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Biden’s relationship with Russia could spell the end of American credibility

By on December 16, 2021 0


President Joe Biden thinks he’s a dealmaker. He has taken the sensitivities he cultivated in the Senate and applied them to the Presidency, where he appears to operate on the premise that statesmanship and diplomatic procedure can resolve even the thorniest crises. Now Russia is testing that assumption. His will to bend and flex in the face of unreasonable demands of an irresponsible nation are potentially very dangerous.

It’s a prospect that should keep Western lawmakers awake at night.

In Ukraine, something that looks like the worst-case scenario is no longer unthinkable; it is now conceivable and may in the near future become inevitable.

On December 8, Biden revealed his intention to provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with a glitzy summit, this time to include America’s main European allies. The goal, the president said, was to hold a meeting with “at least four of our main NATO allies and Russia to discuss the future of Russia’s concerns about NATO at large” with the aim of “bringing the temperature down on along the eastern front “. This alone is a sufficient gift for Moscow; the prospect of a conference in Malta in the 21st century in which the West gives its imprint to Russian territorial ambitions would only exacerbate tensions in Eastern Europe. Make no mistake: there will be land claims, which Biden would already take seriously enough.

The Associated Press on Thursday reported that the White House may attempt to appease Moscow by making Kiev virtually admit the loss of its sovereign territory. “Administration officials have suggested that the United States will pressure Ukraine to formally cede a measure of autonomy in its eastern Donbass region,” the PA report read. Ukraine would be forced to accept a “special status” for the Donbass, which would provide Russian-backed separatists in the region with “local” control over territorial administration; “local” control dictated by Moscow.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki denied the report, and the PA watered down its own dispatch to appease the White House. “Administration officials made no mention of ceding any territory,” insisted the AP. Call it what you want, but demanding that Ukraine accept the legitimacy of an occupying force controlling its provinces is in effect ceding territory – and a greedy threat of land, nothing less.

That consideration alone would constitute a Russian victory, which is perhaps Putin’s real goal. Moscow’s bet on the Ukrainian border has already provided the Kremlin with tangible benefits, according to a convincing analysis by the Institute for the Study of War. This maneuver on the brink has once again placed Putin at the center of global attention and bogged down the West in a diplomatic process around the status of Ukrainian territories that Russia does not already illegally occupy. Crimea and Donbass are a second thought now. Moreover, Biden’s statement that the West would not bolster Ukrainian sovereignty with a troop presence within the country’s borders, no matter how true that claim may be, tacitly cedes Ukraine to the sphere of government. imaginary influence of Russia.

In the midst of these tangible advantages, Russia may very well take a chance. Its military reinforcement at its borders with Ukraine and inside the Ukrainian territories it has occupied since 2014 is deeply threatening. The American intelligence services estimated that the number of soldiers gathered along the border could reach 175,000 at the beginning of January. Command and control elements are inserted in the quasi-occupied region of Donbass. The Kremlin mobilized mechanized units, tanks, and mobile artillery to support an invasion. Open-source intelligence suggests the Kremlin is establishing supply lines and transporting medical units to what may soon become the front line of what CNN has described as “protracted conflict” on Ukrainian territory.

Ukrainian forces are better armed and better trained than they were in 2014.

“Russia’s capabilities would amount to a modern day blitzkrieg,” CNN warned earlier this month, Democratic Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence Committee. If Moscow gives the green light for a second invasion of Ukraine, everything indicates that it would be much more complicated than the first with much more potential for disaster.

Experts in the region and senior Ukrainian military officials who spoke to The New York Times described the nightmare scenario: In the first hour of open conflict, Russian ground and air forces devastate defensive capabilities of the young nation. An analysis via the Russian Council for International Affairs (which joins a report in german media) suggested that Moscow intended to travel to the Dnieper River, encircle the Ukrainian capital, behead the West-oriented government and end 30 years of experience of independence from the Ukraine.

But the Ukrainian forces are better armed and better trained than they were in 2014. In rout, the Ukrainian forces can retreat into the hills to organize a long campaign of resistance, a campaign supported by the local population. A senior Ukrainian military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that if all else fails, the military will simply open up its weapons depots and allow the Ukrainian people to take whatever they need to defend themselves and stand up for his family, ”The Times reported.

The devastating war of attrition that would ensue has dire implications for global security. Such a conflict would displace millions of Ukrainians, creating a humanitarian catastrophe in Europe and giving way to a refugee crisis along its western borders with NATO aligned states. Such a crisis would destabilize the European Union and set the members of the Atlantic Alliance against each other. It would consume the attention of the Western powers, to the detriment of the countries which would almost certainly find themselves in the crosshairs of the irredentist powers in their neighborhood (Taiwan, in particular). And the sacrifice of Ukraine – a vital non-NATO partner who contributed to the US-led conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq and who enjoys the material support of Washington – so soon after the abandonment US allies in Kabul, Afghanistan, would spell the end of American credibility.

This scenario is not difficult to imagine. Even something more limited in scope has the potential to reverberate around the world and destabilize the existing status quo. It’s a prospect that should keep Western lawmakers awake at night. Biden’s instinct has been to defuse this looming crisis by hanging a series of carrots in front of the Kremlin, reserving America’s sticks as punishment only after irreversible damage has been done to world order. This passivity has contributed to this looming crisis.

A precedent that would give the nation a legitimacy aggressive enough to take what it wants would result in far more land grabs.

In March and April, Putin caused a crisis similar to the one he is orchestrating today. Then as now, tens of thousands of Russian troops threatened the Ukrainian border, but the stalemate was resolved when Biden rewarded the spirit of the Kremlin by pledging to join Putin for a bipartisan summit in June. The optics of this affair provided the Russian autocrat with a world stage, although the summit itself produced few concessions to the Russian position. In the meantime, however, the implosion of Afghanistan has demonstrated that the US president can be made docile if the costs associated with meeting America’s obligations are high enough. So, we are facing the current crisis, and Biden would seek to resolve it the same way: with concessions.

These concessions, including Western support for an “autonomous” Donbass loyal to Moscow, would set a terrible precedent. The dismemberment of Ukraine would not satisfy the ambitions of the insatiably vengeful Kremlin regime and would pave the way for more claims in the same direction.

The reverberations wouldn’t stop at Ukraine’s borders. Would the West be forced to pressure Georgia to recognize the legitimacy of pro-Moscow separatists in controlling Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who have set up illegitimate proxy governments? since Moscow invaded this post-Soviet republic in 2008? What about the Moldovan territory of Transnistria, which Russia functionally occupies? And we’re not just talking about Russia at this point. Hundreds of territories are the subject of international disputes between powers with competing claims over them.

A precedent that would give legitimacy to the nation aggressive enough to simply take what it wants would result in far more land grabs, with all the potential for escalating conflicts and regional instability.

The crisis along Ukraine’s borders is not a distant dispute in which the United States has no investments or interests. This is not a requirement with few implications for global security and US geostrategic domination. It is a direct attack on the stable world order that Biden inherited. His current approach to resolving this crisis – gifts the aggressor with the promise of punitive action only after the aggressor breaks international order and denounces the United States as a paper tiger – is unacceptable.

These are serious times. They demand a serious president. This is how Biden won the White House, promising to restore global confidence in American leadership. This faith is tested, as is Joe Biden. The consequences of failure are too dire to consider.