As Russia continues to amass troops along Ukraine’s borders, and as mortar shells reportedly have hit a kindergarten and a school, it’s clear that President Vladimir Putin is emboldened to continue escalating the threat of an expanded war with Ukraine.
Here at home, both sides of the political aisle say, “why should America care?” Americans, understandably, are war-weary after 20 years in Afghanistan, and the image of Biden’s ruinous withdrawal is seared in our minds. Americans are united in our opposition of another “forever war,” and in our desire to avoid sending our best to die for someone else’s country.
But the choice before us is not between letting Putin extort the free world or shedding the blood of American troops in battle. Winston Churchill emphasized the importance of diplomacy as a means for avoiding war, and President Reagan mastered it with the Soviet Union.
How this perilous situation arose between Russia and Ukraine is as important as what we should do about it now.
Putin is an opportunist, looking to restore Russia’s Soviet-era sphere of influence. Where Americans saw President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan as humiliating - and a painful reminder that a competent execution of strategy matters - Putin saw endless opportunity. Biden’s amateurish withdrawal from Afghanistan presented Putin carte blanch to move forward with his expansionist agenda.
It’s no coincidence that within four short months of Biden’s miserable performance in Afghanistan, Putin was ratcheting up the war effort with Ukraine. There are far-reaching consequences to the abject failure of Biden’s foreign policy.
Despite Biden’s dismal failure, there’s still time to right this ship, and for the U.S. to show the world how strength and resolve is the best option for the situation at Ukraine’s borders.
Ukraine’s history is replete with foreign abuse and domestic tragedies. Now it’s struggling to become more democratically free, and is seeking western alliances. For Putin, however, international politics is a zero-sum game; Ukraine’s westward positioning undermines Putin’s own autocratic rule in Russia, and an independent Ukraine is a direct threat to his ability to extort the world and his desired regional hegemony.
Ukraine earned its independence and sovereignty, and now has the right to defend itself against foreign invasions, even if Biden can’t be bothered to defend our own country from daily invasion.
With self-preservation in mind, Ukraine has requested anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and we should sell those to them to effectively repel Russian invaders.
President Trump understood that Germany has more leverage over Putin, and it’s in Germany’s interest - as well as NATO’s - to exercise it. But if Germany won’t, there are two other steps President Biden must take immediately to show Putin that we‘re serious.
First, and foremost: indefinitely suspend the certification of Nord Stream 2, the pipeline Putin uses to manipulate and control Europe and global fuel prices - that we now have to suffer at our local gas stations. Kowtowing to the climate gods, Biden’s all too willing to sell out America instead of enervating Putin’s energy-based extortion. And if Putin moves forward with invading Ukraine, sanctions terminating the entire Nord Stream 2 project must be imposed.
Second, Biden must be specific and consistent on the scope of impending sanctions should Putin encroach further on Ukraine’s borders. Sanctions must include all major Russian banks, and banks continuing to conduct business with sanctioned institutions. Americans are done with financing ventures that are patently against our own interests.
Biden enjoyed a very long tenure in the Senate, leading the Foreign Relations Committee for 12 years; he should have a firmer grasp on the importance of presenting clear consequences to dictators – because it’s the best way we can help freedom-seeking people around the globe avoid terrible fates at the hands of tyrants.
Underscoring NATO’s lack of leadership and effectiveness, and taunting nations at their borders is Putin’s favorite go-to negotiating strategy. The United States has far more effective diplomatic “carrots and sticks” at our disposal. Biden must make Putin understand, in no uncertain terms, that we won’t hesitate to enforce swift and severe sanctions on Nord Stream 2 and Russia’s financial sector, should Putin violate Ukraine’s border.
We can still get this right, and Washington elites should stop their hand wringing about another Hobson’s Choice - where America loses either way. The best way to avoid a land war in Europe is to show Putin that America is committed to Ukraine’s independence, and that we have the tools and the resolve without committing our Forces or bankrupting our treasury to counter his expansionist agenda.
The world is a safer place when the United States is firmly resolved to remain “the shining city on a hill.”