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How the Ukraine war has shaped Biden’s presidency

As the war in Ukraine approaches the one year mark, it is proving to be a defining chapter of President Biden’s time in the White House.

At home, the ripple effects of the war have led to food shortages, higher prices and restricted supply chains while Ukrainian pleas for military aid have put Biden’s belief in bipartisanship to the test.

Russia’s aggression has also challenged running themes of Biden’s presidency: That democracies must band together to push back against autocratic leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin, that the U.S. must be a leader on the world stage, and that the U.S. government must work together to address global challenges.

With the war showing few signs of abating, it is sure to continue to shape Biden’s presidency for the next two years and possibly beyond, something the president himself acknowledged on Tuesday in Warsaw.

“As we gather tonight, the world in my view is at an inflection point. The decisions we make over the next five years or so are going to determine and shape our lives for decades to come,” Biden told a crowd of thousands from the Royal Castle. “That’s true for America, that’s true for the people of the world. And while the decisions are ours to make now, the principles and the stakes are eternal.”

Biden’s presidency has been in many ways consumed by the war in Ukraine since Russia first launched its unprovoked invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

Domestically, the ripple effects of the war have been widespread. Gas prices rose as the U.S. and its allies banned imports of Russian oil. Sanctions on Russia metals and minerals rattled supply chains globally, fueling concerns about a global recession as the price of goods increased. A Russian blockade of grain exports from Ukraine last year contributed to higher food prices.

The war forced Biden and his team to recalibrate its relationship with Saudi Arabia after declaring the Kingdom to be a “pariah” on the campaign trail as the U.S. looked for ways to stabilize oil costs. It led to releases of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and actions to ramp up domestic grain production.

It also led to a groundswell of bipartisan support for Ukraine aid at a time when Congress is typically polarized, with lawmakers approving $113 billion dollars in military, economic and humanitarian assistance for the war-torn country during 2022.

Some of the most striking images of Biden’s presidency to date have stemmed from the war in Ukraine, whether it was of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arriving at the White House last December, or of Biden donning his aviator sunglasses as he strolled up to shake Zelensky’s hand upon arriving in Kyiv on Monday.

If the war has made an imprint on Biden’s domestic agenda, it has redefined his foreign policy legacy.

A chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2021 led to a drop in Biden’s approval ratings, and it left some voters and foreign leaders questioning whether the president could deliver on his campaign pledge to restore America’s standing in the world after four tumultuous years during the Trump administration.

A year after Russia first invaded Ukraine, Biden’s response has reshaped America’s place as a leader on the global stage. 

The president has convened dozens of calls with Group of Seven (G-7) and NATO allies and spoken of the importance of maintaining those alliances. He has helped juggle the various interests of European allies that are reliant on Russian energy to rollout sanctions, and his administration has coordinated with other nations to provide military equipment like tanks in unison so it is viewed as a coalition-wide effort

“I think it has allowed him to play the role of statesman and demonstrate some American leadership in trying to hold together our allies on a strong position on Ukraine,” said Brett Bruen, a former diplomat and Obama administration official. “At the same time, I think it also serves as an opportunity for Biden, as we heard a little bit during the State of the Union, to point to and to brandish his bipartisan credentials.”

Biden himself has spoken about the larger implications of the war that will shape not just his agenda, but the future of global democracies and autocracies, a struggle that the president has highlighted whether talking about the need to confront Russia and China, or the events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“The defense of freedom is not a work of a day or a year,” Biden said Tuesday.

The president acknowledged the war in Ukraine will have bitter days ahead, and that it will require continued support from the United States and its allies at a time when some outspoken Republicans are questioning Biden’s focus on the war in Europe and domestic support for the war appears to be wavering.

An Associated Press poll released last week found 48 percent of those surveyed support the U.S. providing weapons to Ukraine, down from 60 percent in May 2022. The poll also found 56 percent of Americans have either a great deal or some confidence in Biden’s ability to handle the situation, while 43 percent said they had hardly any confidence.

But there is a sense among current and former government officials that Biden will be hard pressed to find a more consequential global event during his first term than the conflict in Ukraine, which is Europe’s largest land war since World War II.

“I think it is the defining part of his leadership on the world stage,” said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way. “I think because he developed such an extraordinary legislative record that’s going to be an enormous part of his legacy as well. But there’s no doubt his handling of Ukraine will define who he was as a global leader.”

Source: The Hill

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