The recent news of the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, and the northern city of Chernihiv shows how the extraordinary and courageous Ukrainian army and people have thwarted any hopes that Russian President Vladimir Putin might have had win the war quickly. Today, in the second month of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia, although unfortunately causing terrible damage to the Ukrainian people, has yet to achieve its military objectives and is refocusing its military campaign on the east from Ukraine.
A long war will test Biden in two hugely important ways – one foreign and one domestic.
But it’s also possible that another president, Joe Biden, didn’t expect the war to last this long. While the situation isn’t as dire for Biden, the likelihood of it continuing for at least several more months poses challenges to both his efforts to support Ukraine and his domestic political fortunes.
Since the start of the war, he has more or less taken over the presidency from Biden – which is understandable given the urgency of the crisis. He played a vital role in building the international coalition that imposed strong sanctions on Russia while bolstering US domestic support for Ukraine, sending huge amounts of aid to the country, and bolstering the US commitment to NATO. All this is extremely important and essential for Ukraine, but it will be increasingly difficult to maintain these positions over time.
A long war will test Biden in two hugely important ways – one foreign and one domestic. Europe and the United States have been more united than at any time in recent memory. As difficult as it was for Biden to help build this unity, as he needed to impress on European countries with much closer ties to Russia that these actions were extremely important, sustaining it could be even more difficult.
Sanctions that harm the Russian economy also harm the economies of the European countries that impose them. Countries like Germany and Italy have considerably more trade with Russia than the United States, and like the United States, they face inflation and supply chain issues.
Sanctions that harm the Russian economy also harm the economies of the European countries that impose them.
Fortunately for the coalition, Europe is heading for warmer months. The weather will reduce demand for fossil fuels – a proposed target of the next round of European sanctions – at the center of Russia’s economy. However, if the war continues into the winter months, this demand for cheap energy will increase and pressure from European populations to reduce sanctions and start buying oil and other products from Russia will likely increase. The pushback that European leaders may experience from their constituents due to the rising cost of basic necessities could make it harder for Biden to maintain the coalition.
Before and now during the war, Biden has been relatively successful in striking a balance between supporting Ukraine and preventing the conflict from escalating which, as he frequently asserts, could lead to World War III. Maintaining this balance will not be easy.
We see it with what the United States has officially declared to be war crimes committed by the Russian armed forces. In response, Biden announced he would seek additional sanctions and called Putin a “war criminal”. The latest round of US sanctions targets Putin’s adult children and bans further investment in the country. Similarly, if Russia uses nuclear or thermobaric weapons in Ukraine, possibilities Moscow has raised, Biden may have to do more than increase sanctions or send more weapons to Ukraine.
The domestic politics that Biden will have to navigate will also become more complex. Even though most Americans generally support his approach of not sending American troops to fight in the war, his overall approval rating remains stuck in the low 40s. That’s partly because Americans view inflation and related issues as more important than what’s happening overseas. If war and inflation continue through the summer, voters, with encouragement from the GOP and other conservative forces, might begin to wonder why the president is spending so much time and energy on what will look like more and more to an endless war in Ukraine. when Americans face economic problems at home.
While inflation cannot be primarily blamed on the war or Biden, voters could easily draw that connection and turn against him, the war, or both. Republican criticism of Biden’s over-cautiousness in arming Ukraine with certain weapons could also intensify, and many could point to it as one of the main reasons the war is dragging on longer than necessary. Either scenario would be bad for Biden.
The longer-than-expected war was a disaster for Putin because Russia failed to achieve its military goals while the economy stumbled under sanctions, but because of the dynamics of the sanctions regime and domestic politics. American, the time may have come on his side. In a few months, some European countries may break sanctions, and Biden, who has been unwavering in his support for Ukraine, could begin to face even greater political hurdles at home and must instead carry his pay attention to this. than war. A politically weakened Biden is a win for Putin, and a long war could bring him that.