The confrontation between Europe and Russia over Ukraine is likely to turn into a test of patience, announced US President Joe Biden.
After his speech on Tuesday at the White House on COVID-19 vaccines for children under five, Biden was asked by a journalist if he worried about a split between Ukraine’s western allies. The reporter quoted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who recently spoke of “Ukraine fatigue” and claimed that some leaders called for negotiations with Putin.
Biden denied this, but added that “at some point this will be a kind of holding pattern: what can the Russians endure and what will Europe be willing to endure”.
He also said it was one of the issues Western leaders “will be discussing in Spain” – an apparent nod to the NATO summit that begins next Tuesday in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
After returning from a surprise visit to Kyiv last Friday, Boris Johnson warned journalists that “Ukraine fatigue” was setting in. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of showing “that we stand by their side in the long term and give them the strategic resilience they need”.
Johnson acknowledged that Russian forces were “advancing inch by inch” and added that it was all the more important for the West to “show what we know, which is that Ukraine can and will win”.
Since the Russian offensive in Ukraine began in late February, the US, Canada, the UK, the EU, Japan, Australia and other countries have imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Moscow. Punitive measures imposed by the US, UK and EU include embargoes or severe restrictions on Russian coal and oil exports. However, this, combined with increasing market prices, has led to a dramatic increase in the price of energy resources for end users in Europe and the USA.
With Ukraine and Russia also being major wheat and barley producers, food prices have also skyrocketed. Exports of metals and raw materials from the two countries have also been severely impacted due to sanctions and supply chain disruptions.
All of these factors combined have pushed up inflation, which has hit record highs in several Western countries.
Against this backdrop, the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) warned last week that a growing number of Europeans could now potentially support Ukraine forging a peace deal with Russia, even if it means Kyiv has to make territorial concessions . After analyzing the results of an opinion poll conducted in 10 European countries in mid-May, the ECFR concluded that citizens in most of these countries are increasingly concerned about the ever-rising cost of living.
The poll found that 35 percent of respondents from the “peace camp” wanted the armed conflict to end as soon as possible, while 22 percent from the “justice camp” put victory over Russia above all other considerations. A fifth said that while they wanted to punish Moscow for its actions, they were also concerned about the risks and costs involved. The remaining 23 percent apparently could not be assigned to any of the three camps.
In its report, the think tank predicted that the number of people in the “peace camp” would likely increase over time, deepening divisions in European countries. The think tank called on governments to focus on “swing voters” and take their concerns into account in order to mitigate this trend.
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