American voters only tend to notice foreign affairs when they make US look bad
Long ago, he ruled out sending US troops to help defend Ucrânia. There is little appetite for such an intervention among the American public, and Biden was elected having promised to withdraw the country from foreign wars, not start new ones.
As he told NBC News in an interview shortly before the Super Bowl, it would not do anyone any good to have US troops anywhere near Russian forces. Russia has around 6,250 armas nucleares, while the US has 5,600.
He was asked in what circumstances might be send troops to rescue trapped Americans. “There’s not ," ele disse. “That’s a world war — when Americans and Russians start shooting at one another, we’re in a very different world than we’ve ever been in.”
All of this is wise and smart. But having so loudly ruled out the deployment of US troops — often leaders like to claim “all options” are on the table — it meant the avenues of leverage available to the president were relatively few. Na quarta-feira, Putin showed his disdain for Biden and US allies when he ordered a large military strike against Ukraine, leaving scores dead and triggering one of the worst crises in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
The strategy of Biden and America’s Nato allies essentially appears to have been three-fold. em primeiro lugar, they have reasserted each other’s commitment to Nato’s Article Five, namely that when one is attacked, all are considered attacked. The message appears to be very clear. Ukraine is not a member state, but if you mess with Poland, then watch out.
Em segundo lugar, by making public much of the intelligence they received about Putin’s plans and motivations, the west appears to hope that the Russian leader may actually think twice about being placed in a global spotlight again. No doubt some of the speculation was embarrassing.
Thirdly, Biden and US allies have vowed major economic sanctions against Russia: that was what he announced on Thursday. The measures will cut off Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, e 25 of its subsidiaries from the US financial system. Biden also announced “full blocking sanctions on VTB Bank, Russia’s second-largest bank, e 20 of its subsidiaries”. The US also said it was to impose “full blocking sanctions“ on three other large Russia banks: Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank OJSC, and Novikombank.
What Biden did not do, Contudo, was announce personal sanctions on Putin himself. And the west has so far decided not to go as far as pressing for what has been termed the “nuclear option” of removing Russia from SWIFT, a high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world.
Will any of this do any good? That is the huge unknowable.
Rússia, its economy already hit by earlier sanctions, was struggling with a weak rouble even before the invasion. The rouble’s value has now tumbled even further. But Russia exerts lots of pressure over Europe, também, particularly in the sale of oil and natural gas. Brent Crude hit $100 per barrel for the first time since 2014.
And if the threat of sanctions was not enough to deter Putin from launching a large scale attack on Ukraine, are the imposition of those additional sanctions going to make him stop?
It is worth listening to a translation or reading a transcript of the speech Putin delivered on Monday night, speaking at 10pm from the Kremlin. “Let me emphasise once again that Ukraine for us is not just a neighboring country. It is an integral part of our own history, culture, spiritual space,” he said at one point. “These are our comrades, relatives, among whom are not only colleagues, amigos, former colleagues, but also relatives, people connected with us by blood, family ties.”
He then added: “We are being blackmailed, they are threatening us with sanctions. But I think they will impose those sanctions. A new pretext will always be found or fabricated, irrespective of the situation in Ukraine.”
Putin’s speech was for the world, for his own people, for the people of eastern Ukraine, and in particular for the people in those breakaway regions in the Donbas.
When I visited there in July 2014 after pro-Russian rebels mistakenly shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 — a passenger plane with around 250 passengers onboard — it was both tragic and mystifying. As volunteers removed body parts and luggage from a hillside, the villagers — all of whom watched Russian state TV — were adamant the plane had been shot down by Ukrainian forces in Kyiv rather than the pro-Russian rebels. Trying to argue with them was as fruitless as trying to persuade a Donald Trump loyalist that the 2020 election was not rigged.
What those people felt, they did so with their hearts, not their heads. Is that how Vladimir Putin is operating right now, with his heart and not his head?
All of this just makes the situation for Joe Biden all the more difficult. He has few good options to try and stand down Putin. Logic is not going to win the day. And while the average American does not care that much about events in places such as Ukraine, they do notice when fuel prices rise.
Da mesma forma, Americans do not like to be seen as a laughingstock — or, pior, as they were seen last summer when Biden ordered what turned into a chaotic and deadly withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
The midterm elections are 10 months away. It may feel improper to consider such issues at such a moment, but Biden’s staff will certainly be making such calculations, which is one of the reasons he vowed prices at the fuel pump would be carefully watched during his speech on Ukraine.
All of this means Biden does not have a brilliant hand. And if he plays it badly, it could become very for him, for Americans and for the people of Ukraine.