direct clash between the US and Russia could risk a nuclear escalation. This is a serious threat as the UK’s Daily Mail reported on March 30, that two Russian fighter jets that “violated Swedish airspace,” were equipped with nuclear weapons…a deliberate act designed to intimidate Sweden according to a Swedish news channel.
Of course, the Republican Party is also split. Some see the threat that the US will be sucked deeper into the war. Others who are more isolationists are of the opinion that this is a problem that must be solved by European nations.
Polling shows that most Americans are on the Ukraine’s side. However, not all Americans side with the Ukraine or total support of Ukraine.
There is bi-partisan support for admitting Ukrainian refugees into the US and for American businesses to stop doing business with Russia.
But this support isn’t helping Biden, whose popularity is still hovering at its lowest point.
A recent NPR/Ipsos poll taken last week shows the split.
Only 39% think the US should be doing more to help the Ukraine. However, that outpolls those who think America should be doing less (7%).
The difference comes out when the concept of more aid for Ukraine entails the threat of a large military conflict between Russia and the US. 62% support giving Ukraine some, but not all the support they have asked for to avoid a major conflict between the US and Russia.
17% favor giving the Ukraine all the support they require even if it increase the possibility of a conflict between Russia and the US.
The split between doing is bipartisan. 46% of Republicans favor doing more, while 37% of Democrats favor giving more support. Independents are marginally less interested in giving more aide (35%)
Wars are usually good for the president’s popularity, but not in this case. Only 36% think Biden’s response if good. Of course, the split is wide between Republicans and Democrats.
Nearly half (45%) think Biden has been too cautious.
One reason why Biden hasn’t benefited from the Ukrainian war is that Americans are more worried about inflation (42%). 94% say that they are spending more on gas, housing, and food since last year. And Biden is getting much of the blame.
Biden’s popularity is in the high 30s percent or low 40s percent depending on the poll. Probably more troubling is that Trump is leading Biden in a hypothetical match-up in 2024. Trump would get 47% and Biden 41%.
Vice President Harris does even worse. She would receive 38% to Trump’s 49%.
There are troubling numbers from other polls. An NBC poll released this week showed that 8 out of 10 Americans say they were worried mishandling of the crisis by Biden will lead to nuclear war. The poll also discovered that 7 out of 10 have low confidence in Biden’s ability to handle the conflict between the US and Russia.
Although it’s over two years to the next presidential election and Biden is doing poorly because of inflation, he must play it carefully if he doesn’t want his Ukraine policy to further damage his popularity.
It’s not just Biden’s popularity that is at risk. The Democrats could be facing an election massacre this November. Pollster Bill McIntruff, who helped conduct the NBC poll said, “What this poll says is that President Biden and Democrats are headed for a catastrophic election.”
A major election loss is just as frightening to Democrats as increasing tensions between Biden and Putin. Given that, we can expect to see Biden tiptoeing through the Ukrainian minefield for the rest of the conflict.