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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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HomeNewsBiden’s ruinous foreign policy 1: Ukraine

Biden’s ruinous foreign policy 1: Ukraine

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THE Biden administration is reaping the whirlwind of its deluded foreign policy. On its watch, a dreadful war against the Russian behemoth has essentially been lost after two years of wasteful struggle. And now, through Biden’s years-long appeasement of Iran’s malignant ayatollahs, the Middle East is in flames. As the election approaches, it is apparent that this administration has tied itself two lethal Gordian knots abroad. Crucially, like its unprecedented domestic failings, these entanglements are in fact the self-inflicted manifestations of the naïve and radical utopianism at the heart of the Biden movement.

The genesis of Biden’s calamitous foreign policy was the bloody 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. Aborting Trump’s plan of a phased, conditions-based drawdown, Biden declared instead that all US forces would withdraw by September 2021. Predictably, the Taliban duly prepared to strike before routing the Afghan security forces in a rapid seizure of power. In the end, the US left behind more than $7billion of equipment, much of which was subsequently sold to America’s enemies around the globe.

The withdrawal was a grave and tragic error unto itself; yet its ultimate significance was its trumpeting, to all regions,a new US weakness and incompetence. Following the bold foreign policy of the Trump era, the changing of the guard seemed to bring with it a hasty retreat behind American shores. Thus, it was against this backdrop of an apparent American imperial fall that Putin massed his troops against Ukraine’s border in the closing weeks of 2021. Here lay an opportunity finally to implement the Kremlin’s longstanding strategic aims against this stumbling, naïve and incompetent administration.

Critically, beneath the Afghanistan withdrawal lay a deeper Russian fear that Biden was rabidly hawkish on the question of Ukraine’s relationship to the West. This had its roots in the Western-enabled Euromaidan crisis of 2014 which led to the Russian invasion of Crimea. Biden, overseeing the Ukraine portfolio as Vice President, had been beguiled by the hawks of the neoconservative defence establishment, who regarded continuous escalatory posturing against Russia in Eastern Europe to be a principal objective of US foreign strategy. Biden, in turn, adopted an aggressive, militaristic stance, and became exceptionally active among Ukraine’s anti-Russian political agitators. Crucially, he loudly canvassed Obama to send thousands of Javelin anti-tank weapons to the Ukrainians as the first step in an intended proxy military drive against Russian aggression.

As Michael McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia, explained, Obama vetoed this request due to the obvious and immediate danger of playing a lethal ‘escalation game’ against a major nuclear power on the far side of the world. Yet, although he had lost the argument, Biden had stridently – and very publicly – established his virulent anti-Russian stance. Indeed, that same uncompromising posture was reinforced in the build-up to the 2020 presidential election, when Biden made foolish and uncomprehending remarks about the perceived Russian threat. Enraged, the Kremlin retorted that he was ‘spreading an absolute hatred of the Russian Federation’.

Hence, from Moscow’s perspective, Biden’s inauguration was a harbinger of Ukraine’s deeper integration with the EU and Nato. Critically, as the international relations scholar John Mearsheimer notes, the Russians have always regarded the full assimilation of Ukraine into the Western strategic orbit as an existential threat. The Ukrainian landmass is hallowed ground to the Russian people – the gateway to Moscow through which history’s successive invaders have channelled their armies.

We see therefore that, in Biden’s record, words and actions, Moscow unsurprisingly perceived a paradoxical combination of profound incompetence and weakness, as exemplified by the Afghanistan debacle, and dangerous anti-Russian bellicosity. It was within this context that Putin began to encircle the Ukrainian border only weeks after the collapse in Afghanistan.

In a prophetic essay of November 2021, Samuel Charap, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, warned that Biden’s response to the Russian military build-up was profoundly foolish. Charap explained that Putin was quite specifically demanding that the West finally observe the provisions of the 2015 Minsk II agreement, which states that, in return for the withdrawal of Russian forces, Ukraine must grant political powers in its constitution to the pro-Russian rebel-held areas of the Donbas. This was supposed to be the agreed solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Indeed, in his recent interview with Tucker Carlson, Putin, without hesitation, cited the combined Ukrainian and US refusal to observe the Minsk Accords as the chief motive for his invasion.

As Charap argued, catastrophe in early 2022 could be averted only by resetting the diplomatic clock. This required exerting pressure on Kiev to fulfil its side of the deal – on the condition, of course, that Moscow made its concessions in turn. During a phone call in the closing weeks of 2021, Putin warned Biden that the choice was between either a new round of diplomacy or outright war. But Biden simply ignored him. Instead, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken signed an entirely new ‘ironclad commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’ with his Ukrainian counterpart.

This was not an act of nuanced statecraft, but of hardheaded escalation, hubris and plain stupidity. Through his obstinate refusal to acknowledge any diplomatic responsibilities to the Minsk Accords, Biden unambiguously provoked Putin to launch the terrible war of escalation that unfolded. He should have listened to his old boss, Obama, who – for all his own faults – warned Biden years ago that such escalatory games in Russia’s front garden are inevitably doomed.

So it has proved: half a million people or more reportedly are dead or injured; the Russian army is entrenched inextricably and, as you read this, is preparing a vast spring offensive. As Robert F Kennedy Jr observed recently, the only winners are the Western arms manufacturers to which the US government is now perpetually beholden in its efforts to sustain Zelensky’s crumbling battlelines.

As we will see in the second part of this essay, the forlorn nightmare in Ukraine is only one battleground on which Biden’s ideological delusions have been borne out. While the fighting raged on the plains of the Donbas, a terrible storm of US making was gathering in the Middle East, too.

For more by this writer, see here.

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