US Public's Support for Russia Sanctions, Global Role Down as Midterms Near, Think-Tank Says
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A Pew Research Center poll released on Friday showed that a majority of Americans believe the Biden administration should focus on solving problems at home rather than overseas despite some, mostly elderly, holding a contrary view.
The US public's support for anti-Russia sanctions has significantly fallen as Americans feel an urgency for the Biden administration to focus on addressing rising inflation and fuel prices at home, in a trend indicating preference for a more modest role on the world stage ahead of the November midterms, Director of the Democracy Institute think-tank Patrick Basham told Sputnik.
"Today, Americans remain supportive of Ukraine in the conflict and critical of Russia, but their support for specific anti-Russian measures has fallen significantly," Basham said. "Americans are now divided on continuing economic sanctions. They are opposed to the recent $40 billion aid package. Revealing, our polling shows they are willing to accept a Ukrainian defeat, and most would not support any American effort to remove Russian President Vladimir Putin from office."
As most US voters' economic situations become more precarious, they are concluding that the Biden administration's foreign policy has helped to turn America’s cost-of-living and supply chain problems into genuine crises, Basham said.
Americans are paying an average all-time high record of five dollars for a gallon of regular gasoline as of Saturday, and the trend will likely continue to climb as it has over the past weeks. Moreover, the US Consumer Price Index grew by 8.6% during the year to May, expanding by its fastest rate since 1981, as the cost of virtually everything - from food to fuel, shelter and clothing - rose again last month, according to the US Labor Department.
Joe Biden's approval rating meanwhile hit a new low of 39% last week, compared to Donald Trump's 45% at a similar point in his presidency, a Morning Consult/Politico poll showed.
Americans are also becoming impatient with the US government's ability to influence events on the ground in Ukraine, Basham said, adding that once it became obvious that the Biden administration’s overall goal was Putin’s exit from the Kremlin, rather than simply the defense of Ukraine, they began to recognize the potential length and breadth – and economic cost – of the US intervention.
Biden during a speech in Poland in March said Putin cannot remain in power, which the White House immediately walked back, emphasizing it did not seek regime change in Russia.
The Biden administration has blamed President Putin and his special military operation in Ukraine for the inflation and rising fuel prices in the United States, but he has avoided explaining that sanctions from the United States and its European allies are having substantial consequences on the global economy as well.
US Foreign Policy to Impact 2022 Midterms, 2024 Presidential Election
"The most successful candidates in 2022, and probably in 2024, too, will be those that credibly present themselves as patriotic nationalists who will do what they believe to be best for America regardless of whether their actions are supported by their parties’ foreign policy establishments, foreign governments, or globalist institutions," Basham said.
The US public is seeing that expansionist and interventionist foreign policy outweighs the benefits as skepticism grows about America’s ability to shape global events for the better, Basham said.
Impact of Anti-Russia Sanctions From the West
The European Union plans to ban most energy imports from Russia by the end of 2022, but the United States supports a plan to allow Russian energy exports to flow but under a price cap to reduce the revenue Moscow makes from its energy products.
Western sanctions have already complicated trade around the world, especially on vital Russian exports of fertilizer and other agricultural products. Although the United States has some waivers in place to allow such exports, banks are so worried about possibly violating sanctions that some transactions are being terminated, according to Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia.
"Anti-Russian Western sanctions will have a negative, very tangible impact upon the global economic recovery," Basham said. "It has been obvious for some time that the sanctions either already have or soon will cause energy and food costs to increase considerably across Western nations. The subsequent anti-inflation campaigns from various central banks will ensure that economic growth across is tepid at best and may actually stall completely. "
Basham pointed out that the large number of nations in the Global South will suffer comparatively less than the Western nations because their energy and commercial relationships with Russia and China will be largely unaffected and, in many cases, will actually deepen to the respective countries’ mutual benefit.
However, less economic growth and less wealth among Western nations will reduce their demand for imports from non-Western nations, which will drag growth in many export-led non-Western economies, Basham said.
American Foreign Fighters in Ukraine, Concerns Over Those Joining Neo-NazisIS
Last month, Politico reported, citing a US intelligence document it obtained, that US Customs and Border Protection is questioning American volunteers suspected of going to Ukraine to fight against Russia over concerns that some Americans may join extremist groups like the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion, and return to the United States to become a domestic threat.
US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Justice did not respond to requests from Sputnik for comment on this matter.
"I think it is unlikely that those Americans who choose to join the Azov Battalion [AB] because of the AB’s well-documented neo-Nazi sympathies will be a greater threat upon their return to America," Basham said. "Due to their abhorrent beliefs, such misguided individuals would be a potential domestic threat whether they did or did not spend time amidst kindred spirits in Ukraine."
The possibility of Americans fighting for the Azov Battalion highlights one of the many double standards of the Biden administration’s embrace of the Ukrainian government, Basham said.
"As President Biden, Vice President [Kamala] Harris, and other senior administration figures spend considerable amounts of time characterizing their domestic political opponents as fascists, racists, and White supremacists, there is considerable irony, in the survival of the US-bankrolled Ukrainian government depending almost entirely upon the battlefield abilities of the Azov Battalion, a military outfit espousing beliefs diametrically opposite to those espoused by Biden and Harris," Basham said.
However, Basham does not believe American volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side against Russia will itself escalate tensions between the United States and Russia.
"Any chance that such participation could have such an influence is watered-down by the return home already of many of these now quite demoralized volunteers, who have returned with tales of Russian superiority, and subsequently heavy Ukrainian losses, on the battlefield," Basham said.
Any serious risk of escalation between the United States and Russia would only occur should certain US officials who seek regime change in Russia dominate the decision-making inside the Biden administration, Basham said.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington told The Associated Press in early March that of approximately 6,000 Americans who signed up to fight in Ukraine, about half were rejected before even interviewing with Ukrainian officials. Moreover, the Ukrainian Embassy said that of the 3,000 Americans who went through the recruitment process, as of early March, only about 100 had actually been accepted.
Rutgers University law professor Roger Clark, who previously worked for New Zealand's Justice Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the UN Committee on Crime Prevention and Control, told Sputnik it is not illegal for American volunteers to fight in Ukraine.
"[T]he Neutrality Act is not a problem," Clark said. "It is clear on its face, and this is supported by case-law, that ANYBODY enlisting within the US commits a crime. But it is safe, under this Act, for US citizens and residents to enlist outside the US. So long, that is, the force they join is not at war with the US."
Clark said Biden is pretty determined not to place US troops on the ground in Ukraine, so federal efforts to vet potential US volunteers going to Ukraine could be a way to show it takes the Neutrality Act seriously, and to possibly fish for any potential breaches of the law.
The US government would probably only take action against Americans fighting in Ukraine if they were to commit war crimes, Clark said.
Texas A&M University International Affairs Professor Ronald Sievert, who had a career on international and national security matters at the US Justice Department, told Sputnik the Neutrality Act was designed to stop Americans from taking sides in the fight between France and the United Kingdom in 1795.
"Some people just want to fight Russia and sympathize with Ukraine," Sievert said. "Regardless, [US President George] Washington's proclamation of neutrality was not a law - President's do not make laws."
Sievert pointed out that American volunteers known as the Lincoln Battalion fought for communists against fascist Spain during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.
Negotiated Peace Settlement in Ukraine Needed at Earliest Opportunity
The State Department has repeatedly ruled out engaging with Moscow anytime soon with respect to the Ukraine conflict. US Congress recently passed a $40 billion relief package for Ukraine, over half of which consists of military aid, raising concerns about the conflict escalating.
"A negotiated peace settlement at the earliest opportunity is required to resolve this conflict," Basham said. "With each passing day, more Ukrainians are killed and injured and more territory is ceded to Russia. So, the longer the West waits to iron out a deal with Russia, the greater the toll upon Ukraine and the stronger the Russian bargaining position will be."
If the trajectory of the Ukraine conflict continues apace, before too long there will be no incentive for Russia to negotiate at all, because Moscow will soon have the upper hand, Basham said.
Basham said Volodymyr Zelenskyy is certainly aware that the war is lost and new Western assistance may do no more than prolong Ukraine’s now-inevitable defeat. Moreover, the problem for Zelenskyy is that his government is no longer calling the diplomatic shots.
"It is the American and British governments that are resisting a diplomatic solution," Basham said. "Instead, they are doubling-down on tactics and rhetoric that, with each passing day, are further detached from the realities on the ground in Ukraine. For this conflict to be resolved, it is Washington and London, rather than Kiev, that needs to read, and act upon, the writing on the wall."
Biden said in an op-ed published on the New York Times on May 31 that the United States will not pressure the Ukrainian government in public or in private to make any territorial concessions to Russia,
Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine on February 24 in response to calls by the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics for protection from Ukrainian troops. The Russian Defense Ministry said the goal of the operation, which targets Ukrainian military infrastructure, is to "demilitarize and denazify" Ukraine, and to completely liberate Donbas.
Russian President Putin has said the operation aims to "protect people subjected to genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years." As of March 25, the Russian Armed Forces completed the main tasks of the first stage, significantly reducing the combat potential of Ukraine. Western nations have imposed numerous sanctions on Moscow.