Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, the Biden administration has distinguished itself by an alarmist tone and by numerous speeches. Even if it means creating tension with Kiev. For the American president, weakened by the fiasco of the Afghan departure and by difficulties on the internal plan, it is a question of displaying the greatest firmness vis-a-vis Moscow.
→ THE FACTS. Joe Biden “convinced” that Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine
After four years of a Republican presidency marked by a certain closeness between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden has continued to show his distance from Moscow since taking office. In March 2021, he answered in the affirmative when a journalist asked him if Vladimir Putin was a ” killer “, attracting the wrath of the Kremlin.
Shortly after, as two American journalists tell in a book (1) published this fall, Joe Biden had explained to Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, that he wanted a new strategy against Russia. ” I’m not looking for some kind of good relationship, he saidbut I want to find a stable and predictable way to proceed with Putin and Russia “.
If the White House has clearly not achieved its ends, the attitude of Joe Biden and his administration on the Ukrainian file does not give rise to much criticism in the United States. “ There is not really a debate in the United States about the current crisis, believes Marie-Cécile Naves, associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris). Even Donald Trump is discreet. Republicans keep a low profile, which is rare in today’s polarized environment “. As for the Democratic left wing, embodied by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, it is in solidarity with the head of state.
A weakened president
This unanimity is all the more striking as Joe Biden is a weakened president: after a year in the White House, he is at its lowest in the polls (only Donald Trump was doing less well after twelve months at the head of the country). Several important reforms are deadlocked in Congress, where two elected Democrats oppose some of its priorities.
Moreover, if foreign policy is not the priority of the Americans, concerned above all by the consequences of Covid and by inflation which had never been so high for 40 years, the fiasco of the departure of American troops from Afghanistan weighs on the credibility of the tenant of the White House in terms of international action. A poll in January indicated that 54% of those questioned disapproved of the president’s action on foreign policy, against 37% who disagreed.
The great fear of the White House is to appear weak. ” For Joe Biden, it is this question of credibility that is at stake, continues Marie-Cécile Naves. From the start of the crisis, he appeared very alarmist, banging his fist on the table. There was like a division of roles, with Antony Blinken, the head of diplomacy, in the role of the man of files, calmer. Today, the tone is the same. It is certain that if Washington appears to have avoided a war, Joe Biden will grow out of it.
Like a throwback to the Cold War
For all observers, the Ukrainian crisis recalls the hot hours of the Cold War. While the Biden administration has endorsed the strategic review initiated under Barack Obama, who had begun the “pivot” towards Asia, it is now faced with tensions on the Old Continent evoking the second half of the 20th century.
What will be the longer term impact of this crisis? By putting the focus back on Europe, the Ukrainian crisis, despite different points of view, has united NATO’s allies, five months after the diplomatic cold between Paris and Washington during the Australian submarine affair. .