Many Americans still wonder if President Joe Biden is showing enough force in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, even though most approve of the steps the United States is already taking and few want troops Americans get involved in the conflict.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows 54% of Americans think Biden was not “tough enough” in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Thirty-six percent think his approach was about right, while 8% say he was too tough.
But as the war drags on, Americans’ desire to get involved has waned somewhat. Thirty-two percent of Americans say the United States should play a major role in the conflict. That was down 40% last month, though still slightly higher than the 26% who said so in February. Another 49% say the United States should play a minor role.
The findings underscore the conundrum for the White House. As images of Russian attacks on civilians and hospitals are shared around the world, pressure is being exerted to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin and help millions of Ukrainians attacked in their home country or fleeing for their security. But Biden must also manage the escalating threat with Putin, who has raised the alert level over the use of Russian nuclear weapons, and prevent the United States from getting involved in a much larger conflict.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks they have faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential recourse tactical nukes or low-yield nukes,” CIA Director William Burns said during a recent speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Burns added that “so far we haven’t seen much practical evidence” of Russian nuclear escalation.
The White House authorized more than $2 billion worth of weapons and spearheaded Western sanctions that crushed the Russian economy. Biden has ruled out sending in US troops – a decision supported by a majority of Americans.
The United States also withheld certain weapons and defensive systems sought by Ukraine and imposed early limits on intelligence sharing that were relaxed throughout the conflict.
The poll and follow-up interviews with respondents indicate that many Americans, responding to images of Ukrainians killed and Russian forces allegedly committing war crimes, want to see more action to stop Putin. A majority – 57% – say they believe Putin ordered his troops to commit war crimes. Only 6% say they haven’t, while 36% say they’re not sure.
“I know we are not directly responsible,” said Rachel Renfro, 35, of Nashville, Tennessee. “But we’ve always been the kind of people who insert ourselves into these kinds of situations and I don’t understand why we don’t now to a greater extent.”
Renfro wants to see the United States accept more refugees and provide more aid to Ukraine. Sending in troops should be “an absolute last resort”, she said.
Most Americans support the United States sanctioning Russia for the invasion, supplying arms to Ukraine, and accepting refugees from Ukraine into the United States. about two-thirds say NATO membership is good for the United States
But public support stops before the deployment of American troops in Ukraine to fight against Russian forces. Only 22% say they are in favor of the deployment of American troops in Ukraine to fight against Russian forces, while 55% oppose it; 23% say they are neither for nor against.
Michael Gonzalez, a 31-year-old from Fort Collins, Colorado, said Biden’s response was “about right,” citing sweeping sanctions against Russian banks, oligarchs and government officials and their families.
“In a perfect world, I wish we could go there with the troops,” said Gonzalez, whose father served in the Cuban military and whose stepfather worked as a private contractor during the US war in Afghanistan. . “I feel like we shouldn’t be watching the world and going everywhere. I wish I could help them, but we’ve been fighting for a while.
Biden faces other significant political challenges as he approaches midterm with inflation at its highest level in four decades and soaring energy prices exacerbated by the war. The poll suggests that the balance in the trade-off between sanctions against Russia and the US economy may be shifting. By a narrow margin, Americans say the country’s highest priority is to sanction Russia as effectively as possible rather than limit damage to the US economy, 51% to 45%. Last month, more said they prioritized sanctions against Russia over limiting damage to the economy, 55% to 42%.
Anthony Cordesman, emeritus chair of strategy at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that Americans are broadly supportive of many actions the White House is already taking. Building up Ukraine’s air defense or sending in more tanks and planes also requires setting up logistics, including radar and maintenance capabilities, which takes far longer than many people expect. would be waiting, Cordesman said.
The White House advocating this cause to people who want more action carries its own risks.
“If you start communicating the limits of what we can do in detail, you may or may not reassure the American people, but you’re giving Russia a lot of information that you hardly want to communicate,” Cordesman said.
The AP-NORC poll of 1,085 adults was conducted April 14-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.