The Russian invasion of Ukraine drags on, the brave Ukrainians and their courageous President hang on, and it seems that Joe Biden is willing to turn up the pressure on Vladimir Putin just enough that he won’t consider the moves a “provocation” for widening the conflict. Who do we think we’re kidding–we’re already deeply into a proxy war with our fingerprints all over the anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons that are wreaking havoc with the Russians; the swap deal with Poland for the Mig29 planes would just be one more step and one that would actually save Ukrainian lives, and former Senator Joe Lieberman makes the case that even a no-fly zone would be justified as an act of defense–the Russians are the invaders. Meanwhile, in the case of the additional economic sanctions, the White House has admitted that we have provided for a “phase in” period of four months for some of them in the interest of “multilateralism” as a priority and at the behest of energy-dependent European allies. What message does this send about U. S. and NATO leadership and resolve?
I am reminded of quotes by two former American presidents, each of which in their own way are relevant to the current crisis. The first is by John F. Kennedy from his inaugural address in January 1961: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge–and more.” Stirring words, and I’ve often wondered if he could even get the nomination of his party today with this kind of rhetoric. And I also wonder what kind of burden we are willing to bear.
The other quote is from Ronald Reagan in an interview several years before his election as President: “I’d like to tell you of my theory of the Cold War. Some people think that I am simplistic, but there is a fundamental difference between being simplistic and having simple answers to complex questions. So my theory of the Cold War is that we win and they lose.” And win we did, and they lost. I’ll bet he would have the same theory about the pending Cold War II.
What is Biden’s theory and endgame? Is he naive enough to believe that Putin is in any way looking for an “off-ramp” or partial settlement? Don’t think so–this is life or death for him. Nor do I think we should be looking for one–this invasion should not stand. Stay tuned.