Every newly-elected president goes through it. Every newly-elected president gets “tested” by our enemies. At their core, autocrats are bullies. They want to see what they can away with. Like all bullies they will keep on pushing and pressing until they are stopped. The best example of this that I can remember was Hitler’s and Nazi Germany’s pre-WWII repeated aggression and the allies continued appeasement (remember Neville Chamberlain in 1938 proclaiming the Munich Agreement guaranteed “peace in our time”), but there have been many others throughout history.
Some presidents, like Truman with communist expansion in post-WWII Europe, Kennedy, with the Russian missiles in Cuba, and Trump with Russia, China and North Korea passed the test. Others, like Carter with the hostages in Iran, failed.
In my opinion, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is Biden’s “test.” How will he respond? Will he roll over and merely issue meaningless platitudes; will he hide in his basement; or will he be strong and determined. I’m not advocating we send troops to fight the Russians in Ukraine. No sane person wants that. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We don’t have to defend them with troops. But, Biden has a variety of other options at his disposal.
My recommendation would be to hit Putin where it would really hurt him. The Russian economy is very fragile. Currently, its major source of revenue is oil and gas. We have allowed it to establish a pipeline directly to Europe to sell oil and gas to our allies. Russia is making a fortune from this, and as a bonus, it has control of their economies. It can charge whatever it wants, and it could shut down the pipeline entirely whenever it wants. Even worse, a second pipeline is on the way. At the same time, Biden shut down our own Keystone Pipeline for “environmental reasons.” As I have blogged previously that was an inane decision on many levels that never made any sense to me and many others.
To me, the obvious initial move would be to reopen the Keystone Pipeline. That would restore our energy independence, allow our allies to buy oil from us rather than Russia, and deal a huge blow to the Russian economy. That would likely provide us with the leverage to convince Russia to stand down. We don’t have to commit troops. Countries need money to finance wars. Where else could Russia get it?
As the saying goes, “elections have consequences.” For a variety of reasons, we elected a weak, cognitively-challenged president instead of a strong one. He has exhibited weakness at every turn. Both our friends and our enemies have observed this. Our friends are anxious and afraid; our enemies are emboldened. History has shown us repeatedly that weakness invites war; strength prevents it.
Putin has taken advantage. He has been planning this for a long time, while we have been focused on silly issues like CRT and cancel culture. We have been “asleep at the switch.” We could have and should have focused on the Ukraine issue months ago when it could have been handled more easily. Like they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Now we are suffering the consequences of our prior inactions.
There is a real danger that he will not stop with Ukraine. He may decide to continue on to the Baltic States or other neighboring countries. He sees himself as the second coming of Joseph Stalin. His ultimate goal, as he has stated himself, is to re-create the old Soviet Union. Like all bullies, he will keep pushing until he is stopped one way or another. China, North Korea, Iran, our other enemies, and our friends as well are watching to see how Biden reacts.
Joe, what will you do? The whole world is watching.