The United States is the country that has turned the most towards Ukraine. He has allocated 36.1 billion dollars, more money and weapons than anyone else, to repel the Russian invasion. So far, public opinion support for this spending has been broad and sustained. A year after the start of the conflict, it is still maintained, but a study by the University of Maryland reveals that it is no longer so unanimous.
Fatigue surfaces in certain sectors of American society, especially the most conservative, potential voters for the Republican Party in the 2024 elections.
When asked how long they should support Ukraine, 46% of Americans think no more than one or two years. Another 11% would be willing to do so for a maximum of five years. Only 38% still consider that it is essential to maintain it for as long as it is necessary.
46% of Americans only want to support Ukraine for another year or two
This erosion of support for Ukraine coincides with another survey by the Pew Research Center. If in March last year, a month after the invasion, 7% of Americans considered that too much money had already been given to Ukraine, today this opinion is shared by 26% of the population. This is the opinion of 40% of Republicans, although only 15% of Democrats.
In the University of Maryland poll, the ideological difference also marks support for Ukraine. Among the 46% who prefer to leave it to its own devices in a couple of years, there are 62% Republicans and 31% Democrats.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to turn off the spigot of aid to Ukraine
A third of the respondents believe that the level of spending in Ukraine is too high and another third consider that it is adequate. Here, tap-off Republicans outnumber Democrats three to one.
The Republican presidential candidates are going to exploit this difference with the Democrats. Both former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, two of the leading contenders, believe that helping Ukraine’s defense is not a priority for the United States.
Foreign policy usually has very little weight in the presidential campaign, but this time it most likely will because President Joe Biden has made Ukraine a cause that cannot be lost.
Despite the fatigue, most Americans agree with Biden that Ukraine’s cause cannot be lost
Despite their exhaustion, most Americans stand with their president and continue to believe that Ukraine is worth defending at all costs.
51% do not care that this means paying more for energy and 47% accept that one of the consequences is inflation. Just six months ago, however, 60% of those interviewed assumed the sacrifice of paying more for electricity and gasoline, and 57% accepted that prices would rise.
Shibley Telhami, co-author of the study from the University of Maryland published last April, believes that this decline in willingness to pay the price of war has to do with the perception of who is winning.
Support for Ukraine in the US is closely related to the perception of whether or not it is winning the war
“The polls we have conducted show that support for Ukraine is closely related to opinion on whether Ukraine is winning or Russia is losing. The October 2022 poll, for example, coincided with the release of news about Ukraine’s progress and the failures of Russia. Now, however, the reports that speak of a victory for Ukraine have decreased a lot. Consequently, there is a decrease in the number of people who are willing to continue supporting it.”
The perception that Russia is losing has gone from 48% in October to 37% now in April. At the same time, the idea that Ukraine is winning has gone from 43% in October to 26% in April. This opinion is shared almost equally by Democrats and Republicans.
The number of Americans who believe that Ukraine is not winning the war is increasing
The Americans are not only talking about stopping funding the war, but also not sending more weapons. Supporters of continuing to equip the Ukrainian army, for example, have gone from 60% in May 2022 to 48% in February this year, according to a poll by the AP news agency with the NORC Public Affairs Center.
This decline is related to the perception, according to the Pew Center poll, that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is no longer as serious a threat to the United States as it seemed a year ago. In March 2022, 50% of those surveyed thought so, but last January it was only 35%.
Among those who continue to defend financial and military support for Ukraine, those who believe that it should be limited to the recovery of the territory occupied since February 2022, not the territory that Russia has controlled since 2014, are gaining weight.
Most Americans want to help Ukraine regain only territory lost since last year’s invasion
26% of those polled by the University of Maryland think that Ukraine should limit itself to reconquering territory lost a year ago, while only 18% believe that the war should end only when Ukraine regains all of its territorial integrity. Those who still want to go further and not stop until there is an unconditional capitulation of the Kremlin are only 8% of those interviewed.
Shibley Telhami believes that support fatigue for Ukraine among many Americans should worry lawmakers. “The 2024 presidential elections -he explains- are going to impact the public perception of this matter given the division between Republicans and Democrats. However, one of the determining factors in this perception will depend on the battles that are fought until then, if they favor to Ukraine, if they do it to Russia or if they end up in a paralysis of the front”.
The front has remained more or less stable throughout the winter, but analysts insist that a Ukrainian counteroffensive is imminent both in the Donbass and in the south of the country, in the direction of Crimea. The outcome of this campaign will largely depend on American support for the military and financial effort in favor of Ukraine.