Many think Biden isn’t tough enough on Russia: AP/NORC poll

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Many Americans still question whether President Biden is showing enough strength in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, even as most approve of steps the U.S. is already taking and few want U.S. troops to get involved in the conflict.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 54% of Americans think Biden has been “not tough enough” in his response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Thirty-six percent think his approach has been about right, while 8% say he’s been too tough.

But as the war has dragged on, Americans’ desire to get involved has waned somewhat. Three-quarters of Americans believe the U.S. should play a significant role in the conflict. That’s ticked back down from 40% last month, though that remains slightly higher than the 26% who said so in February. Another 49% feel that the U.S. should only play a minor role.

These results highlight the dilemma facing the White House. As images of Russian attacks on civilians and hospitals are shared around the world, there’s pressure to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin and help millions of Ukrainians under attack in their home country or fleeing for safety. But Biden must also manage the threat of escalation with Putin, who has raised the alert level on using Russia‘s nuclear weapons, and prevent the U.S. from getting involved in a much larger conflict.

“Given the potential desperation of President Putin and the Russian leadership, given the setbacks that they’ve faced so far militarily, none of us can take lightly the threat posed by a potential resort to tactical nuclear weapons or low-yield nuclear weapons,” CIA Director William Burns said in a recent speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Burns added that “so far we haven’t seen a lot of practical evidence” of Russian nuclear escalation.

The White House has authorized more weapons than $2 billion and led Western sanctions that have decimated the Russian economy. Biden has ruled it out that the United States sends troops to Russia, a decision supported majority of Americans.

The U.S. also held back certain weapons and defense systems that Ukraine sought and set early limits on intelligence sharing, which have not been relaxed throughout the conflict.

A poll of Americans and follow-up interviews revealed that many Americans are concerned about images of Ukrainians dying and Russian forces being accused of war crimes. They want to see more action taken to stop Putin. The majority (57%) believe Putin directed his troops to engage in war crimes. Just 6% say he has not, while 36% say they aren’t sure.

“I know that we’re not directly responsible,” said Rachel Renfro, a 35-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee. “But we’ve always been the kind of people that insert ourselves into these kinds of situations and I don’t understand why we’re not doing that now to a bigger degree.”

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