The US and Ukraine: Leadership in Question

Russia’s actions in Ukraine have an unexpected ally in sectors of the U.S. electorate, dubious of further military interventions abroad.

Uncertainty is especially prevalent among Republicans, spurred by accusations that President Joe Biden cares more for Ukraine’s borders than his own.

Divisive opinions, upcoming legislative elections and what could be defined as international fatigue among the American people undoubtedly have an impact on Washington’s stance toward Kyiv. And, indeed, it’s a test of one of Biden’s promises: to return the United States to a position of international leadership.

The idea of intervening on behalf of Ukraine to defend it against a possible Russian invasion faces rejection from a section of the Republican Party, traditionally the “hardline” party that stood against the Soviet Union, which, when it dissolved in 1991, gave birth to the current Russian Federation.

According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, 49% of Americans consider Russia a “competitor” of the United States and 41% see it as an “enemy.” For 7%, Russia is a “partner” to their country.

Almost half of Republicans and those who lean Republican view Moscow as a “rival,” while 39% would call it an “enemy.” Among Democrats the proportion is reversed; 49% see it as a “competitor” and 43% view it as an “adversary.”

The fact is that each day, according to the online newspaper Axios, “Any assistance President Biden provides to Ukraine could grow instantly into an ideological war back home.”

Biden dismissed the idea of sending troops to Kyiv. Instead, he sent military aid worth $200 million of U.S.-made weapons to Ukraine and promised “unprecedented” sanctions if Vladimir Putin’s government invades the former Soviet republic. The U.S. also began preparations to provide military support to allies of NATO in Eastern Europe.

Domestic support is questionable, and Republicans seem reluctant for their country to confront Russia on behalf of Ukraine. According to the American political media, many presumed Republican candidates who have promised not to intervene in any potential conflict in Ukraine express, and stoke, anti-interventionist sentiments in the party.

An explanation could be found in the feelings of frustration with the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and former President Donald Trump’s personal sympathies toward Russia and Putin.

Nonetheless, there is a Republican sector, defined as traditionalist and centered in the Senate, which seems to agree with the policy of containing Russian ambition. This domestic debate does little to help Biden’s foreign policy and accentuates the growing debate over his stated resolution to restore increasingly questioned U.S. leadership in the world.

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