World Biden's tough on Putin rhetoric fails the Ukraine reality test

13:50  05 april  2021
13:50  05 april  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

Belarus commemorates Confederate States of America as Putin eyes union state

  Belarus commemorates Confederate States of America as Putin eyes union state Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s regime has commemorated the founding of the Confederacy, continuing its theme of authoritarian taunts at the United States and signaling its deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. © Provided by Washington Examiner “We acknowledge our mistakes and use this occasion to apologize for the absence of congratulations with the 160th anniversary of adoption of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America, whose flag is still dear to many Americans,” Belarus's foreign ministry said Friday in a bulletin promoted by Russian state media.

The threat of conflict is the ultimate test of a nation's commitment to its word. In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is showing President Joe Biden's word to be wanting.

a screen shot of Joe Biden in a suit and tie © Provided by Washington Examiner

This will be news to some.

In the two-and-a-half months since he entered the Oval Office, Biden has been showered with media praise for his dealings with the Russian president. First, Biden was saluted simply for holding a phone call with Putin. Then Biden was lauded for calling Putin a killer (comments which met a very Russian riposte). Finally, Biden was praised for introducing mild new sanctions on the Kremlin (which did at least call out Germany's hosting of Russian chemical weapons on its soil). The media narrative: Putin now faces an American president who understands his true nature and is willing to counter his more malevolent activities.

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Were it true, this development would indeed be welcome. While his policies towards Russia were robust in areas, President Trump's personal affection for his Russian counterpart was deeply counterproductive. Unfortunately for Biden and U.S. interests, Putin does not fear rhetoric. Putin does not assess his adversaries on the basis of their willingness to condemn him, but rather by their willingness to counter him. And as it pertains to Ukraine, all three of the last U.S. presidents have failed Putin's credibility test here.

President Trump began well by supplying Kyiv with anti-tank and anti-personnel weapons. But Trump then ruined this supportive record with his attempt to shake down Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. And while President Biden has sustained these weapon supplies, his Ukraine record as Vice President isn't exactly great. It was the Obama administration, after all, which allowed Putin to get away with downing the MH-17 passenger airliner over eastern Ukraine, killing nearly 300 innocent people (including many citizens of close U.S. allies, Australia and the Netherlands). The Obama administration then allowed the Russian GRU intelligence service to remove evidence of Russia's culpability from the crash site, refusing access to external observers as the victims remains rotted amid the smoldering wreckage.

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It's little surprise, then, that Putin is again testing America in Ukraine.

In recent days, Russia has deployed a division-strength formation of troops and equipment to Ukraine's eastern and southeastern borders, and to Russian occupied Crimea. Further deployments are anticipated. The Russian forces involved include aviation transport and strike assets, armor and mechanized infantry units, warships, electronic warfare elements, the advanced S-400 air defense system, and a major logistics/supply network. Considering the expense of these deployments and atypically significant Russian efforts to conceal units involved, an imminent offensive seems possible.

Still, it's unclear whether Putin actually intends to carry out such an offensive, or is trying to extract western and Ukrainian compromises. The Minsk and Normandy track ceasefire accords in Ukraine are faltering under Russian pressure and Zelesnky's courageous refusal to accept Franco-German pressure to make new concessions. Putin might also be putting teeth on his recent threats of "asymmetric" responses to U.S. and European Union sanctions. The Russian leader has various reasons to do what he is now doing.

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Regardless, Biden is playing his role perfectly. Perfectly, that is, from Putin's perspective.

The Biden administration hasn't exactly been resolute in its response to this latest Russian escalation. Biden has been largely silent on the crisis, only belatedly phoning Zelensky to offer words of support. Beyond this, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has made a couple of calls to his Ukrainian counterpart. Nor has Biden been able to persuade his treasured European allies to step up to the plate. The French and German foreign ministers this weekend offered a truly pathetic statement in which they identified the Russian troop movements, but called on "both sides" to deescalate. This is the geopolitical equivalent of a 911 dispatcher telling a family suffering a home invasion that no police are coming and that they should instead "de-escalate" with the intruders!

Put simply, BIden's tough-on-Putin rhetoric is most certainly not passing its most serious early test of reality. It's a real problem. U.S. interests in Ukraine center on the consolidation of a pro-western democracy, and the restraint of Putin's strategic effort to subjugate periphery states under the Kremlin's kleptocracy. As evinced by Putin's rapidly increasing influence in Belarus, Georgia, and Hungary, this concern is serious.

Russian forces are massing on Ukraine's border. Bluff or not, Putin is playing with fire

  Russian forces are massing on Ukraine's border. Bluff or not, Putin is playing with fire For an army given to masking its moves, surely the worst way to disguise a potential imminent invasion of a country is by overtly preparing for it. © Maxar Technologies A satellite view of the Pogonovo training area in Russia's Voronezh region, close to the Ukrainian border. This is the paradox around Russia's visible buildup in its west, not far from the Ukrainian border. Were Moscow trying to reverse the military stalemate around the Donbas separatist region -- that it truncated from Ukraine in 2014 -- would it want to telegraph its moves so blatantly? Russia's signals are obvious.

Biden, however, doesn't seem to get it. There are obvious options that he could easily apply against Putin. Biden might, for example, have sent a battalion from the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade to conduct snap exercises in western Ukraine. Doing so would be largely symbolic (numerous U.S. Army units have trained in Ukraine since 2015), but it would send the Kremlin a visible message. Alternatively, Biden might have publicly ordered the expedited delivery of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. He might have made clear to Chancellor Angela Merkel that Germany's failure to push the European Union into stronger support of Ukraine would lead to unilateral U.S. sanctions on the Nord Stream II energy pipeline (the two issues are directly connected). Or Biden could have assured Putin than any new incursion would result in new U.S. sanctions on his inner circle of criminal oligarchs, perhaps those who shelter their money in European capitals like London?

Alas, no. Instead, Biden has decided it's sufficient to have Lloyd Austin make phone calls. This response is Biden's right as president, of course. But it most certainly does not fit with the president's I'm-tough-on-Putin rhetoric.

Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Foreign Policy, Antony Blinken, National Security, Russia, Ukraine, War, Military, Joe Biden

Original Author: Tom Rogan

Original Location: Biden's tough on Putin rhetoric fails the Ukraine reality test

Why Putin may not be planning invasion Ukraine fears .
President Biden's proposal for a summit with Russia's leader means the risk of an escalation has faded.As the hostile rhetoric and military moves around Ukraine have intensified, Western politicians have begun fearing an open invasion and urging Russia's Vladimir Putin to "de-escalate".

usr: 0
This is interesting!