Biden's biggest test: Proving that he can unite allies against Putin

WASHINGTON (AP), -- President Joe Biden's efforts to gather support at home and abroad ahead of a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine are just one of many big tests of his ability to balance competing interests and bridge ideological gaps to create effective coalitions.

26 January 2022 Wednesday 13:18
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Biden's biggest test: Proving that he can unite allies against Putin

It's not a sure thing, judging by his record as president. Biden is trying for the international alliance that he has not been able to achieve on his domestic agenda, as he faces defeats over voting rights and his $2.2 trillion domestic climate and spending bill.

He now faces a complex and more dangerous task: keeping West united as it faces what White House officials call an increasing likely further invasion by Russian President Vladimir Putin of Ukrainian territory.

This slew of challenging moments is a major test for Biden's twin pillars: That he can get things done at home competently and that America's standing in world after Donald Trump’s volatile four years as President.

"Having started with the messy ending of the war in Afghanistan at the end of summer, and the rise in COVID cases into fall, overlaid with economic concerns and labor shortages, and his issues regarding his legislative agenda, Biden has found himself with an exhausted American public who are seeing a lot of unfulfilled promises," stated Christopher Borick, director of Muhlenberg College's Institute of Public Opinion. His competence is being tested again by the situation in Ukraine.

Biden has already seen his public support slide and this is the latest crisis.

About 25% of Americans don't trust Biden enough to manage the military effectively or improve the U.S. position in the world. According to an Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, close to 4 out 10 Americans have very little faith in Biden in these areas. According to the poll, Democrats are less likely to claim that they have "a lot of confidence" than when he took office (48% vs. 65%)

Officials from the Administration have tried to reach consensus among NATO allies in order to prevent a Russian attack.

Biden's national security advisers worked with European countries, the European Commission, and global suppliers to develop contingency plans in case Russia disrupts energy supplies.

He has repeatedly stated that he won't send U.S. soldiers to Ukraine. He has however ordered that 8,500 be placed on high alert for deployments to the Baltic Region. He warned of "enormous" consequences and severe sanctions for Russia, as well as Putin personally, if Russia launches military action against Ukraine.

He stated that he had spoken to every NATO ally and "we're all on one page."

Biden claims that there is "total unity" in the Western alliance's response to the crisis. There are however signs of disagreements.

Despite the fact that NATO allies and the U.S. sent military aid to Ukraine, Germany refused to send any military aid. However, it did look to help Kyiv more. Germans claimed that this aid could increase tensions.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, was furious at Biden's comments last week about a "minor invasion" of Ukraine that would have more limited consequences for Moscow. President Obama and the White House quickly clarified that Russia would be subject to severe sanctions if it invades Ukrainian territory. Ukrainian officials complained that the U.S. State Department was too slow in asking families of American Embassy workers to leave Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron stated Tuesday that it was a good thing that Russia and the United States had been talking. However, he said he didn't see any concrete results. Macron stated that he would speak with Putin directly on Friday

Meanwhile, President Zoran Milanovic of Croatia blamed the escalation in tensions on the Biden administration as well as the pressure from "hawks", on both sides. Croatia is a NATO member and its troops have participated in NATO's missions overseas.

Biden's challenge in trying to manage a global community of people with different perspectives and motivations is similar to the one he faces at home. He has had to deal with the realities of a 50-50 Senate, and a Democratic coalition that doesn't always see eye-2-eye.

The stakes for Biden, and the world, are potentially greater as he attempts to assert American leadership after Europe turned inward during Trump's years.

Biden has been criticised by Republican lawmakers for pushing for preemptive sanctions to be imposed against Moscow, at home as the crisis has grown in recent weeks. Biden claims that the U.S. has already made it clear to Russia that sanctions will be severe and unprecedented, but officials claim that Russia would not hesitate to retaliate if they preemptively act.

Skeptical Republicans sought to remind voters of Biden's decision to lift sanctions last year against Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The United States argued for years that the pipeline project would pose a threat to European energy security. It would increase Europe's dependence on Russian gas and allow Russia to exert political pressure upon vulnerable countries in Eastern and Central Europe, especially Ukraine.

Biden raised concerns about the pipeline as a vice president and announced last year that he would lift sanctions on German entities due to the damage they could do to U.S.-German relations.

Ted Cruz, Republican Senator from Texas, attempted to impose sanctions against the pipeline earlier this month, but it was unsuccessful. The pipeline is still in operation, though it has been completed. Other administration officials and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have stated that it is unlikely that gas will flow through this pipeline if Russia invades.

Tommy Pigott, spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, stated that "Biden ignored its own advice and gave Putin a major geopolitical victory by waiving sanctions against his pipeline."

Officials from the White House argued that the GOP's criticism should not be taken seriously after Trump failed to drastically reduce the U.S. troop presence on European soil in his last months of office. They viewed it as encouraging Russian aggression in the region.

Senator Republican Leader Mitch McConnell offered some support Tuesday for President Biden, who had previously criticised the Biden administration's inability to take preemptive actions against Moscow. Senator McConnell called it "encouraging" to see Biden increase military aid and put U.S. troops in heightened alert for deployments to NATO allies at the Baltics.

McConnell stated that McConnell believes the administration is moving in a positive direction.

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