Why the Ukrainian war is also a domestic political problem for Biden | american foreign policy
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Kyiv leading a congressional delegation this week served as a reminder that in Washington, the war in Ukraine is not just a matter of national security, but also a increasingly important domestic political issue.
In his approach to the conflict, Joe Biden has the wind in his sails in terms of American public opinion and Democratic sentiment which encourages him to be ever more avant-garde.
In a new poll by The Washington Post and ABC News, 37% of Americans polled said his administration was not doing enough to support Ukrainians, slightly more than the 36% who said he was doing the right amount. . Only 14% suggested it was overdoing it.
Late last month, the administration broadened US objectives in the conflict, not only to bolster Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but also to weaken Russia, in an effort to prevent a repeat of Moscow’s aggression against other countries.
A European diplomat suggested that one of the factors behind the change was the impatience of higher levels of the party with the posture of the administration.
“It’s basically about trying to take the lead in this crisis. There is a lot of national criticism of the administration for its passivity,” the official said.
“The hill [Congress] are crossed and a lot of big Democratic donors think it’s not as direct as America should be… Biden thinks he’s walking a cautious path between intervention in its broadest sense and standing focus on national concerns — and some Democrats are starting to think the balance isn’t right.
Senator Chris Coons, a prominent figure in Democratic foreign policy circles, criticized Biden for taking direct military intervention off the table as an option. On the other side of the party, there has been little pushback from the progressive wing, which is normally skeptical of sending large amounts of military hardware to foreign conflicts.
And for once in Washington, the Republicans are pushing in the same direction.
“It’s one of the few areas where Democrats and Republicans are reasonably well united and it makes it pretty easy for a president to move in that direction. He doesn’t make enemies,” said Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia.
“The umbrella over all of this is the moral question and the powerful video of massacred and dismembered Ukrainians,” said John Zogby, pollster and political consultant. “Americans are moved by this and overwhelmingly support the Ukrainian people.”
It is, however, a matter of political corner. Support is more even among Democrats than Republicans. Donald Trump transferred his personal admiration for Vladimir Putin to at least some of his supporters and to Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, who consistently raised pro-Moscow talking points on his show.
Democratic support is bolstered by the prominent role of Ukrainian-Americans, believed to number around 1 million (Zogby thinks this is an underestimate) and influential on the party’s ethnic coordination council. They have all the more influence that they are concentrated in oscillating states.
“You have a decent number of Ukrainians in Ohio, and you have a Senate race in Ohio. There are Ukrainians in Pennsylvania and you have a Senate race in Pennsylvania,” said Wendy Schiller, professor of political science at Brown University.
In Wisconsin, Democrats ran ads against incumbent Senator Ron Johnson, focusing on his 2018 visit to Moscow.
“It’s no coincidence that Nancy Pelosi went to Ukraine,” Schiller said. “For the speaker to go away, he says this will be an issue that the national party is going to consider in the midterm elections.”
With state and national level politics, public moral outrage, and Biden’s own foreign policy instincts all pointing in the same direction, the administration has sharply increased its involvement in the Ukraine conflict, asking the Congress an extraordinary $33 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid to Kyiv.
Public support, however, wanes dramatically when it comes to the issue of sending in US troops. Only 21% of respondents in this week’s poll supported such direct intervention, and fear of Ukraine escalating into a nuclear conflict is significantly higher among Democrats than Republicans.
Biden, who has made the US exit from ‘eternal wars’ his foreign policy, has repeatedly said he will not send US troops to Ukraine and canceled routine missile tests to reduce any risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation between the two nuclear superpowers.
“Boots on the pitch may very well be a very different story,” Zogby said. “I don’t think very well of World War III polls.”