Whether or not the West’s instant claims that Russia had failed at the outset of its illegal invasion of its proto-democratic neighbor Ukraine, the fact remained that Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, was clearly under political pressure to succeed in Ukraine as quickly as possible.
In fact, earlier last week, it was reported that Putin had ordered his military to have the unpopular war wrapped up by May 9 – just 11 weeks after the massive invasion began – and the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Meanwhile other analysts, such as this author, have fretted that the longer the conflict wore on inconclusively, the more likely the Kremlin was to order unconventional escalation involving cyberspace attacks on the United States, potential tactical nuclear strikes on NATO supply depots in Poland, and the use of chemical or biological weapons against targets of opportunity in Ukraine.
Yet the news out of Russia that Moscow was ordering its forces in Ukraine to refocus its efforts on pacifying the Russian-speaking eastern portions of Ukraine that Russia had enjoyed nominal control over since the 2014 annexation of Crimea indicated to many that Putin was looking for an off-ramp.
There was, however small, a light at the end of this particularly dark geopolitical tunnel that did not involve a possible mushroom cloud.
Even Ukraine’s gallant leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky, had in effect approved the potentiality of a diplomatic solution with Putin that involved the ceding of eastern Ukraine to Russia, the acknowledgement that Crimea was now Russian territory, and the acceptance that Ukraine – if it at all wanted to be left in peace – would not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
These moves, while demoralizing, would likely prevent the mad Russian wanna-be czar from totally crushing Ukraine beneath his steel boots.
Things were looking much better for the pro-Western Zelensky government in Kiev than they had in weeks. So it defies explanation that US President Joe Biden would have hopped on to Air Force One – after having been mostly absent for the duration of this tragic war – flown over to Poland, and made two terrible misstatements at such a critical point in the Russo-Ukrainian relationship.
Yet “misspeak” Mr Biden did!
A man notorious for his inopportune gaffes, Biden went before a group of US Army personnel stationed in Poland and told the 82nd Airborne that they were heading over to Ukraine. From there, Biden went to the nation’s capital Warsaw and, supposedly breaking away from his carefully scripted remarks, burbled on about how Vladimir Putin’s reign of terror in Moscow needed to end.
This, after Biden a week ago had labeled his Russian counterpart a “war criminal” (and repeating that true but unnecessary claim while in Poland)!
We are told that the US president was misstating the official policy of his administration. However, this strains credulity for two reasons.
First, if the president says it is his policy to view Russian strongman Vladimir Putin as a war criminal, if it is his decision to deploy the 82nd Airborne into war-torn Ukraine, and if he declares that Putin’s violent regime must come to an end, by definition, it is now the official policy of his administration (if it wasn’t already its unofficial policy). For it not to be the official policy of his administration, President Biden would need to correct his statements publicly.
Second, Biden’s White House is stuffed full of advisers who believe that Putin’s regime is the greatest evil in history – and these advisers are willing to make a deal with China to punish Moscow.
It is not that hard to believe that President Biden does, in fact, support deploying American troops into Ukraine or that he wants to overthrow the Putin regime as the United States did to Saddam Hussein’s or Muammar Gaddafi’s regimes (and attempted to do to Bashar al-Assad’s government).
The greater question one must ask is: Why? Why on Earth would Biden wade into this geopolitical crisis that could go nuclear at any moment at a time when both the Ukrainian government and the Russian government appeared to be taking de-escalatory steps? And why hasn’t Biden come out immediately to correct the record, if he did indeed misspeak?
It is the contention of this author that President Biden did not misspeak.
Yes, Biden has a long history of gaffes. Yet he also has a long history of forcing drastic policy changes and covering those radical policies up with claims that he misspoke. Remember, as vice-president, it was Biden who got then-president Barack Obama decisively to support gay marriage at a time when both Obama and his White House advisers were concerned that it would alienate voters during the next election in 2012.
Biden, who had long been a supporter of gay rights, gave a public statement in support of marriage equality that made it sound as though he was speaking on behalf of Obama. When he received pushback from his own Democratic Party, Biden simply said he misspoke.
But it was too late. Obama was boxed in, as his base was now demanding that he follow through on the promises that he had made while running for president in 2008 – and it was Biden, who was staunchly in favor of the policies being considered, who forced the situation, much to Obama’s chagrin at the time.
Everything ultimately worked out for Obama as it related to his support for marriage equality. Yet there was much consternation at the time that then-vice-president Biden made those public “gaffes.”
The same, I fear, is true today.
At the precise moment that it appeared things were starting to simmer down in Ukraine, Biden leapt into action and in effect turned the geopolitical heat up on this dumpster fire. Perhaps it’s simply because, as Biden had claimed in the 2020 presidential campaign, he believes that Putin is evil (the Russian dictator most certainly is, by the way, but there are many evil leaders in the world).
Maybe Biden wants to distract the American people from his failed presidency. It is possible that he and his radical progressive engineers believe that the Ukraine crisis allows them to implement the most radical elements of their agenda (like the Green New Deal) under the imprimatur of “standing up to Russia.”
Or, it could be that Biden’s national-security team wants the conflict to go on longer to drain the Russian military of essential personnel and capabilities – thereby removing, in their eyes, any threat that the Russian conventional military poses to the wider West (regardless of the cost to Ukraine or the risk of nuclear world war). It might also just be plain incompetence.
Whatever the reason, the fact is that Biden has made it harder for Ukraine to end the conflict in a way that preserves a scintilla of its independence. Because of Biden’s remarks, it is likely that this conflict will drag on; that Russia may even escalate in the unconventional realm, to send a message to the United States that Vladimir Putin is not Saddam Hussein and any attempt to end his regime will end in disaster for Washington.
Elections have consequences. We are all paying for the stunning ineptitude of the man 81 million Americans voted for in 2020 because they believed he was preferable to Donald Trump. Yet under Trump, the world never had to contend with a Russian invasion of Europe. Sadly, the foreign-policy malpractice and extreme democratic-globalism of President Biden and his advisers have taken us to that catastrophic place.
World War I began not because it was inevitable, but because of the personalities of the leadership at the time. The leaders back then, like those today, were maximalists who did not adequately understand the capabilities and intentions of the other side. Inevitably, this inability to understand their enemies and to make strategies that avoided conflict led to one of the most destructive conflicts in history.
The same could be happening now in Europe.