With Vladimir Putin’s seeming success in rolling over Crimea and pushing aside the Ukrainians, President Obama is talking tough. And, though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Poland, the Baltic states, Hungary and the Czech Republic are. They need some shoring up. So Mr. Obama has sent Vice President Joe Biden to reassure the Poles.
This makes sense to President Obama because Joe Biden sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for nearly forty years. Sending Joe Biden to Warsaw will impress the Russians, the president believes. Now, they will surely know that Obama means business. The president famously said of his veep: “nobody messes with Joe.”
Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates might not have suggested sending Biden to Poland. In his recently released memoir, Duty, the former Defense Sec. says “Joe Biden has been wrong on every foreign policy issue for thirty years.”
Joe Biden supported his chief’s decision early in this administration to cancel the missile defense agreement with Poland. The U.S. had promised to help Poland and the Czech Republic to defend themselves against Iran and, not incidentally, to enable these once captive nations to resist new pressures from Moscow. Now, Moscow is rising anew.
This is not the first time the Russians have had the chance to take Joe Biden’s measure. Biden is an experienced Russia hand. He and ranking Republican Dick Lugar went to Moscow as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as long ago as 1979.
Author Claire Berlinski told us four years ago in City Journal what kind of impression Joe Biden and Dick Lugar made on the Soviets at that time.
And what of [Vadim] Zagladin’s description of his dealings with our own current vice president in 1979? Unofficially, [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Senator Richard] Lugar said that, in the end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they do care for “human rights.” . . .
As a result of the impressions they gained from Joe Biden and Dick Lugar, the Soviets knew they could dismiss U.S. talk of human rights so long as they dangled the carrot of “arms control” before the eager foreign policy establishments in Washington and Western Europe.