President Biden had a two-hour video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The only portion of the meeting released to the press was the first few meetings – the greetings. But it was enough to raise concerns for team America.
Biden opened with a very cheerful “good to see you again.” He said that next time he and Putin will have to meet in person. Putin silently stared into the camera without a response. It is one of his common looks when facing potential criticism and pressure.
We are told that Biden was very tough on Putin – pulling no punches in warning the Russian despot that it would be a huge mistake to invade Ukraine. That would result if a very strong response for the United States and our European allies – although what that response might be is yet to be made public.
Putin hinted that he may not use the 100,000-plus troops and the tons of weaponry he has moved to the Ukrainian border if the United States and NATO agreed to NOT allow Ukraine to be become a member of NATO and not to provide weaponry to Kiev.
There may have been some discussion regarding China, but the White House did not say if Russian cyber-attacks, meddling in American and western elections and the return of the Crimea to Ukraine had been discussed.
In a very real sense, this was Biden’s Chamberlain moment. To temporarily avoid the invasion of Ukraine, Biden need only leave the country helpless to an eventually Russian takeover. Like the infamous agreement between British Foreign Minister Neville Chamberlain and Adolph Hitler, Biden can claim “peace in our time” — but as it was then, the “time” is short.
We may have already lost Ukraine. The time to arm the East European nation was years ago – before the taking of the Crimea. That was when President Obama sent blankets instead of bullets. That was the time that Ukraine should have been admitted to NATO – giving the west an ally nation on the border of Russia. Putin would not have dared to invade a NATO nation.
The bungling by the White House and the State Department has led to an ugly choice. We can impose more sanctions on Russia – but they are not likely to be more effective than all those past “tough” sanctions the brought about no change in Putin’s aggressive behavior.
Biden can again attempt to jawbone German Chancellor Angela Merkel into cancelling the Nord Stream Pipelines. That failed in the past – and there is no reason to believe that the new German chancellor will change that policy any time soon. In fact, Biden blundered earlier this year for removing the sanctions placed on the Pipeline.
In fact, there is no certainty that our NATO allies will form a line behind Biden on the issue of Ukraine. So far, no one has pledged their support. That may be the result of Biden’s crumbling credibility after the Afghanistan fiasco. If you recall our major NATO allies were very unhappy about that.
Ukraine poses a much different – and much more dangerous – challenge than those Cold War confrontations. Korea, Vietnam and Syria were proxy wars in which the great powers played supportive behind-the-scenes roles — with Russia and China staying out of direct confrontation with the United States. And vice versa. We did kill some Russians in Syria, but that was said to be a mistake – the fog of war.
If Russian invades Ukraine, we may have Kiev’s back from a long distance away. Out of harms way. If we are truly going to stop Putin, it will take a military commitment with boots on the ground. In fact, deploying American and NATO military in Ukraine may be the only way to stop a Russian invasion.
If such a military deployment would check Putin’s ambition for a time being, NATO could take that opportunity to admit Ukraine to the alliance – and that would checkmate Putin’s plan to absorb Ukraine into his new Soviet Union. It would also increase the chances of getting the Crimea back.
If Putin’s icy stare had any meaning, we should be seen as Putin’s determination to take over Ukraine in the near future. And we still have no commitment from Putin on cyber-attacks, election meddling.
I fear Putin believes that he has free reign in Ukraine – and elsewhere – and he may be correct.
So, there ‘tis.