Biden anticipates ‘waiting game’ between Western Europe and Russia
The confrontation between Western Europe and Russia over Ukraine is likely to turn into a “waiting game,” US President Joe Biden has said.
After delivering his speech on Covid-19 vaccines for children under five in the White House on Tuesday, Biden was asked by a journalist if he was “afraid” there was a fracture emerging among Ukraine’s Western allies. The reporter quoted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently spoke of “Ukraine fatigue,” and claimed that some leaders “are calling for negotiations with Putin.”
The US president replied in the negative, adding, however, that “at some point, this is going to be a bit of a waiting game: What the Russians can sustain and what Europe (sic) is going to be prepared to sustain.”
He also said this was one of the things that Western leaders were “going to be speaking… in Spain about” – an apparent reference to the NATO summit, which kicks off next Tuesday in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
Speaking to journalists upon his return from a surprise visit to Kiev last Friday, Boris Johnson warned that “Ukraine fatigue is setting in.” The prime minister stressed the importance of showing “that we are with them for the long haul and we are giving them the strategic resilience that they need.”
Johnson acknowledged that Russian forces were “grinding forward inch by inch,” adding that it was all the more vital for the West to “show what we know to be true, which is that Ukraine can win and will win.”
Since the start of Russia’s offensive against its neighbor in late February, the US, Canada, the UK, the EU, Japan, Australia and several other nations have imposed several rounds of sweeping economic sanctions against Moscow. Among the punitive measures enacted by the US, the UK and the EU are embargoes or major curbs on Russian coal and oil exports. However, that, coupled with soaring prices on the market, has led to a dramatic increase in energy prices for end consumers both in Europe and stateside.
Moreover, with Ukraine and Russia being major wheat and barley producers, food prices have shot up as well. Metal and raw material exports from the two countries have also been severely affected, due to both sanctions and disruptions in the supply chain.
All these factors combined have spurred inflation, which has reached record highs in a number of Western countries.
Against this backdrop, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank warned last week that a growing number of Europeans may now be in favor of Ukraine striking a peace deal with Russia, even if that meant Kiev would have to make territorial concessions. After analyzing the results of an opinion poll conducted in mid-May across 10 European nations, the ECFR concluded that citizens in most of those nations were becoming more concerned about the ever-rising cost of living.
The survey indicated that 35% of the respondents from the “peace camp” wanted the armed conflict to be over as soon as possible, while 22% from the “justice camp” prioritized vanquishing Russia over all other considerations. Another 20% said that while they wanted to punish Moscow for its actions, they were also concerned about the risks and costs involved. The remaining 23% apparently did not fit into any of the three camps, and were classed as “the rest.”
In its report, the ECFR predicted that the number of people in the peace camp was likely to grow over time, increasing divisions in European countries. The think tank urged governments to focus on the “swing voters” with narratives that addressed their concerns to mitigate this tendency.