We Need a President Who Keeps His Eye on the Ball

 

I haven’t done President Biden the courtesy of looking up his full remarks, context and all. But I’ll risk jumping to the conclusion that he is an idiot for saying that Russia must pay a “long-term price.”

The main objective should not be Putin, and should not be Russia. The objective should be helping Ukraine to be free, democratic, and independent, and helping it to get rid of corruption, whether that corruption comes from Russian interference, interference by U.S. Vice Presidents, or is homegrown. If that can be done by making Russia pay only a short-term price, that would be far better than making it pay a long-term price.

Russians want to make their country great again and that’s a worthy objective that we should support, so long as Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic countries can be great nations, too. I don’t see how mouthing off about making Russia suffer long-term is going to help bring that about. Let’s help Ukraine get this war over quickly instead of dragging out the suffering over the long term.

Published in Foreign Policy
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  1. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    The Reticulator:

    But I’ll risk jumping to the conclusion that he is an idiot for saying this.

    You can’t go wrong with that assumption.

    • #1
  2. Cassandro Coolidge
    Cassandro
    @Flicker

    Or else the “long-term price” of Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment was the purpose of the war in the first place.

    • #2
  3. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    No problem with this.  Only hope is the Ukrainians can destroy another 1,000 or so Russian tanks and armored vehichels before calling it quits. 

    • #3
  4. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Or else the “long-term price” of Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment was the purpose of the war in the first place.

    I don’t know who would think that’s a good idea, but I’m not sure President Biden can distinguish good ideas from bad ones.

    • #4
  5. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Or else the “long-term price” of Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment was the purpose of the war in the first place.

    Similarities to Libya?

    • #5
  6. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    It is not in our interests (or that of the rest of world) for Putin to succeed or for Russians to harbor an expectation of reconquest of the former Soviet republics. That does not mean we need to make express promises or threats or intervene if is not prudent or necessary by way of treaty obligations.

    There is nothing worse than bluster and empty threats followed by a disavowal of one’s own rhetoric.  Eisenhower intentionally refused to specify when and if nukes would be used. That ambiguity was a better deterrent than some public, detailed, periodically adjusted criteria.

    Biden is a dangerous buffoon, boxed in by his own retractions.

    I have no reservations about arming Ukraine. Every American casualty in Vietnam was from ordnance provided by Russians. They have zero right to expect to be exempt from payback if we choose to mess with their use of military force. American weapons killing Russians but not in the hands of American soldiers is fine by me.

    There is also  a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    • #6
  7. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    On this, I fully agree with you.

    • #7
  8. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Yes.   Make Ukraine free and safe with minimal pain and suffering to the Russian People.   I would rather the Russian People be without suffering, even if it reduces the pain inflicted on their government and leadership.  

    • #8
  9. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    There is also  a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    If China is the problem, then we should ally with Russia and create a dominate alignment against China.  But that is chess not checkers.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    There is also a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    If China is the problem, then we should ally with Russia and create a dominate alignment against China. But that is chess not checkers.

    It’s not clear how we can ally with Russia against China.  If the price of that alliance is to overlook aggression in Europe, then it will achieve the opposite effect on China from what we want. 

    • #10
  11. Cassandro Coolidge
    Cassandro
    @Flicker

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Or else the “long-term price” of Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment was the purpose of the war in the first place.

    Similarities to Libya?

    Similar in effect, sure.

    • #11
  12. Cassandro Coolidge
    Cassandro
    @Flicker

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    There is also a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    If China is the problem, then we should ally with Russia and create a dominate alignment against China. But that is chess not checkers.

    Was Trump allying with Russia?  Or was there an uncomfortable détente?

    • #12
  13. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Our goal should be for implementing this for ourselves. I don’t understand why we don’t understand this. We are a corrupt vision of what you wish the Ukrainians to be.

    • #13
  14. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    There is also a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    If China is the problem, then we should ally with Russia and create a dominate alignment against China. But that is chess not checkers.

    Checkers is the harder game.

    • #14
  15. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    I have no reservations about arming Ukraine. Every American casualty in Vietnam was from ordnance provided by Russians. They have zero right to expect to be exempt from payback if we choose to mess with their use of military force. American weapons killing Russians but not in the hands of American soldiers is fine by me.

    There is also  a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    I was with you up to the point of having no reservations about arming Ukraine. There are lots of reasons for reservations – mainly about slippery slope and mission creep. It’s only been 3 months and there’s already been mission creep.

    Secondly, it was the Soviet Union that was supplying arms to kill Americans in Vietnam. And Vietnam is a war we should not have been involved in in the first place. And Russia is not the Soviet Union. And the idea that Russia is looking to reconstitute the Russian Empire or Soviet Union or whatever seems nonsensical because Putin has been around for over 20 years and hasn’t made that move. And I don’t see that as what Putin is doing in Ukraine. I doubt he wants a predominantly Ukrainian population who will make a lot of trouble inside the borders of Russia. 

    I think this war is continuing to show that the paper tiger is us. After all, we got routed by goat herders and the Russians have an actual military with real weapons. Ukraine is being ground down and the weapons that are being sent are being shown to be ineffective. That is what the Chinese are seeing and that should be deeply worrying for us. It is time for retrenchment, some thought, and definitely new leadership – including in the Pentagon.

    • #15
  16. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot) Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patriot)
    @ArizonaPatriot

    The Reticulator: The objective should be helping Ukraine to be free, democratic, and independent, and helping it to get rid of corruption, whether that corruption comes from Russian interference, interference by U.S. Vice Presidents, or is home grown. 

    I disagree with this.

    I think that our objective should be America First, by which I mean looking out for our interests.  It’s not our job to remake foreign countries in our image.  It’s not our job to protect them.  That was Woodrow Wilson’s project, I think, and it gave us quite a mess.

    Our first objective should be to ensure that Ukraine does not threaten our vital interests.  This is easy.  It does not, and I can’t imagine a plausible hypothetical in which Ukraine would be a threat to us.

    Our second objective should be to avoid unnecessary conflict with Russia, which is a great power.  This is easy, too, as long as we don’t get carried away emotionally.  We can just leave the situation alone.

    The sad thing is that, in my view, it was precisely our promotion of the Globalist/Liberal Internationalist agenda in Ukraine that led to the current conflict with Russia.  John Mearsheimer calls it something like “leading Ukraine down the primrose path.”  The Ukrainians seemed to think that they could disregard Russian interests, believing that we would defend them.

    The objective proposed by the OP amounts to doubling-down on a bad idea, in my view.

    I think that I know the counter-arguments.  One is a simple argument that we cannot be free unless everyone is free.  This is empirically false.  We’ve been fine for most of our history, when much — or most — of the rest of the world was not free.

    A second, more sophisticated argument is that we should intervene to prevent the emergence of a regional hegemon that could rival us, and meddle in our part of the world.  Evaluating this argument is more of a judgment call.  At present, I think that Russia lacks the power to establish regional hegemony over a sufficiently large area to challenge our interests.  The Europeans are fully capable of resisting.  Moreover, at present, China is a much greater threat, so our efforts should be focused on containment of China.

    Having a friendly Russia, or at least a neutral Russia, is important to the containment of China, in my view.  Thus, I consider it very unwise to oppose Russia on issues, like Ukraine, that simply are not important to us.

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Secondly, it was the Soviet Union that was supplying arms to kill Americans in Vietnam. And Vietnam is a war we should not have been involved in in the first place. And Russia is not the Soviet Union.

    And this absolves them of all sin.

    And the idea that Russia is looking to reconstitute the Russian Empire or Soviet Union or whatever seems nonsensical because Putin has been around for over 20 years and hasn’t made that move.

    Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and that puppet Lukashenko in Belarus not withstanding.

    And I don’t see that as what Putin is doing in Ukraine. I doubt he wants a predominantly Ukrainian population who will make a lot of trouble inside the borders of Russia. 

    Unless he believed that nonsense about being welcomed as liberators by the Ukrainian people. Former head of foreign intelligence Colonel General Sergei Beseda is currently a resident of Lefortovo Prison. Chances are he’s not in there for embezzling from the office Christmas Party fund.

    I think this war is continuing to show that the paper tiger is us. After all, we got routed by goat herders and the Russians have an actual military with real weapons.

    With a logistics capability that would embarrass the Boy Scouts. Amateurs study strategy and tactics. Professionals study logistics.

    Two months on, the “actual military with real weapons” hasn’t achieved air superiority over a neighboring country and has managed to lose their flagship to a country without a navy. Their helicopters are salvoing direct fire rockets indirectly at area targets because if they get any closer, the Ukes will blow them out of the air with MANPADs.

     

    • #17
  18. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Secondly, it was the Soviet Union that was supplying arms to kill Americans in Vietnam. And Vietnam is a war we should not have been involved in in the first place. And Russia is not the Soviet Union.

    And this absolves them of all sin.

    What sin?

    Percival (View Comment):

    And the idea that Russia is looking to reconstitute the Russian Empire or Soviet Union or whatever seems nonsensical because Putin has been around for over 20 years and hasn’t made that move.

    Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and that puppet Lukashenko in Belarus not withstanding.

    Chechnya is part of Russia and has been. Georgia – Russia would have taken all of it if they wanted to since they had all of it. Crimea – special circumstance since Russia was not going to be allowed itself to be booted out of its primary Black Sea Port. Plus, the population were pro-Russian. And hardly a large piece of land. Belarus isn’t part of Russia. So your argument doesn’t hold.

    Percival (View Comment):

    And I don’t see that as what Putin is doing in Ukraine. I doubt he wants a predominantly Ukrainian population who will make a lot of trouble inside the borders of Russia.

    Unless he believed that nonsense about being welcomed as liberators by the Ukrainian people. Former head of foreign intelligence Colonel General Sergei Beseda is currently a resident of Lefortovo Prison. Chances are he’s not in there for embezzling from the office Christmas Party fund.

    But Russia has been welcomed as liberators in eastern areas of Ukraine. You think the Azov Nazis were being nice guys rather than running their protection rackets throughout eastern Ukraine, particularly around Mariupol.

    Percival (View Comment):

    I think this war is continuing to show that the paper tiger is us. After all, we got routed by goat herders and the Russians have an actual military with real weapons.

     

    Two months on, the “actual military with real weapons” hasn’t achieved air superiority over a neighboring country and has managed to lose their flagship to a country without a navy. Their helicopters are salvoing direct fire rockets indirectly at area targets because if they get any closer, the Ukes will blow them out of the air with MANPADs.

    I think that’s part of what’s wrong with the US military. They actually believe that. That’s why they keep losing wars. They manage to get the weapons there. And then surrender.

    You’ve been watching too many Ukrainian propaganda videos. That’s not what’s happening on the battlefield. It’s the Russians who are shooting down the Ukrainian helicopters as at Snake Island or Mariupol as they try to pull off their missions and fail. They aren’t managing to get weapons that are effective there, either. They are being sold in black market or being blown up before arrival.

    • #18
  19. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Or else the “long-term price” of Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment was the purpose of the war in the first place.

    Similarities to Libya?

    Similar in effect, sure.

    “Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment” was why Putin started this war?

    Russia is the only remaining European colonial empire.  People miss this because, unlike the other empires, its colonies are geographically contiguous.  

    So it could certainly use some dismemberment.  

    But I strongly doubt that’s what Putin had in mind!  

    • #19
  20. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Taras (View Comment):

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    Or else the “long-term price” of Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment was the purpose of the war in the first place.

    Similarities to Libya?

    Similar in effect, sure.

    “Russia’s subjugation and dismemberment” was why Putin started this war?

    Russia is the only remaining European colonial empire. People miss this because, unlike the other empires, its colonies are geographically contiguous.

    So it could certainly use some dismemberment.

    But I strongly doubt that’s what Putin had in mind!

    How was Russia a European colonial empire?

    Edit: Oh! You mean Russia is a European country that built an empire of colonies.

    Careful with that because that describes the US and Canada quite well (minus the Europe thing, but that’s only continental and not heritage, which equally applies to Russia).

    • #20
  21. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Secondly, it was the Soviet Union that was supplying arms to kill Americans in Vietnam. And Vietnam is a war we should not have been involved in in the first place. And Russia is not the Soviet Union.

    And this absolves them of all sin.

    What sin?

    Which part of “all” do I need to parse?

    Percival (View Comment):

    And the idea that Russia is looking to reconstitute the Russian Empire or Soviet Union or whatever seems nonsensical because Putin has been around for over 20 years and hasn’t made that move.

    Chechnya, Georgia, Crimea, and that puppet Lukashenko in Belarus not withstanding.

    Chechnya is part of Russia and has been. Georgia – Russia would have taken all of it if they wanted to since they had all of it. Crimea – special circumstance since Russia was not going to be allowed itself to be booted out of its primary Black Sea Port. Plus, the population were pro-Russian. And hardly a large piece of land. Belarus isn’t part of Russia. So your argument doesn’t hold.

    Chechens didn’t necessarily want to be,

    Georgia: Imperialism is okay as long as the Empire takes small bites.

    Crimea: A snatch is a snatch. It would be interesting to see if the pro-Russian elements are still pro-Russian.

    Belarus: It Putin gets a chill, Lukashenko sneezes.

    Percival (View Comment):

    And I don’t see that as what Putin is doing in Ukraine. I doubt he wants a predominantly Ukrainian population who will make a lot of trouble inside the borders of Russia.

    Unless he believed that nonsense about being welcomed as liberators by the Ukrainian people. Former head of foreign intelligence Colonel General Sergei Beseda is currently a resident of Lefortovo Prison. Chances are he’s not in there for embezzling from the office Christmas Party fund.

    But Russia has been welcomed as liberators in eastern areas of Ukraine. You think the Azov Nazis were being nice guys rather than running their protection rackets throughout eastern Ukraine, particularly around Mariupol.

    Again with the Azovs. How many of them are there?

    Percival (View Comment):

    I think this war is continuing to show that the paper tiger is us. After all, we got routed by goat herders and the Russians have an actual military with real weapons.

     

    Two months on, the “actual military with real weapons” hasn’t achieved air superiority over a neighboring country and has managed to lose their flagship to a country without a navy. Their helicopters are salvoing direct fire rockets indirectly at area targets because if they get any closer, the Ukes will blow them out of the air with MANPADs.

    I think that’s part of what’s wrong with the US military. They actually believe that. That’s why they keep losing wars. They manage to get the weapons there. And then surrender.

    Poorly defined objectives and wishy-washy leadership more consumed by inclusion than they are effectiveness are a problem. Bouncing everyone in the Pentagon O-7 and up might not fix it, but it is something to think about.

    You’ve been watching too many Ukrainian propaganda videos. That’s not what’s happening on the battlefield. It’s the Russians who are shooting down the Ukrainian helicopters as at Snake Island or Mariupol as they try to pull off their missions and fail. They aren’t managing to get weapons that are effective there, either. They are being sold in black market or being blown up before arrival.

    Oh woe is me.

    I first encountered the direct fire weapons used indirectly in a Ukrainian-produced video. I saw it again in a Russian video showing how devastating the Ka-52 Alligator is. In addition to the Moskva, the Russian navy keeps losing patrol boats. They’ve been transferring some from the Caspian Sea, but they don’t have an unlimited supply.

    • #21
  22. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Taras (View Comment):
    Russia is the only remaining European colonial empire.  People miss this because, unlike the other empires, its colonies are geographically contiguous.

    Considering what is happening in Ukraine is a result of the dismemberment of the Soviet Union as well as what is happening with Armenia-Azerbaijan among other places, I guess we can look forward to millions more dead and refugees with many more wars. And of course, like most Americans, for whatever reason, you’re okay with that. 

    It also explains the cavalier attitude of Americans towards the former Yugoslavia. 

    We keep sticking our nose where it doesn’t belong.

    • #22
  23. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    If we are supportive of parts of Russia breaking off and reclaiming some kind of heritage independence, would we support the same if the US broke into pieces?

    • #23
  24. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    Cassandro (View Comment):

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    There is also a benefit in convincing China that such expansion is a high-risk undertaking and that their great ally in Moscow is a paper tiger.

    If China is the problem, then we should ally with Russia and create a dominate alignment against China. But that is chess not checkers.

    Was Trump allying with Russia? Or was there an uncomfortable détente?

    “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”  With 50 years of experience dealing with psychopaths and megalomaniacs in business, and law, and politics, and entertainment, Trump understood how to manage Putin.  

    With one hand, he patted him on the back, and told him what a great guy he is; with the other hand, he sent weapons to Ukraine, weapons that Obama and Biden had refused to send.

    The Obama/Biden approach was to call Putin names, and then give him everything he wanted (tacit recognition of his land grabs, high oil prices, etc.).  It’s not surprising Putin saw Biden’s election as giving him a free hand, especially after Biden okayed the Nordstream 2 pipeline that Trump had blocked.

    If Putin could get over his obsession with recreating the Soviet Union of his youth, he would be making friends and allies in Europe against the day that China makes its move for lebensraum in the East.  But that will probably have to wait for Putin’s successor.

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Having a friendly Russia, or at least a neutral Russia, is important to the containment of China, in my view.  Thus, I consider it very unwise to oppose Russia on issues, like Ukraine, that simply are not important to us.

    Having a friendly Russia is not a good idea, if it means casting a blind eye on Russia’s oppression of its neighbors and its people within.   Those are issues that are important to us. 

    If we can help Ukraine drive Russia out of its country, then the healing can begin, and then friendship with Russia may be possible. Otherwise not. 

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Stina (View Comment):

    If we are supportive of parts of Russia breaking off and reclaiming some kind of heritage independence, would we support the same if the US broke into pieces?

    That’s a very Soviet, Putinist notion that Ukraine is a part of Russia.  Even I fell for that propaganda at one time, but have since learned more of the history of it from multiple sources. 

    • #26
  27. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Taras (View Comment):

    “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”  With 50 years of experience dealing with psychopaths and megalomaniacs in business, and law, and politics, and entertainment, Trump understood how to manage Putin.  

    With one hand, he patted him on the back, and told him what a great guy he is; with the other hand, he sent weapons to Ukraine, weapons that Obama and Biden had refused to send.

    The Obama/Biden approach was to call Putin names, and then give him everything he wanted (tacit recognition of his land grabs, high oil prices, etc.).  It’s not surprising Putin saw Biden’s election as giving him a free hand, especially after Biden okayed the Nordstream 2 pipeline that Trump had blocked.

    That is an excellent summary. 

    • #27
  28. DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) Coolidge
    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax)
    @DonG

    Taras (View Comment):
    Biden okayed the Nordstream 2 pipeline that Trump had blocked

    I was surprised that Biden OK’d that pipeline.  The purpose of Nordstream2 is to cut Ukraine out of the path of Russian nat. gas to Germany.  Use of that pipeline would deprive Ukraine in $5B/year in fees that surely filtered back to the Democrats in the USA.  Perhaps Biden knew that pipeline would never be used and bigger sources of slush fund money were in the works….   Is it possible to be too cynical?

    • #28
  29. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    @arizonapatriot — Jerry, we’ve discussed these matters before; but it seems like you’ve forgotten the arguments that undermine your position.

    Charles Darwin said that he always had to write down evidence and arguments that opposed his position, or he would forget them. Maybe you should try following his example.

    You forget that the US guaranteed Ukraine that, if it gave up its nuclear weapons, its borders would continue to be respected.

    Even completely setting aside ethical considerations and national honor, it’s in the interest of the United States for its word to be worth something, or it’s hard to make or keep allies.

    Especially in light of that agreement, failure to back up Ukraine sends the signal to all the small countries in the world that they had better get themselves some nuclear weapons immediately.

    Or join NATO, if they can.  The fact that, in the wake of Putin’s invasion, both Sweden and Finland are giving up their proud 70-year tradition of neutrality and joining NATO blow up all the isolationist arguments about how the war is Ukraine’s fault.

    Isolationist:  “Ukraine was wearing a short skirt, and she was flirting with those NATO boys.  Her ex-boyfriend Russia had every right to rape her and chain her in the cellar!  Anyway, it’s no skin off my nose.”

    • #29
  30. Taras Coolidge
    Taras
    @Taras

    DonG (CAGW is a Hoax) (View Comment):

    Taras (View Comment):
    Biden okayed the Nordstream 2 pipeline that Trump had blocked

    I was surprised that Biden OK’d that pipeline. The purpose of Nordstream2 is to cut Ukraine out of the path of Russian nat. gas to Germany. Use of that pipeline would deprive Ukraine in $5B/year in fees that surely filtered back to the Democrats in the USA. Perhaps Biden knew that pipeline would never be used and bigger sources of slush fund money were in the works…. Is it possible to be too cynical?

    Russia has a lot more money to spend on bribes than Ukraine does; so, if there’s a bidding war, Russia would win.  I suspect, though, that Biden and the Democrats are cooling it while Biden is in the White House.

    Another effect of Nordstream 2 is that Russia would finally be able to bomb Ukraine at will, without worrying about blowing up its own pipelines.

    • #30
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