The survey is the latest blow to the US President’s reputation of being too weak on dealing with foreign threats and potentially opens a path for Donald Trump to make a return to the White House in the 2024 election.
He has been dogged with criticism of a past deal he struck with Communist China when he was Barack Obama’s Vice President.
And the US President was held responsible for the debacle in Afghanistan last year when the Taliban seized power again and western military and diplomats were forced into a humiliating retreat.
However, the Associated Press (AP) has reported that as the war has dragged on, Americans’ desire to get involved has waned somewhat.
Thirty-two percent of Americans say the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict.
That’s dropped back down from 40 percent last month, though that remains slightly higher than the 26 percent who said so in February.
An additional 49 percent say the U.S. should have a minor role.
AP said that the results “underscore the conundrum for the White House”.
As images of Russian attacks on civilians and hospitals are shared around the world, there’s pressure to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin and help millions of Ukrainians under attack in their home country or fleeing for safety.
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But, AP said, Biden must also manage the threat of escalation with Putin, who has raised the alert level on using Russia’s nuclear weapons, and prevent the U.S. from getting involved in a much larger conflict.
“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” CIA Director William Burns said in a recent speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Burns added that “so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence” of Russian nuclear escalation.
The White House has authorized more than $2 billion in weapons and led Western sanctions that have crushed the Russian economy. Biden has ruled out sending U.S. troops — a decision supported by a majority of Americans.
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However, the US has also held back some weapons and defensive systems sought by Ukraine and placed early limits on intelligence sharing that have been loosened throughout the conflict.
It blocked Poland from giving Ukraine its Mig fighter jets which could have helped turn the conflict.
The poll and follow-up interviews with respondents indicate many Americans, responding to images of Ukrainians being killed and Russian forces allegedly committing war crimes, want to see more action to stop Putin.
A majority — 57 percent — say they believe Putin has directed his troops to commit war crimes. Just 6 percent say he has not, while 36 percent say they aren’t sure.
“I know that we’re not directly responsible,” said Rachel Renfro, a 35-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee. “But we’ve always been the kind of people that insert ourselves into these kinds of situations and I don’t understand why we’re not doing that now to a bigger degree.”
Renfro wants to see the U.S. accept more refugees and provide more aid to Ukraine. Sending troops should be “an absolute last resort,” she said.
Most Americans are in favor of the US sanctioning Russia for the invasion, providing weapons to Ukraine and accepting refugees from Ukraine into the US.
More Americans also support than oppose deploying U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to support U.S. NATO allies in response to Russia’s invasion, and about two-thirds say NATO membership is good for the U.S.
But public support stops short of deploying US troops to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces.
Only 22 percent say they favor deploying US troops to Ukraine to fight against Russian forces, while 55 percent are opposed; 23 percent say they are neither in favor nor opposed.
Anthony Cordesman, emeritus chair in strategy at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that Americans broadly support many actions the White House is already taking. Building up Ukraine’s air defense or sending more tanks and airplanes also requires setting up logistics, including radar and maintenance capabilities, that take far longer than many people would expect, Cordesman said.
The White House making that case to people who want more action carries its own risk.
“If you start communicating the limits to what we can do in detail, you may or may not reassure the American people, but you’re providing Russia with a lot of information that you scarcely 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.