Is America growing weary of the long war in Ukraine? – article for the Economist – 18.07.22

Inflation, wayward allies and venomous politics at home are eroding support for the proxy conflict against Russia


President Joe Biden pledges to support Ukraine “as long as it takes”. His administration has so far spent about $8bn on military aid alone for it. In May, Congress passed a $40bn supplemental budget—more than Mr Biden had asked for, and more than the annual defence budgets of most European allies—to assist Ukraine and deal with the global consequences of the war.


But nearly six months into the fight, with the prospect of a long war to come, even Mr Biden’s closest allies are asking whether America might soon tire of the burden. The president is more unpopular even than Donald Trump was at this point in his presidency. Inflation and high fuel prices are weakening Americans’ spending power. And Republicans are set to make important gains in mid-term elections in November: they are expected to take control of the House of Representatives and possibly also the Senate.


Chris Coons, a Democratic senator and close ally of Mr Biden’s—sometimes called the president’s “shadow secretary of state”—recently wrote a commentary praising nato’s show of unity at its summit in Madrid last month. It added: “I am concerned about the commitment of the American people and its elected leaders to stay the course as the invasion grinds on.” Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader, “is counting on the West losing focus”, he told The Economist on July 14th.


The aid for Ukraine is intended to last until the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, but nobody is quite sure when the money will run out. Few in Congress think another large package for Ukraine can be passed before the mid-terms, and many say it could remain difficult thereafter. “It will be an uphill battle,” says a Republican Senate staffer. “The sales pitch from the last time is not good enough now, because the war has fundamentally changed and the domestic situation at home is different.”


Given the country’s acute polarisation, it is perhaps no surprise that Republicans should be sceptical of a proxy war conducted by a Democratic administration. Fewer Americans overall are prepared to pay an economic price for supporting Ukraine than were at the onset of war in March. But a recent poll for the University of Maryland finds that the gap between Democrats and Republicans is widening, too. Among Democrats, 78% would accept costlier fuel and 72% would bear more inflation to help Ukraine; among Republicans only 44% and 39% respectively would do so.


Congressional aides say three factors are likely to affect support for Ukraine. First is the complexion of Congress after the mid-terms. If Republicans retake one or both chambers, which faction in the party will have the upper hand? The establishment sort such as Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader who in May took senior colleagues to Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky? Or the devotees of Mr Trump and his maga (“Make America Great Again”) nativism?


Mr Trump still holds much of his party in thrall. He denounced the last aid package for Ukraine, saying: “The Democrats are sending another $40bn to Ukraine, yet America’s parents are struggling to even feed their children.” His base could be energised if, in the coming weeks, he announces his intention to run for president again in 2024. Meanwhile, unexpected trouble has come from Victoria Spartz, a Ukrainian-born Republican in the House who had once urged Mr Biden to act more decisively in Ukraine, but has recently taken to accusing some of Mr Zelensky’s aides of corruption.


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Is America growing weary of the long war in Ukraine - article for the Economist - 18.07
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https://www.economist.com/united-states/2022/07/17/is-america-growing-weary-of-the-long-war-in-ukraine/



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