Now that the Olympics are in the rearview mirror, the world will sharpen its focus on Russia beating the drums of war. And no matter the ultimate outcome in Ukraine, be it a full-scale Russian invasion, limited incursion, or retreat at the 11th hour, what has already transpired – Vladimir Putin building the largest military mobilization in Europe since World War II – is bound to stand alongside Afghanistan as the twin defining episode of the Biden foreign policy. And this commander-in-chief had better hope it will somehow neutralize the residual stench still emanating from the tragically botched surrender to the very people we fought two decades to destroy, instead of making indelible the already deep stain on Biden’s legacy around the world.
Just the fact that Putin is emboldened to the point of amassing as many as 190,000 troops a stone’s throw from Ukrainian territory has already made a statement so loud about this 46th president that it shouts. It’s one thing to effectively be helpless to prevent war, quite another to act helpless – and Mr. Biden is presenting publicly not so much as the leader of the free world but almost as an observer preparing to place a bet, predicting on more than one occasion recently that Russia is on the brink of an invasion – as if he can later claim to have made the correct forecast rather than concerning himself with preventing a world-altering attack.
Does Biden realize what he may have wrought simply by his prediction – coming on the heels of his widely assailed brushoff of a “minor incursion” by Russia? Did he somehow believe his public prophecy would convince Putin to change his mind? Does he have any sense of how this unchecked Russian aggression will stain his presidency? Or will he continue convincing himself of the preposterous narrative that he has “outperformed expectations,” which no one is buying?
Peace Through Strength
The burning question is how NATO – a coalition of western nations designed in the Cold War era for defensive, not offensive purposes – suddenly represents an existential threat to Russia, requiring a major military response, when it was evidently no such threat while Donald Trump was president? Are we expected to believe that, upon Biden taking office, NATO instantly transformed into a dangerously anti-Russian force – even as its member nations rely on Russian energy – that it never represented during the entirety of the Trump administration?
No, the claim that the Western world is planning to destabilize Russia is just the false pretext designed to deflect from Putin’s expansionist dreams – and likely far-flung fantasy of reassembling the Soviet empire. And he is once again proving that the Russians have always respected one thing, and one thing only: strength. Why did they invade Afghanistan when Jimmy Carter was president? For the exact reason they stand at the brink of overtaking eastern Ukraine while Joe Biden is commander-in-chief: weakness.
The pattern of Putin’s aggression is clear. He invaded Georgia in 2008 when George W. Bush had reached the low ebb of his presidency. He annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 while a weakened and lame duck President Obama was preparing to take a second midterm beating. He now stands at the brink of an invasion of another former Soviet republic while Biden is commander-in-chief. In between Obama and Biden was the strongman Trump – and there was no Russian expansion during his presidency. Seeing a pattern here?
An invasion will obviously demonstrate how little regard Putin has for Biden’s threats, and for the man himself. But would a last-minute pullback signal a strategic victory for Biden? Hardly. Instead, it would prove that Putin can toy with the feckless American president and use him to make a show of his military might. It is this type of transparent weakness the Russian strongman has always been eager to exploit since re-assembling the wreckage of a Soviet Union, whose dissolution Putin, in perhaps his single most revealing statement, declared to be the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”
As it is, the Russian Federation stands as a mere shadow of the evil empire that preceded it. But Putin knows that having Joe Biden in the White House can embolden him more than at any time since the world was finally blessed with the demise of the Soviet Union. Indeed, between Afghanistan and Ukraine, invasion or not, Biden has already hit the daily double for a collapsing presidency: incompetence and weakness.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.