The Russia-Ukraine conflict is another global crisis for Biden. This one sounds different.

“The world will hold Russia accountable,” he said in a statement late Wednesday, pledging during a call with Ukraine’s president to rally international condemnation of Russia.

Inside the White House and among his close outside political allies, there’s a sense that Biden — unlike last summer’s chaotic pullout from Afghanistan — has some political leeway. Democrats have been heartened by bipartisan acclaim for the president’s approach so far, including from some unusual suspects. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the president for bolstering his eastern flank allies while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he was lifting his grip on candidates from the State Department after the president decided to reimpose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, the pipeline that carries natural gas from Russia to Europe.

Biden’s advisers and allies also acknowledge that, unlike the near-uniform chorus of criticism they’ve encountered over the end of the war in Afghanistan, Republicans are badly fractured on how to approach the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. – and on the difficulty of going after Putin.

There is little certainty that a new era of competition with Russia will suddenly restore the country’s political center or dampen modern partisanship. But they argue that Republicans who have praised Putin — everyone from Donald Trump to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson — are playing in front of a crowd of winnowers and will find themselves increasingly out of step with the majority of Americans.

“There’s obviously still a lot to play for in terms of how the situation evolves, but President Biden has shown strong and consistent leadership to stand up to Putin, and he’s proven to be very much in control.” , said Geoff Garin, the Democratic pollster, offering a whimsical assessment of the changing political landscape around Russia.

“On the other hand, the pro-Putin rhetoric of Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson is a real problem for the Republican Party and puts other Republicans in a difficult and awkward position,” Garin added.

While many Republicans have remained ruthless in their criticism of Biden — often arguing that his handling of Afghanistan and failure to pursue a sanctions regime against Russia earlier helped bring about the current crisis — their divisions over what must do now have diverted some of the White House’s attention. Trump, for his part, has repeatedly hailed Putin as “clever” and called the totality of the sanctions he faces paltry, rather than the heavy price Biden and his European allies consider them.

Carlson, meanwhile, downplayed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, asking why Americans should hate Putin, let alone take an adversarial stance toward him.

A person familiar with White House thinking said that inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., host Fox is seen as someone with a “toxic ideology” who “plays a character he invented , not communicating sincere beliefs, which are often antithetical to beliefs”. which he has spoken about in public for many years, including on his MSNBC show.

But it is also recognized that the school of thought that Carlson represents has been embraced by elected Republicans or those running for office. These individuals are already serving as foils for Democrats eager to rally the country behind the president in turbulent times.

“It is an unfortunate sign of the political times that there is so much division around any one of the main parties as to how we respond, or perhaps even if we respond in some cases, to someone. “one that is literally disrupting the world order at some point on a scale we haven’t seen since the end of World War II,” said Jeremy Butler, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Biden has already found himself in tricky global entanglements. And, in these cases, he has often shown great self-confidence in his foreign policy prescriptions, most recently his resolute determination to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan. Administration officials have pushed the idea that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will eventually backfire on Putin and the wealthy Russian oligarchs.

Officials shared an op-ed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that says the Russian leader has left “his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable to a stronger and more united Western alliance.”

Biden has repeatedly stressed that US troops will not be sent to Ukraine to fight in the emerging war. The American response, on the contrary, will come through diplomatic and economic means. Here, too, his domestic political standing could be helped by Republican divisions, experts say, noting that Congress will continue to struggle to agree on legislation that could possibly hobble the White House by imposing sanctions that go to the beyond what Biden might want, or tie his hands in some other way.

“Biden’s actual wiggle room on Ukraine and his policy response hasn’t really been so effectively curtailed,” said Brian Katulis, foreign policy expert and co-editor of the extensively written Liberal Patriot. on political bigotry and its impact on America. . “I look at what he’s done over the last two or three weeks, and it’s hard to point to anything practical that Republicans who are trying to coerce Biden, or Democrats who have a different point of view, have had an impact.

“They made a lot of noise, but it didn’t really change things.”

Where political divisions in Congress and wider could hurt Biden, Katulis argues, is by failing to show unity on the world stage at a critical time. He often jokes with people that if former President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 “tear down this wall” speech were delivered today, “there would be 10 different views on it.” Adversaries like Russia, Katulis surmised, would seek to further exploit these divisions.

Already, Biden must have wondered if he and his allies could have done more to stop Putin from taking action. But Charles Kupchan, senior director for European affairs at the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicted the president would not suffer from the course he eventually took.

“I don’t think he will be judged on whether or not he can block a Russian invasion, because it’s not in his power to do so,” Kupchan said.

Instead, he said, the president will be graded on how he handles the road ahead.

Max Tani contributed to this report.


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