Biden Is Utterly Failing to Deter Putin - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Biden Is Utterly Failing to Deter Putin
by
Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2022 (Shag 7799/Shutterstock)

Livening up a Thursday fundraiser, President Joe Biden said, “Think about it. We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis. We’ve got a guy I know fairly well; his name is Vladimir Putin…. It’s part of Russian doctrine that they will not — they will not — if the motherland is threatened, they’ll use whatever force they need, including nuclear weapons.” He added, “I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily [use] a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”

In the space of a minute or two, Biden demonstrated weakness, fear, and a lack of historical knowledge that any president should have in order to lead this nation and our allies.

Biden also demonstrated that whatever thoughts he and his Cabinet have with respect to Putin’s possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, he and they have given up on the idea of deterring Putin from doing so.

Equating the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis with the situation in Ukraine emphasized Biden’s fear and weakness. In the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union were in a direct confrontation over Soviet nuclear missiles deployed in Cuba. The two nations were on the brink of nuclear war. The U.S. had blockaded Cuba and Russian ships were headed to Cuba to defy the blockade.

At that point, backchannel discussions, reportedly begun by a Russian general through ABC News reporter John Scali, led to a deal that avoided nuclear war. The deal was for the Soviets to remove their missiles from Cuba in exchange for Kennedy agreeing to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey and guaranteeing that we would not to invade Cuba.

There is no direct confrontation with Russia over Ukraine. Russia has, by Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling, which began almost as soon as the war started, tried to intimidate NATO and evidently has succeeded in intimidating Biden. The latest round of Putin’s nuclear threats has come in actions as much as words.

In 2018, Putin revealed several “doomsday” weapons that he said made Russia untouchable. Among them were hypersonic missiles and an enormous nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed torpedo named “Poseidon.”

Six of the Poseidon weapons, allegedly with a 6,000-mile range, are carried aboard the Russian submarine Belgorod. When the sub went missing last week, rumors quickly went the rounds in the defense community that Putin would explode a Poseidon warhead somewhere in the Kara Sea, which begins in Russia’s northwest and extends to the Arctic Circle. The intention of the test would be to further intimidate NATO.

There have so far been no nuclear detonations in the Kara Sea or elsewhere. The Belgorod popped back up in the Barents Sea a few days later.

Russian setbacks in the war in Ukraine continue. Its railroad bridge across the Kerch Strait was partially destroyed a few days ago. The bridge, joining Russia with the Crimean Peninsula (and effectively blocking grain shipments from a major Ukrainian port because ships of any size can’t pass under it) was a major path for resupplying Russian forces in Ukraine. It will probably take months to repair.

Those matters are side issues. The principal questions are: what will Biden and NATO do to make Putin’s nuclear blackmail fail, and what response will the U.S. and NATO have to any Russian nuclear attack in Ukraine?

Russia’s war in Ukraine has split NATO from the beginning. The “SWIFT” consortium provides the means for the near-instant clearance of bank transactions by electronic communication. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the supposedly harsh sanctions imposed on some Russian banks weren’t imposed on the banks that made the oil and gas trade with Russia possible.

According to a Financial Times report, European Union nations have bought at least $97 billion in oil, gas, and coal from Russia since the war began in February. That money is probably more than enough to pay for Putin’s war.

Biden has threatened “catastrophic” consequences for Russia if it uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine. But, given NATO’s divisions and weakness, what could they be?

There are several actions we could take, both now to deter Putin and, if a Russian nuclear weapon is detonated in Ukraine, to retaliate. But to take any of those actions, Biden — who has no skills in leadership — would have to convince the NATO nations to join us.

Biden and NATO have been trying to walk a thin line between provoking Moscow and helping Ukraine. To deter Putin, Biden, the U.K.’s Liz Truss, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, and France’s Emmanuel Macron would have to agree publicly to do the following as a warning to Putin.

First, when the war began and economic sanctions were imposed on Russia, they were far too mild to accomplish anything. Putin should be told that if a nuke were detonated in Ukraine, all Russian banks — including those which have made it possible to buy Russian gas, oil, and coal — would be evicted from the SWIFT consortium. Were all Russian banks thrown out of SWIFT, Russia’s economy would suffer enormously.

Second, Biden — to his credit — has supplied Ukraine with about $17 billion in weapons, including HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), which have enabled Ukraine to strike far behind Russian lines. But Biden has prevented Ukraine from getting more combat aircraft, which, as I have written several times, they most need to deal with mobile Russian forces. Biden should promise to supply them from Poland or wherever they can be obtained.

Third, only the U.K. has been openly training Ukrainian forces to fight with the weapons being provided. We should do the same. Putin should know that if a nuke strike occurs in Ukraine, that nation will receive not only Soviet-era MiG-29s, but also U.S. F-16s. Ukrainian pilots can be trained to fly them — in the U.S. — in relatively short order.

Fourth, all NATO nations should threaten a complete embargo on trade with Russia if Putin strikes with a nuclear weapon. That wouldn’t decisively cripple Russia’s economy, but it would hurt.

Putin knows that Biden’s threat is an empty one. The only question that could cause or prevent a Russian nuclear weapon to be used in Ukraine is Putin’s state of mind and that of his advisers.

How desperate are they to prevent a Russian defeat in Ukraine? As I wrote about three weeks ago, winter is coming and, with it, a slowdown of the war. Both sides will rearm and prepare for accelerating the war in the spring.

In his Thursday “Armageddon” warning, Biden indicated that he is seeking an “off-ramp” for Putin by which the war could be ended without humiliating Russia. Putin, on the other hand, continues to fraudulently annex Ukrainian territory, claiming that it is now part of Russia. What that means is that any off-ramp for Putin would include recognizing all or part of his annexations of parts of Ukraine, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has no reason to accept.

From his Thursday remarks, it’s clear that Biden fears Putin’s use of nuclear weapons more than Putin fears the consequences for doing so.

Nuclear blackmail must not be allowed to succeed or Russia, China, and Iran will use it to our detriment for decades to come.

Biden is too weak and fearful to lead NATO. He won’t because he can’t and because Putin is living, rent-free, inside his head.

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