Victory seems not to be an option for Biden

Biden goes into next year's election with many challenges. (File Photo: AP) (AP)
Biden goes into next year's election with many challenges. (File Photo: AP) (AP)

Summary

The Afghan pullout set a precedent for weakness in Ukraine and the Middle East.

With less than a year until the election, President Biden’s legacy is beginning to take shape. He is leaving a record of defeat.

From Afghanistan to Ukraine to Gaza, Mr. Biden has adopted Barack Obama’s playbook of leading the free world from behind. On Dec. 1, Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his fourth visit to Israel since the Hamas terrorist attacks of Oct. 7. His remarks focused on what Israel shouldn’t do in Gaza rather than on how to defeat the Hamas terrorists who are still holding around 140 hostages.

Mr. Biden’s Obama-era team—national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Burns and climate envoy John Kerry—adore grand bargains that make them feel like masters of the geopolitical universe. What the U.S. gives up in these deals is usually clear. But it’s rarely apparent what America and her allies get in return. Washington sent billions in cash to Iran for unverifiable promises and restrained Ukraine to try to win favor with Russia.

It’s convenient for Mr. Biden that MAGA Republicans oppose aid to Ukraine; he can blame them for his failure to deliver. While it’s true that Congress is playing politics with American credibility and Ukrainian lives, so is Mr. Biden, who has the power to arm Ukraine today if he wished. The tanks, ATACMS, big drones and jets that Ukraine needs to win the war are collecting dust in American warehouses instead of destroying the Russian military.

On Nov. 18, I represented the Russian Action Committee at the 15th Halifax Security Forum. Remarks there by Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur and others strengthened my belief that the U.S. is deliberately allowing the Russian occupation to continue. Two vital arteries feed Vladimir Putin’s army and enable his occupation: the Crimean land bridge and the Melitopol railway. According to several analysts, a single barrage of properly loaded ATACMS could destroy both and starve Mr. Putin’s invading army of supplies. Withholding these armaments is a choice.

At every point of conflict in his presidency, Mr. Biden’s modus operandi, like Mr. Obama’s, has been to make concessions to create the illusion of diplomatic success. Mr. Biden appears intent on cutting yet another deal to make the problem of Ukraine go away—for the moment. The same shortsighted fecklessness led Mr. Obama to back off from defending Ukraine in 2014 when Mr. Putin first invaded and annexed Crimea, leading inevitably to his full-scale invasion in 2022. My great fear is that Mr. Biden’s envoys are now discussing with Mr. Putin the partition of Ukraine along the current front lines.

Mr. Biden has refused to support Ukraine’s immediate admission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. I predict he will offer NATO membership for the unoccupied parts of Ukraine as a carrot to coerce President Volodymyr Zelensky into accepting this unholy partition. A considerable part of Russia’s frozen assets in the West—held as a bargaining chip by Mr. Biden—could be given to Ukraine as a sweetener.

I also worry that when Mr. Biden met with China’s Xi Jinping on Nov. 15, he might have offered concessions to China in return for Mr. Xi’s support in pressuring Mr. Putin to accept such a proposition. It would condemn millions of Ukrainians to persecution and ethnic cleansing—and any cease-fire would last only until Mr. Putin is ready to take another bite of Europe.

Allowing Mr. Xi to act as a global power broker would follow Mr. Biden’s dismal pattern. He abandoned Afghanistan out of fear of staying longer, and the incompetent American retreat emboldened Mr. Putin to invade Ukraine. By letting Mr. Putin get away with invasion and atrocities in Ukraine, Mr. Biden’s advisers emboldened Iran-backed Hamas to invade Israel. When the Biden administration eased oil sanctions on Venezuela, dictator Nicolás Maduro responded by cracking down on elections and preparing to annex half of neighboring Guyana.

If Mr. Biden allows Mr. Putin to take more Ukrainian territory by force today, he would embolden Mr. Xi to invade Taiwan tomorrow. Weakness invites aggression. War and terror spread until the leaders are neutralized.

If Mr. Biden armed Ukraine for victory, Mr. Putin wouldn’t survive long. His downfall would cripple a circle of thugs and terrorists from Caracas to Tehran. It’s also possible that Russia as it exists today wouldn’t survive. So what? Recall that many foreign-policy experts, including President George H.W. Bush, attempted to preserve the Soviet Union out of fear of what might happen if it fell. I’m grateful they failed.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to an unparalleled expansion of global freedom, an opportunity that Ukraine and others seized. Mr. Putin and his KGB gang ripped that from our grasp. The end of the Russian mafia state would be a mortal blow to the forces of terrorism and tyranny. Israel and Ukraine are fighting the same fight. The Biden administration should be doing everything possible to help them win instead of holding them back.

Mr. Kasparov is chairman of the Renew Democracy Initiative and a co-founder of the Russian Action Committee.

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