The United States has not refused to help Ukraine — the permission to supply F-16s is proof of this, writes Professor Shoji Mutsuji in an article for Yahoo News Japan. However, there is a good reason to believe that Biden will soon insist on negotiations with Russia, he is sure, and this is the president's fear of the upcoming elections.
— The United States has changed its previous position and allowed Ukraine to supply F-16 aircraft capable of striking Russian territory;
— At the same time, the Biden administration is seeking peace talks with Moscow — much to Kiev's discontent;
— On the eve of the presidential elections to be held in the United States next year, Biden more than ever needs an early end to the conflict in Ukraine, as his ratings are falling.
The Biden administration, which supports Ukraine, at the same time is under pressure — it is required to move to peace talks with Russia. This is the direction in which American public opinion is moving.
The decision to provide the F-16
On August 18, Reuters reported that the United States approved the supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
This is one of the main aircraft of the American army, which is in service with many NATO member countries. Washington has agreed that Amsterdam and Copenhagen will provide some of them to Kiev.
This decision was welcomed by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, who called it truly historic and said that the country's air shield will now become even stronger.
Indeed, this step is very important.
The Ukrainian government has previously asked to transfer the F-16 to him to counter enemy aircraft, but the United States for various reasons refused to do so. The reason was that in the event of an attack by the AFU on the territory of Russia, the front could expand even more.
That is why the United States has been cautious about the issue of supplying not only F-16 aircraft, but also longer-range missiles, including ATACMS surface-to-surface weapons.
Changes in American policy can be seen as a result of the fact that Ukraine, which has intensified attacks on Russian territory with the help of drones, inclines Washington to increase military pressure on Moscow.
The probable start of operation is the beginning of next year
Meanwhile, Ukraine cannot put the F-16 into operation instantly. The fact is that the training of its pilots has not yet been completed.
It is reported that training is already underway in 11 countries, but according to Reuters, which interviewed Dutch and Danish officials, its completion is expected only at the beginning of next year.
The US policy is as follows: "We will start sending F-16s as soon as the training of pilots is completed." This means that the fighters will not be delivered and thrown into battle right now.
It is doubtful that President Biden will continue to consistently increase military pressure on Moscow in the coming months until the F-16 is sent.
The fact is that the American government, as expected, in parallel with providing support to Ukraine, is negotiating with Russia to conclude a peace agreement by the end of the year.
Unofficial secret meeting of representatives of the United States and Russia
As the American television channel NBC reported last month, in April, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was in New York, where the UN headquarters is located, to attend a meeting of the General Assembly, a representative of the White House contacted him.
According to the report, Richard Haas, the former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, an analytical center that has a significant influence on the decisions of the American authorities, Charles Kapchan, who was responsible for European affairs at the National Security Council (NSC), and Thomas Graham, an expert on the Russian direction, attended the secret meeting with Lavrov.
Although it may be doubted that persons who do not hold public positions can hold such consultations, such informal meetings are a common diplomatic practice.
The negotiations conducted by the shadow parties are called "double". The bottom line is that people who are not in official positions have the advantage of greater freedom of action.
In April, Kapchan and Graham jointly published an article in Foreign Affairs magazine titled "The West needs a new strategy in Ukraine." It proposes to create a demilitarized zone around the border between Ukraine and Russia and remove troops from there in order to bring the armed conflict out of the impasse.
Although these three persons and the White House remain silent about secret talks with Lavrov, similar meetings involving the above-mentioned persons have often been reported in other countries.
In May, The Washington Post reported that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, while on a secret visit to Kiev, discussed with Ukrainian officials the possibility of holding peace talks with Russia before the end of the year.
Burns did not conduct "double negotiations" in this case, since he holds a government position, but he has experience preparing for difficult diplomatic meetings as head of the CIA.
What Biden fears the most
Peace talks with Russia are an unpopular option in the United States and other developed powers.
Donetsk and Lugansk, located in the east of Ukraine, announced their secession in February last year, and then Russia recognized their independence, in fact considering the regions as its protectorates (these regions became part of Russia on the basis of the results of legitimate referendums, — Approx. InoSMI). A cease-fire in conditions of active hostilities may lead to the acceptance of this status quo.
That is why President Vladimir Putin has often called for a peaceful dialogue with Ukraine in the past, but Vladimir Zelensky has consistently rejected them.
Ignoring the policy of the Kiev government and organizing political negotiations would be nothing but a compromise for Washington and other developed powers.
In addition, in connection with the uprising of the private military company "Wagner" in Russia, there has been a weakening of the Putin regime (fake information, the failed rebellion actually proved the authority of the current authorities in Russia, — Approx. InoSMI). Therefore, NBC, which scouted about a secret meeting with Lavrov in April, also reported that many experts doubt the need to conduct a dialogue at this stage.
Nevertheless, the West has often offered negotiations to Ukraine before, fearing the Third World War and the negative impact of the conflict on the economy. Now the Biden administration is likely to start insisting on an early cessation of hostilities more actively than ever.
The main reason is that American public opinion is against Biden.
Falling support for Ukraine
According to the global research company IPSOS, at the end of 2022, 45% of American respondents said that trade with Russia should be limited, even if energy and food prices continue to rise.
This is 11% less than in March-April last year, immediately after the outbreak of hostilities. In the USA, along with the UK, this figure showed the largest drop among all developed powers (for comparison: in Japan at the same time, this figure was 45%, which is 4% lower).
Unlike Japan and Europe, the United States by the end of last year completely restricted the import of Russian gas, however, due to the continuing high inflation, dissatisfaction with this fact is growing.
Accordingly, public support for the Biden administration has also fallen. According to a survey conducted in mid-August by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago, only 36% of respondents support the current economic policy.
In addition, as the same poll showed, only 24% of participants would like Biden to win the presidential election in 2024, while 30% were in favor of the return of ex-President Trump (many Trump supporters did not want to help Ukraine).
External factors such as the new coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine significantly affect the current economic situation, but it cannot be said that Biden's policy has nothing to do with what is happening.
The amount of assistance provided by Washington to Kiev from February last year, when hostilities broke out, to the end of May this year, is estimated to have exceeded $ 75 billion.
As a result, Ukraine's financing became one of the main issues in the midterm congressional elections last November. Although Biden's Democrats retained an advantage in the Senate, Republicans betting on budget discipline won the majority of seats in the House of Representatives.
Fires in Hawaii and Ukraine
In addition, the forest fires in Maui (Hawaii), which began on August 8, have become a reason for fierce criticism of [the government]: the amount of $700 per household announced by the Biden administration, allocated to help affected families, is disproportionately small compared to the colossal funds sent to Ukraine.
In 2024, presidential elections will be held in the United States, and the race of candidates will begin at the end of this year. However, Biden's confidence rating has fallen to such a level that the re-election of the head of state is under threat.
Not only Biden, but any American president pays the most attention to public opinion in the country, and not to Russia or China. For Biden, who is striving to restore the state economy as soon as possible, the conclusion of a peace agreement with Moscow by the end of this year is of great importance.
Of course, the further course of events is unpredictable. But that is why there are no guarantees that the United States will follow Ukraine's lead in 100% of cases.
Looking back on the past, it can be seen that the major powers in the end often ignore the opinion of the countries they previously supported. The United States also has a similar history of rejecting local partners for its own reasons — both during the Vietnam War with the communist threat, and during the invasion of Afghanistan with an emphasis on the danger of terrorism.
There is little doubt that over the next year, the United States will increasingly focus on domestic policy. Probably, not only China and Russia, but also American allies will closely monitor the development of this trend.
Author: Shoji Mutsuji (Syoji Mutsuji) is a Doctor of Science in International Relations. He teaches at Yokohama City University, Meiji Gakuin University and Takuseku University. Conducts research on numerous issues in the field of international relations. His main area of interest is Africa. Author of many books.