Biden's Approach to Ukraine Has Been Wrong From the Start

Days ago, Vladimir Putin did what we all have known he was going to do for months: He invaded Ukraine.

This invasion was by no means inevitable.  We in the Trump Administration were able to keep an invasion like this one from occurring by establishing a model of deterrence – not just with respect to Russia, but with anyone who threatened to harm or undermine our interests.  We kept the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from being completed, we withheld talks on a new START treaty, and we worked with our partners in NATO to increase defense spending and present a greater potential response to any act of Russian aggression.  We weren’t abandoning our allies by demanding they spend more on defense; we were ensuring our allies in Europe could be strong enough to deter Russian aggression in their own backyard. Because make no mistake, Putin is absolutely about the business of trying to bring back the Soviet Union.  The steps we took in the Trump Administration were necessary to ensure he didn’t get that chance.

It is not Vladimir Putin who has changed; it’s American leadership that’s changed.

The Biden Administration has been threatening to execute what Kamala Harris called “some of the greatest sanctions, if not the strongest, that we’ve ever issued.” But Putin has shown from Day One that he is largely unconcerned with Western sanctions.  As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in response, “We don’t need your sanctions . . . after we will have no borders and after we will have no economy or part of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then?”

And the sanctions were in fact not strong at all – they initially did not include limits on Russia’s access to the SWIFT banking system or their oil and gas industry.  They failed as a deterrent to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine and they will not impose sufficient cost now.

Sanctions are just one tool for executing effective diplomacy and establishing deterrence, yet the Biden Administration has acted as if they are sufficient as a reactionary strategy.  They are not; deterrence must be multifaceted – military force projection, American energy dominance, allied resolve, and clear, concise dialogue and expectations.  In the Trump Administration, we incorporated all these factors into our strategy of diplomacy and deterrence, yet the Biden Administration has allowed each to slowly erode with feckless, muddled responses to Russian aggression that have neither projected strength nor imposed costs on our adversaries.  They have stopped speaking the one language that Putin understands: strength.

They gave Putin a new START treaty without extracting any costs or concessions; allowed Russian thugs to hack the Colonial pipeline, driving gas prices up and creating lines at the pump not seen since the 1970s; and they gave him Nord Stream 2, ceding a market for our natural gas to the Russians.

When Russia massed the largest number of forces in modern history on the border of Ukraine, Joe Biden said it was okay if Putin invaded, as long as it was only a “minor incursion.”  And once they did invade, he struggled to call it as such.

Team Biden wasted grand summit gatherings in Europe attacking the Trump Administration and celebrating a “return to normalcy,” all while failing to lead and prepare for Russian aggression toward Ukraine.  And when Putin began threatening invasion, the response from Europe was not unified, and American leadership was nowhere to be found.  President Biden has been weak toward Putin, unstable, and unclear—he doesn’t understand what is at stake in the fight against Russia and doesn’t know that it takes strength to defend America and keep us out of war.

This conflict will have major implications for the American people.  Energy prices will skyrocket due to the invasion’s effect on global energy markets.  The rising cost of energy means that the historic inflation levels we’ve seen under the Biden Administration will only continue to increase. Instability in Europe will also strain our economic relationships here at home, meaning less jobs for Americans.  And how can we make the case for controlling our own southern border while we allow a free nation’s sovereign borders to be violated with impunity?

America has been weak and unclear with our adversaries when the world needed it to be at its strongest and clearest. Our adversaries have noted the Biden Administration’s failure to act with resolve in Afghanistan, in the face of Chinese aggression, and now in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.  Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping, and the Ayatollahs in Iran will each see these failures of American leadership as a green light for them to execute their sinister designs to disrupt peace and make war.  This will make the world far less safe for all people, including Americans. We need to establish strong U.S. leadership with urgency in order to avoid such a future.

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