When President Biden meet his Western allies in Europe three months ago, the world was rallying behind Ukraine, and NATO suddenly had a sense of a new purpose – its old one, containing Russia. There has been talk of “crippling sanctions.” President Vladimir V. Putin is retreating and talking about victory.
Now that Mr. Biden is back in Europe – attending the Group of 7 summit of the world’s wealthiest major democracies in the German Alps on Sunday and Monday, followed by the NATO gathering in Madrid – at a time when everything about war was more difficult.
While Russia’s oil exports plummeted, the country’s revenue in progress, a function of soaring fuel prices. After concentrating its efforts on the south and east of Ukraine, Russia is making incremental but significant gains as the besieged Ukrainians begin to abandon key cities: Mariupol first, and now, in the east, Sievierodonetsk.
So Mr. Biden must prepare his allies for a bitter conflict – going back to the “prolonged, twilight struggle” President John F. Kennedy spoke of during the War. Cold – amid shocks in food and energy markets, and inflation on a scale few imagined six months ago. Unsurprisingly, some rifts have emerged as public discontent and upcoming elections are starting to worry allied leaders.
White House officials say none of this will stop Mr. Biden from tightening his grip on Russia further, and over the past few weeks have launched behind-the-scenes efforts to reach agreements on new ways of isolating Moscow.
The White House also plans to announce new steps to bolster NATO’s capabilities, including a new “strategic concept” for the alliance, for the first time in ten years. Back then, people were still talking about Russia’s integration into Europe; Today that seems fanciful.
The remaining problem will be how to deal with Mr. Putin, at a time when Russia has gone from a European power to an ordinary country. US officials say his isolation will deepen. But when President Emmanuel Macron of France said in May that the West should resist the “temptation of humiliation” to Putin, which was one of the first public signs of a rift in the basic strategy of pushing the Russian leader away. how far.
“Compared to his trip in March, Biden faces more trade-offs between policy goals,” said Richard Fontaine, executive director of the Center for a New American Security, a think-tank in Washington. domestic and foreign affairs”. “His priority will be to increase pressure on Russia and aid Ukraine, but must do so as the West worries about oil and food prices, the remaining arsenal of weapons and an unending war. “.
It is the new, acrimonious nature of the conflict that distinguishes these two summits from those that have come before.
Just two months ago, the Americans were talking openly about victory over the Russians and hoping it seemed reasonable that Putin’s forces would be forced to retreat to the position they held before the 24th invasion. February. Mr. Biden is now more cautious in his public tone, even if his goals have remained essentially unchanged.
The question is whether he can begin to shift allies from crisis response to sustained response to invasion, knowing that costs will rise and pressures will mount as Putin tries. uses every weapon at its disposal – such as restricting gas exports and continuing to block Ukraine’s grain exports – to exercise leverage over its rivals.
Biden, aides said, is constantly weighing whether new weapons would escalate the war too quickly and offers Putin another justification for retaliation. But he also wants to make sure that Mr. Putin is losing ground.