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As I’ve written before, Americans are remarkably united on the Russia-Ukraine war. Almost everyone is on Ukraine’s side, and almost no one wants us to send troops. So differences in opinion are relatively nuanced: how far should we go to support Ukraine’s war effort? How one answers that question depends partly on whether one sees a risk of wider, possibly nuclear, war, and partly on how one sees our support for Ukraine impacting conditions here at home.
Polling by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds opinion shifting in a less warlike direction:
Americans are becoming less supportive of punishing Russia for launching its invasion of Ukraine if it comes at the expense of the U.S. economy, a sign of rising anxiety over inflation and other challenges, according to a new poll.
While broad support for U.S. sanctions has not faltered, the balance of opinion on prioritizing sanctions over the economy has shifted, according to the poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Now 45% of U.S. adults say the nation’s bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible, while slightly more — 51% — say it should be limiting damage to the U.S. economy.
In April, those figures were exactly reversed. In March, shortly after Russia attacked Ukraine, a clear majority — 55% — said the bigger priority should be sanctioning Russia as effectively as possible.
And Americans–rightly, I think–are skeptical of our taking a major role in the conflict:
[M]ost U.S. adults continue to say the U.S. should have a role in the war between Russia and Ukraine: 32% say the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict, while 49% say it should have a minor role.
The sanctions on Russia may impact our economy, but the more tangible point is that we are sending tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine while conditions are worsening in the U.S.
The shifts in opinion reflect how rising prices are biting into American households — surging costs for gas, groceries, and other commodities have strained budgets for millions of people — and perhaps limiting their willingness to support Ukraine financially. That may be a troubling sign for President Joe Biden, who on Saturday approved an additional $40 billion in funding to help Ukraine including both weapons and financial assistance.
And this survey, like all others, finds public confidence in Joe Biden to be low:
The new poll shows just 21% of Americans say they have “a great deal of confidence” in Biden’s ability to handle the situation in Ukraine; 39% say they have some confidence and 39% say they have hardly any.
I would like to meet one of those 21%. I don’t think any of them are among my acquaintances, and I suspect most of them are lying to the pollster.
The path to resolution of the Ukraine conflict seems reasonably clear, unless, in the next few weeks, the Russian army performs even worse than it has to date. Henry Kissinger, who is still around and still cogent at an advanced age, is ever the realist:
Veteran US statesman Henry Kissinger has urged the West to stop trying to inflict a crushing defeat on Russian forces in Ukraine, warning that it would have disastrous consequences for the long term stability of Europe.
The former US secretary of state and architect of the Cold War rapprochement between the US and China told a gathering in Davos that it would be fatal for the West to get swept up in the mood of the moment and forget the proper place of Russia in the European balance of power.
Dr Kissinger said the war must not be allowed to drag on for much longer, and came close to calling on the West to bully Ukraine into accepting negotiations on terms that fall very far short of its current war aims.
“Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante. Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself,” he said.
The status quo ante would be great, but Ukraine likely will need to cede Russian sovereignty over some eastern areas where Russia had already exerted considerable control prior to the war. Kissinger also noted that “European leaders should not lose sight of the longer term relationship, and nor should they risk pushing Russia into a permanent alliance with China.”
Good point. It seems to me that American public opinion lines up well with the likely outcome of the Ukraine conflict. Let’s hope it comes soon.