The real threat of Moscow’s combat troops breaching Ukraine’s border will be the key topic when President Joe Biden engages his Russian counterpart Dec. 7 in a video conference. As Liberty Nation has reported, despite the Kremlin’s protests to the contrary, its contingent of 92,000 battle-ready soldiers has prompted significant apprehension on the part of the U.S. national security team. That fear is not unfounded, according to a prominent Washington newspaper. Vladimir Putin will demand Biden “guarantee” NATO won’t “expand east.” To that end, the outlet asserted:
“With Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin is expected to issue President Biden an ultimatum during their video meeting Tuesday: Guarantee that NATO will never expand into Ukraine, or Russia might soon launch an offensive against its neighbor.”
If accurate, that leaves Biden little wiggle room. Nonetheless, the president made clear to reporters his position on the crisis, pledging, “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be, will be, the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very, difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do.” America’s chief executive will have to install some credibility into whatever he says to his counterpart. The president did not elaborate on what those “initiatives” might be.
During the recent Reagan Defense Forum 2021, Fox News’ Bret Baier asked Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin about what the United States might do should Kremlin forces invade Ukraine. Baier pointed out that “senior officials are confirming to us Russian plans call for a military offensive against Ukraine as soon as 2022.” As reported by other news sources and U.S. intelligence findings, those plans could involve as many as 175,000 troops. “How concerned are you that this time Russia is not bluffing?” Baier asked. Austin responded, “We remain focused on this, Bret.” Austin went on to say that the United States is committed to helping Ukraine defend its country, but he was less forthcoming with specifics.
As a prelude to the Biden-Putin video call, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, “It certainly would be an opportunity to discuss our serious concerns about the bellicose rhetoric, about the military buildup that we’re seeing on the border of Ukraine.” However, to thwart the Russians, with what sort of meaningful policy weapon might the U.S. leader engage Putin? Secretary of State Antony Blinken set the stage for Biden to talk tough.
In its analysis of Ukraine’s border tensions, Liberty Nation suggested that Blinken would relay to his Moscow counterpart “in person the threat of further sanctions if Moscow fails to end its troop buildup on Ukraine’s border.” According to the Military Times, Blinken, using more potent language, explained to reporters in Riga, Latvia, what such a response might be. Blinken “made it clear to the Kremlin that we will respond resolutely, including with a range of high-impact economic measures that we’ve refrained from using in the past.”
Despite the strong language, Blinken provided no details about the “high-impact economic measures” to which he referred. Yet, picking up on the secretary of state’s comment, Biden does have a big hammer. The United States could stand behind the European Union (EU) Parliament’s “nonbinding” resolution, agreed to back in April, to cut Russia off from its global financial system if Moscow’s troops entered Ukraine. This move could block Russian businesses from the worldwide financial system, crippling Russia’s economy. Short of this draconian tactic, Blinken said, “NATO is prepared to reinforce its defenses on the eastern flank.”
Whatever Biden decides to use as leverage will be against a backdrop of his disastrous prior foreign policy failures. Americans and the world will be judging Biden’s performance with Putin to see if the commander-in-chief can overcome his lackluster summit meeting encounter with Moscow’s chief executive in June 2021 and the more recent Afghanistan troop withdrawal debacle. More important, how President Biden plays his hand with Putin may very well determine Ukraine’s immediate fate. As Austin said, “They’ve invaded before.”
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.