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Friday, January 28, 2022

OPINION:

In the continuous litany of failures that is the Biden foreign policy, it’s sometimes hard to see with clarity, and differentiate with precision, where his mistakes end and the long term and systemic failures of Democrat foreign policy begin; it is one large, chaotic mess.  

President Biden’s personal misjudgments, failings and blunders blend seamlessly with those of his old boss, former President Barack Obama.


The Ukraine Situation did not develop overnight. This “crisis” has been something that the Democrats, and to a lesser degree, former President Donald Trump, have allowed to fester and ferment. 

It’s time for a blinding flash of honesty: If the U.S. wanted to help Ukraine and live up to the concepts and requirements of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurance, Ukraine would already be a full member of NATO. Ukraine is not a member of NATO.

The time for effective strategic action to demonstrate U.S. and NATO resolve in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 would have been to take action in 2015. No action was taken. 

Notable is the fact that the same Obama administration alumni that mishandled the Crimea annexation are now back serving in similar roles in the Biden administration.  

There is no reason to believe that they, Team Obama 2.0, will behave differently this time than last. 

If Mr. Biden and NATO were serious in their stated desire to “deter” Russian President Vladimir Putin, they would have acted last year when the Russian saber rattling was becoming pronounced. Mr. Biden would have called for the immediate admission of Ukraine into NATO so that it could be covered (and protected) under Article 5 of the NATO charter, and then begun a serious arming, training and military operations campaign to deter Mr. Putin. Mr. Biden did not.

This is an observation, not a recommendation — do not take my words as “should have,” this is simply clarification of facts that illustrate that Biden’s current words do not match his past actions. 

The “potential” deployments of a few thousand light infantry troops (lacking any credible military aviation support) to potentially face off and deter Russian armor brigades and an effective air force is less than credible. First rule of deterrence is to have credibility in your deterrence. A deterrence model of this type would have required large scale military movements starting last summer, with a type of “REFORGER” exercise which would include brigades of armor, trained and effective infantry, and robust air forces to provide protection, and/or support, for any large scale military action. This, too, was not the actual course the Biden administration took. 

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken continues to demonstrate his fundamental ignorance of Russian security issues. Recently Mr. Blinken stated that he believed: “Putin hated democracies and wanted to undermine them all” — wow, no, Tony, that is not what Mr. Putin is doing. Mr. Putin is acting on what every czar and Soviet leader has acted on since Alexander III — Mr. Putin is acting based on his desire for security for the Russian homeland, and his understanding of what that means for Russia

Mr. Blinken and his Foggy Bottom fringe have demonstrated that they have no fundamental understanding of Russia, its history, its culture and its traditions that are imbued and clearly reflected in Mr. Putin’s actions. 

Unless you understand why Mr. Putin is acting as he is, you have not even the minimal chance of countering his actions; you do not need to agree with his actions, but you do need to understand them if you wish to check them.

Mr. Blinken and the Biden White House are engaged in projection and wishful thinking. Their constant stream of “reminders” of the “consequences” using soft and happy diplomatic languages has done and will do nothing to deter or change the Russian ship of state that Mr. Putin is navigating. 

There was a middle path that could have been effective but would require (gasp) strategic thinking. NATO could have been strengthened in a nonthreatening manner, but clearly to show that it could be a true deterrent. At this point NATO is not a serious military force — it could not have engaged in even a short term effort, never mind a protracted military action to focus effectively on any Russian aggression — it is literally a social club with nice uniforms. 

We have proposed to reinvent and refocus NATO, and make it relevant to the 21st century, focusing on counterterrorism, cyber threats and stability; a NATO that based on strength through engagement and cooperation, not confrontation and antagonism, as there are real international security issues that should be addressed. In this regard, a NATO 2.0 could be used to cooperate with, and thereby help suppress the inherent Russian desire for security by cooperating on counterterrorism, energy security and the likelihood of Chinese aggression, not focusing on expanding east into nations that Russian culture and traditions would find unacceptable. 

To ignore the reality of Mr. Putin’s public comments that the fall of the Soviet Union was a “genuine tragedy” and his desire to reestablish security zones around Russia will continue to create conditions of distrust and aggression. 

It has been obvious to serious scholars of national security Russia was working to create leverage over Germany using energy. We have repeatedly proposed the need to examine energy sovereignty, while Russia has been developing and implementing a strategy to become Germany’s primary energy provider.  

With just a little effort we might have prevented Russia from developing the potential leverage Mr. Putin now enjoys over Germany at a crucial time (duh). This failure has effectively put a potentially fatal wedge into the heart of NATO — one that will not be overcome short of a full on war that the entire continent would be engaged in … and no one wants that. It is time to chart a new strategic course. 

First: Stop playing Mr. Putin’s game. Mr. Biden and his band of marionettes continue to react to Mr. Putin’s well calculated moves. If Mr. Biden continues to play Mr. Putin’s game, he — Mr. Biden — will lose. 

Next: Stop with empty threats. The embarrassing and completely dismissed series of last minute “deterrence options” that demonstrate weakness and will only encourage conflict.  

Establish a clear strategy — with achievable objectives that relate to NATO capacity. NATO is not credible as a military deterrent. Establish a clear set of objectives that will demonstrate NATO is a credible coalition. Move U.S. forces currently in Germany to Poland, and admit Sweden and Finland to NATO to show strength. At the same time, have the strength to enter into cooperative discussions with Russia to find common ground and work to establish an agreement that acknowledges Russian cultural and security concerns; but do so from a position of strength. 

“Endless wars” are not an American value, nor are conflicts where political missteps and ignorance have created conditions for a war we should not fight. Mr. Trump did not get the U.S. into any new war or protracted conflict. Mr. Biden has already failed to address U.S. security concerns in Afghanistan, he is failing to address China threats, and he is about to blunder the U.S. into an unwinnable and pointless war with Russia. The use of the U.S. military must only be used in response to genuine threats, when American interests are at stake or lives in danger. The Ukraine situation is not one. 

• Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer is a retired senior intelligence operations officer and president of the London Center for Policy Research.


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