By John Helmer, Moscow
In the history of the world wars, or the last century of wars in Europe, or the wars the US has waged since 1945, it has never happened that what the President of the US says, and what the head of the front-line country which the US is fighting to defend says, have mattered less than what Joseph Biden and Vladimir Zelensky say now.
The reason is that no US president running a war has ever been as incapacitated in command and control as Biden, nor as impotent among his own officials as Zelensky. Rule by crock and rule by stooge aren’t rule at all.
US public opinion polls measuring Biden’s job approval rating demonstrate that most American voters already realize this. The growing spread between American voters’ disapproval and approval of Biden’s performance since the Russian operation began on February 24 indicates also that this understanding is growing.
But this isn’t anti-war sentiment, let alone an American stop-the-war movement. At present US officials headed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken aim to fight the war to the capitulation or destruction of Russia; they will fight to the last Ukrainian to achieve this goal; they will negotiate no end-of-war terms; they are not influenced or constrained by American public opinion or votes. Not yet.
Zelensky has declared he is in favour of negotiations to end the war; he has declared he is opposed to the terms which President Vladimir Putin and the Russian leadership have made clear, long before the war began and ever since, were the casus belli, the objectives for which they are fighting. The reason Zelensky regularly contradicts himself is that his power – his survival in office – depends on the Galician faction headquartered around Lvov, whose only occupation is permanent warfighting, and whose only income flows from the US and the NATO alliance. They are as committed as Blinken to operating the Ukraine as a gun platform targeted at Russia; the Galicians will destroy all of eastern Ukraine as they withdraw, in order to keep firing. The Germans thought and did as much on the same battlefields eighty years ago.
Biden, Blinken, Zelensky, and the Galicians also hate Russians with more racial virulence than has ever been shown by Americans towards a European enemy in the history of American wars.
Race hatred towards Russians now far exceeds American public opinion measured towards Germans during World War I or World War II. It is only matched, according to the US War Department’s surveys of American soldiers, by hatred towards the Japanese. During that war, six times the number of GIs polled said they “would really like to kill” a Japanese soldier as said the same for a German. When combat veterans were asked “what would you like to see happen to the Japanese and the Germans after the war”, almost one in two GIs from the Pacific theatre supported wiping out the entire Japanese nation; one in eight from the European theatre said that of Germany. During the Vietnam War, US race hatred for the Vietnamese was even less.
If these lessons are true, or if the commands in Moscow and in Washington believe them, what end to the war can be negotiated short of the destruction of one side or the other?
The simpleton’s conclusion is none – there can be no end to this war unless the Ukraine is destroyed, or Russia, or Europe, or the US. How simple-minded is that?
By the time the Vietnam War ended in the defeat and evacuation of US forces, with the official count of 58,220 US casualties, the political calculation of the White House staff was that no incumbent president could survive the blood-and-price formula; that is, accelerating inflation, accelerating body count.
Biden has the advantage that no US troops have been formally engaged against the Russian Army, and the American lives to be lost are likely to be irregulars, mercenaries, spetsnaz or accidents. Biden has the disadvantage that he is the most medically incapacitated commander-in-chief since Woodrow Wilson’s stroke in October 1919, two years before his term ended.
US ANNUAL INFLATION RATE FOR THE PAST 25 YEARS
Excluding prices for fuel and food, the US consumer price index has already risen over the past month to 6.4%, the highest in more than 40 years. The war-related costs have yet to impact. Source: https://tradingeconomics.com/
According to the latest briefing by Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, when Biden goes to Europe today, he will be proposing to escalate the sanctions war against Russia. This is notwithstanding the evidence that the sanctions are making no difference to the battlefield advances of the Russian forces and no relief in Ukrainian military and civilian losses, including refugee flows. At the same time, the sanctions are accelerating the American and European inflation rates and threatening food and energy rationing for the first time since the war against Germany.
National Security Adviser Sullivan (above) said: “The president will join our partners in imposing further sanctions on Russia and tightening the existing sanctions to crack down on evasion and ensure robust enforcement… This war will not end easily or rapidly…[Biden’s trip] will send a powerful message that we are prepared and committed to this for as long as it takes”.
The US declaration that “this war will not end easily or rapidly”, and that the US and its allies “are prepared and committed to this for as long as it takes” cancels whatever negotiations or terms Zelensky claims to have announced on Ukrainian television for an end to the war.
In his Monday broadcast, Zelensky reportedly said he is ready to discuss the status of Crimea and the Donbass after a cease-fire and steps toward providing security guarantees; he also insisted on meeting Putin directly. Zelensky called this sequence “a compromise for everyone: for the West, which doesn’t know what to do with us with regard to NATO, for Ukraine, which wants security guarantees, and for Russia, which doesn’t want further NATO expansion.”
In the thirty-six hours which followed, the White House cancelled Zelensky’s “compromise”. To the Stavka in Moscow, this is confirmation that the NATO side has no interest in negotiated terms for conserving the Ukraine as more than a gunship in retreat. Sullivan’s declaration is understood in Moscow as the casus belli for which the war was launched on February 24. In this US war against Russia, as the Russians now understand it, the Ukrainians are collateral damage – for them, not for Americans.
Biden has yet to follow Sullivan and declare the war in the Ukraine a long war against Russia. But US opinion polling already indicates that American voters are anticipating – and do not accept the price they expect to pay.
PRESIDENT BIDEN’S RATING – SUMMARY OF POLLS FROM JANUARY 2021
The chart shows the job approval rating which is a combination of four separate measures of Biden's performance -- economic policy, foreign policy, coronavirus, and immigration.
In the poll surveys by RealClearPolitics.com, the evidence shows American voter disapproval of Biden’s performance on the domestic economy is 58.3%; approval is 37.8%; the spread is minus 20.5%. These figures are the average of ten polling surveys; Gallup’s spread is 27%; the Harvard-Harris poll is 34%. The latest Gallup poll report, prepared before the war started, indicates growing disapproval for Biden on his handling of “the Russian situation”, especially among independent and republican voters.
Since the Russian operation began on February 24, but before the White House declaration of a long war, the polling average reveals next to no statistically significant mobilization effect, no rally round the flag, almost no contraction of the negative spread which ought to have resulted from the pro-war campaigning across all the US media.
BIDEN’S DISAPPROVAL-APPROVAL SPREAD SINCE THE WAR STARTED
Compiled from RealClearPolitics.
The US has never fought a long war against Russia.
In 1918, the year before President Wilson was incapacitated by his stroke, he had ordered the landings in Arkhangelsk, in northwest Russia, and Vladivostok, in the fareast, of two US Army forces combining almost 13,000 men. They began their operations in August and September of 1918, one year after the Russian Revolution. They failed in every one of their objectives, and suffered 424 casualties before they were withdrawn by April 1920. There were US soldier petitions against fighting the Red Army and reported mutinies among the units. Wilson’s successor, President Warren Harding, condemned the intervention as Wilson’s mistake.
Since then the combination of war, inflation, and presidential election is very rare. There have been only six years of double-digit annual inflation in the US – 1942 (10.9%), 1947 (14.4%), 1974 (11%), 1979 (11.3%), 1980 (13.5%), and 1981 (10.3%). In only one of these years, 1942, were US forces facing heavy casualties in military action, but that was not an election year.
In 1980, the only presidential election year with inflation running at double-digits (13.5%), Jimmy Carter was defeated by Ronald Reagan in a landslide across the country. Carter’s only direct military operation, Operation Eagle Claw to Iran in April 1980, six months before Election Day, involved 118 soldiers, 8 of whom were killed. The operation, which did not engage enemy troops or hostile fire, was a failure.
No incumbent US president has been re-elected in conditions of long war and double-digit inflation.