US

In the White House on Tuesday night the subtleties of the American president’s language were telling.

He was hosting Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy for the second time in three months as the two men sought to persuade America’s divided politicians to help fund Ukraine’s war against Russia for longer.

Before the subtle language though, there was the blunt warning.

“We are rapidly coming to the end of our ability to respond to Ukraine’s needs,” President Biden said, adding: “It’s stunning we have got to this point.”

It was a jibe at Republican politicians who are tying their financial support for Ukraine to a demand that Biden sort out the migration chaos on America’s southern border.

Live updates: Ukraine under bombardment from air and cyber space

Ukraine and the US southern border with Mexico: two distinct issues which are bound by domestic political paralysis. And remember, the border is a key concern for Republican voters in the approaching election year.

More on Ukraine

The binding of the two issues was presented clearly by the Republican leader of the House of Representatives earlier in the day.

“What the Biden administration seems to be asking for is billions of additional dollars with no appropriate oversight, no clear strategy to win, and none of the answers that I think the American people are owed,” Speaker Mike Johnson said.

Then, in the same breath, he added the kicker: “I have also made very clear from day one that our first condition on any national security supplemental spending package is about our own national security first.”

To that, Biden had this: “Holding Ukraine funding hostage in an attempt to force through an extreme Republican partisan agenda on the border is not how it works.”

But then came the two telling subtleties in Biden’s language.

First he hinted at compromise on the border.

“My team is working with Senate Democrats and Republicans to try to find a bipartisan compromise, both in terms of changes in policy and [to] provide the resources we need to secure the border…”

The second subtlety was a small shift in his position which will cause Zelenskyy to shudder.

Biden said America will continue to support Ukraine “for as long as we can”.

Biden knows that if the Republicans don’t end their opposition to funding for Ukraine, he won’t be able to provide more military aid. We are weeks away from that prospect.

Then the question will be how does Europe respond? European unity is bolstered by US leadership against Russia. If America buckles under domestic political pressure, Europe could splinter too.

Putin is watching.

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