World Putin barks, Biden blinks

21:35  23 november  2021
21:35  23 november  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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Contradicting his pre-inauguration pledges, President Joe Biden has established a Russia policy centered on appeasement.

  Putin barks, Biden blinks © Provided by Washington Examiner

The facts are clear. Biden excuses Russian state-colluded ransomware attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure. He enables Russian energy blackmail against Central and Eastern Europe. He responds to Russia's jeopardizing of near-Earth space operations with inane State Department condemnations. He prevaricates on providing Ukraine with more weaponry in the face of Russia's massive military buildup.

Vladimir Putin is taking advantage.

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Putin's prospective Ukraine invasion force, highly significant in its combined arms scale, now encircles the country. More forces are staging in Ukraine's direction each day. Sergei Shoigu, Russia's defense minister and a close friend of Putin, inspected some of these forces just last week. And now, the Russians are shaping the information battlespace (or fake news factory): Russia's SVR foreign intelligence service is warning it is Ukraine and NATO, not Russia, that is massing offensive forces.

Ignoring Putin's domestic interest in escalation over Ukraine, Biden is running scared.

The Washington Post reports on Tuesday that the White House has directed the "Pentagon to provide a rundown of exercises the U.S. military has taken in recent years in Europe to deter Russia, as well as the justification for each mission." Administration officials claim that the directive was not made with a mind to reducing those exercises. But that's the only feasible rationale. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby evinces as much, telling the Washington Post that the directive is "in keeping with our collective desire to see a de-escalation of tensions in the region and to help create more space for diplomatic resolution."

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This is a truly delusional strategy. But especially misguided is the timing of the decision to leak this directive. It comes, after all, just a few days after Putin warned that NATO air activities threatened to cross Russian red lines. The directive leak will thus be perceived by the Russians as a signal of Biden's hesitation right as they are escalating tensions. Put another way, it is exactly the wrong U.S. message to send and, with Ukraine in mind, exactly the wrong time to send it. The Russian leader heavily weights his decisions on the basis of his assessment of an adversary's resolve.

This directive shows an absence of resolve.

The Biden administration's calculus appears to be driven by Ralph Clem's recent research. A military analyst, Clem is focused on rising levels of NATO-Russia air-to-air and naval intercepts. He argues, with some merit, that NATO and Russia must improve their de-confliction channels to avoid undesired escalation or misunderstanding. But Clem misunderstands Russia's strategic calculus.

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He told the Washington Post that "the most troubling thing about these displays is that it puts U.S. [nuclear force] assets to use for a purpose which is not clearly defined — and to me, that is very risky."

Or maybe that's exactly the thing to do, being that deterrence works? And being that Russia is rapidly advancing its nuclear strike capability across the range of conflict? Or being that Russia-flank NATO allies might be concerned by new moves from NATO's largest European economic power to undermine NATO nuclear deterrence? Or being that this is a NATO response to Russia doing the same thing?

Clem also deemphasizes that it is Russia, not NATO, that is responsible for the escalation. Indeed, in an article Clem co-authored in August, he notes that NATO intelligence air missions (versus armed missions) account for a large number of the Russian intercepts. Does he want to cut back on intelligence gathering? He also says NATO operations over the Baltic Sea "is by far the most problematic" when it comes to de-confliction. True. But this is exactly where Russia exerts its threat-presence against the most vulnerable NATO members, including the deployment of submarines capable of striking land targets.

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NATO has serious issues, but the worst thing the United States could do would be to back away from deterrence activity. Putin is talking about red lines as a means of extracting concessions for free — not because he fears an approaching nuclear war. Equally problematic, Clem overly simplifies the NATO-Russia military situation with Ukraine. He asks the Washington Post, "Is anybody in the U.S. defense establishment thinking about fighting the Russians in the Black Sea over Ukraine? The answer to that has to be, must be, no."


Of course, no one wants to fight over the Black Sea. But what if Russian forces attack a NATO warship or aircraft operating in or above international or Ukrainian waters? What if the Russians establish a unilateral military exclusion zone around Ukraine, insisting no NATO forces can operate within it? What, in the worst case, if the Russians seize Ukraine proper and then masses forces against the land borders of NATO member states Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania?

These are hypothetical scenarios of varying likelihood. But all of them entail a NATO responsibility to "think about fighting the Russians in the Black Sea over Ukraine." And once again, deterrence matters.

Clem is right on one thing: Improved channels of de-confliction would help. But ultimately, Biden should remember that most proven of strategies for peace: Russia's understanding that the benefits of escalation are far outweighed by the costs.

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Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Foreign Policy, National Security, Russia, Ukraine, NATO, Vladimir Putin, Air Force, Navy, Joe Biden

Original Author: Tom Rogan

Original Location: Putin barks, Biden blinks

Column: Biden wants to focus on China. Putin has another idea .
The biggest foreign policy challenge for President Biden is coming not from Asia, but from a more traditional nemesis, Russia's Vladimir Putin.History, and other great powers, don’t always cooperate with presidents’ grand designs.

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This is interesting!