The Biden Administration's Weakness Is on Full Display in Ukraine

President Joe Biden’s weakness has been unmatched in attempting to deter Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine.

Last month, on December 17, the Kremlin unveiled two draft agreements that essentially acted as ultimatums for NATO and the Biden Administration. The demands? For the United States and NATO to guarantee that NATO would not expand further east, that the United States would withdraw its nuclear missiles from Europe, and that no NATO country would cooperate militarily with former Soviet countries.  In effect, Vladimir Putin wants to reestablish Russian dominance over Eastern Europe by recapturing old Soviet bloc countries.

Any competent team in the White House, any capable American President, would have responded to such threats with immediate and tangible costs to the Russians.  They would have responded to the massive military build-up on Ukraine’s border with preemptive, crushing economic sanctions and an ironclad guarantee to help Ukraine defend itself should Russia invade.  President Biden should be rallying European allies to commit themselves to standing against Putin and his lawless, authoritarian actions.  But deterrence was lost with Biden’s weakness.

The Biden Administration’s approach mirrors that of the Obama Administration.  Obama famously referred to ISIS as “JV” and simply allowed Vladimir Putin to annex Crimea back in 2014.  That same weakness is on display now, and it’s no wonder given the fact that many of the officials in the current Administration are former Obama Administration officials.

Perhaps President Biden’s most disastrous gaffe is his comments regarding a potential Russian invasion. He indicated that a “minor incursion” by the Russian military would not rise to the level of a U.S. response. While Biden officials tried to clarify his comments later, the damage was done.  In diplomacy – especially in a situation as tense as this one – if there's room for doubt, if there’s space, Vladimir Putin will drive a truck through any gap provided. That President Biden afforded a gap while speaking with a friendly press corps is almost beyond belief.

A competent Administration’s efforts to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine would have started a long time ago, when Team Biden first took office.  Unfortunately, no such deterrence has been established. When President Putin demanded that the Biden Administration give him a New START treaty extension, they gave it to him for nothing. In the wake of Russian cyberattacks which shut down the Colonial Pipeline, President Biden told them you can only attack certain sectors but ‘sixteen’ are off limits. These were places where the Administration had the chance to establish deterrence.  Instead, it showed weakness, and President Biden’s recent comments to the press – in which he indicated that a “minor incursion” by the Russian military into Ukraine would somehow be permissible – have only encouraged a Russian invasion.

The Trump Administration made it clear, from Day One, that we would not tolerate actions which undermined American security and our interests without imposing costs on those responsible.

With Ukraine, we not only firmly stated our intention to oppose a Russian invasion, but also supplied Ukraine with vital military aid which made any potential invasion far less appealing to the Kremlin. While we gave Ukraine bombs, the Obama-Biden Administration provided them with blankets and Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s).  The Biden Administration, while still supplying Ukraine with military aid, has been far murkier on what actions it would take in response to a Russian invasion – especially given President Biden’s recent comments about the lack of a response to a “minor incursion.”  The Biden Administration should be enacting broad-based sanctions now to pre-empt any invasion.  Instead, the Biden Administration has indicated that it will not sanction Russian oil or remove them from the SWIFT banking system, a further sign of weakness.

President Biden’s actions indicate that he doesn’t believe a Russian invasion will have much impact on Americans.  But were President Putin to achieve his objectives, a Russian-controlled Ukraine would have major implications for the American people.  Energy prices would skyrocket due to the invasion’s effect on global energy markets, directly affecting how much it costs for every American to heat their home.  Instability in Europe would 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?

Only strength deters war; weakness begets it.  President Xi Jinping, Chairman Kim, the Ayatollah – they and others like them are watching to see how America will respond to Russian attempts not only to invade a free nation, but to do so in direct defiance of NATO and the United States.  If America shows further weakness here, if we fail to lead from the front, as President Biden has failed to do so many times in only his first year, we will only invite more catastrophic attacks in Taiwan, Korea, Israel, and elsewhere.  Then it will not only be the people of Ukraine who suffer – it will be America and our allies and the world as well.

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