J.P. Marín-Arrese | Biden needs to bolster his tarnished presidency before the upcoming elections. Failing to deliver his electoral promises for the less well off, he faces the grim prospect of losing control of the Chambers. His economic record seems appallingly lacklustre as inflation is eroding incomes of most American households. Moderate Democrats allied themselves with Republicans to dump bombastic plans to provide widespread social benefits. Growth and jobs are rising but Main Street people can hardly take advantage of that improvement.
Pulling out of Afghanistan proved a damaging fiasco as the Taliban militia humiliated the leading military power on earth. Most citizens in the US favoured the end of direct involvement in a conflict showing no positive outcome. Yet, the hasty and disastrous evacuation shocked everyone around the world. A bunch of tribesmen fooled the most advanced intelligence service and the Pentagon lost much credibility for their handling of this crisis.
Biden desperately needs to improve his standing. Little can he do to check inflation, as the Federal Reserve unwittingly refrained from taking action well before. A rate hike may prove useless for coping with a supply-side inflationary bout. Yet, showing some muscle would send the message that somebody is trying to address the problem. Undertaking action in March comes too late.
As Democrats face serious challenges in the 2022 elections, Biden has chosen to become a ‘warlord’ in the belief this may be a winning card. Bellicose times most frequently favour those in power as countrymen regroup behind their leader. Russian aggressive mood towards Ukraine offers a gorgeous opportunity for Biden to wear his commander-in-chief uniform. Yet, raising the stakes by warning that an invasion might happen every other week may backfire should Putin wait and see for longer than expected.
Putin fights this ‘drôle de guerre’ on his own terms. While he requests unacceptable demands from NATO members, his only genuine threat targets Ukraine should it dare to join the Western military alliance. Crossing such a redline would likely trigger an open conflict.
While observers agree no one knows what Putin’s next move might be, he will probably be happy with maintaining the current tension. Russia and Europe have much to lose should an invasion take place. Providing full publicity to such a massive military buildup close to the Ukrainian frontier doesn’t fit a will for fighting. Deception and surprise always accompany an attack, as the 2014 Crimea offensive showed.
While Putin can wait, Biden cannot keep his current warlike stance for too long as American citizens will increasingly become weary of his warnings. The Russian autocrat can hardly be seeking a face-saving compromise, his demands go beyond any reasonable parameters. Neither can the US offer an honourable settlement as any concession would undermine the White House rating amid voters.
Agreement between neighbours seems the best way to defuse this conflict. The current stalemate might linger for months, disrupting recovery. Only Ukraine could break it by unilaterally renouncing NATO and EU membership, at least for some decades. As weapon supplies do not feed people, the current plight of its economy plus some covert pressure from mighty friends may convince its government to take such a step.