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NATO’s Fraying Unity on Russia Policy

Maintaining a stance of knee-jerk support for Kiev is not a winning political strategy.

Protest Outside NATO Headquarters In Brussels
(Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

The Biden administration’s policy toward the Russia-Ukraine war was built on the assumption of widespread international support for a coercive response to Russia’s invasion. Even during the early weeks of the conflict, however, there were indications that Washington’s belief was faulty. Biden’s boast that the world stood united in its opposition to Russia’s “aggression” was little more than wishful thinking. Barely a week after the onset of the war, there were extensive defections from a United Nations General Assembly vote calling for the withdrawal of Russian forces. In addition to the five nay votes, there were 35 abstentions—even though the resolution did not commit U.N. members to take any substantive action. 

Most of the abstentions came from Africa and Asia, and the vote proved to be a harbinger of widespread indifference to the war, combined with tenacious opposition to Washington’s drive to isolate and punish Russia. As time passed, the problem only grew worse. Aside from NATO and longstanding U.S. allies in East Asia, the global map showed almost no support for economic sanctions against Russia, much less for economic and military backing for Ukraine.