Saturday, May 21, 2022
HomeStatesideOut of the mouths of babes and Presidents . . .

Out of the mouths of babes and Presidents . . .

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IT’S assumed when President Biden puts his foot in his mouth that it is just another gaffe among so many others. But with regard to Ukraine, what if they are gaffes only in the sense that they inadvertently give away his administration’s secret strategies?

His call in Warsaw for regime change in Russia was instantly disavowed by US officials but did it lift the curtain on America’s real objective in the Ukraine? The game plan all along has not been to save Ukraine from Vladimir Putin’s aggression but to bring post-Soviet Russia to heel under the West’s tutelage.

The fact that Biden’s remark was denied does not mean that what he said was untrue, only that he was inept in giving away ulterior motives that Washington would prefer to hide from ordinary Americans and Europeans. Even a president like Biden cannot be left out of the war gaming an international crisis. He necessarily knows everything because nothing can happen without his say-so. Sometimes, he forgets not to say what he shouldn’t.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stepped in to say that ‘as you know, and as you have heard us say repeatedly, we do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia.’ We know nothing of the kind. What we do know is that the US historically has form when it comes to dislodging governments around the world that have stood in its way.

The words Biden uttered will have confirmed everything the Russians have long suspected, and change the entire East-West geopolitical balance. They bring closer the fear of a wider war that has never been absent from the West’s considerations because of Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Making regime change a priority completely undermines Nato’s claim to be a purely defensive alliance.

Bit by bit, the pieces are falling into the place in the strategic jigsaw puzzle in central Europe, thanks to 79-year-old Biden’s freewheeling tongue.

During a three-day visit to Europe for a Nato summit on the war, he made three startling statements which directly contradicted the public policy of his own government and its European allies:

·         Regime change in Russia is a US war aim. ‘For God’s sake, (Vladimir Putin) cannot remain in power,’ Biden said; 

·         Visiting the 82nd US Airborne Division in Poland, Biden told them they should ready to be deployed in Ukraine;

·         The president committed himself to responding ‘in kind’ if Vladimir Putin uses battlefield nuclear weapons or wages chemical warfare in Ukraine.

It has been central to the concerted Nato strategy so far to confine the war within Ukraine’s borders while supplying President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government with weapons to defend itself against a militarily stronger opponent. At the same time, Biden has made no real effort either before the war or since it started to prevent it.

David Sanger of the New York Times explained on Saturday why not. He wrote that the Biden administration ‘seeks to help Ukraine lock Russia into a quagmire without inciting a broader conflict with a nuclear-armed adversary or cutting off potential paths to de-escalation.’

Does this mean Ukraine is to be another Afghanistan for the Kremlin, suffering death and destruction merely as the unfortunate victim of a superpower conflict engineered by the United States in its struggle with Russia? Is the war turning out to be America’s as much as Russia’s? Did Biden want Putin to attack? This would give sense to the claim of anonymous US officials who told the US media that ‘we now have (Putin) where we want him’.

It also makes Biden’s curious statement that a minor cross-border incursion by the Russians would be acceptable look like an invitation to Putin to enter a trap with greater implications for him than he realised.

Commenting on Sanger’s article, Professor Niall Ferguson wrote at Bloomberg: ‘Reading this, I conclude that the US intends to keep this war going.’ Moreover, he claimed that that sources in London told him Boris Johnson’s government was in agreement with US strategy.

Ferguson quoted a senior US official telling a private gathering that the ‘only end game now is the end of the Putin regime’, with Russia condemned to pariah status until he goes. Russia’s fate would also be a warning to China that its support for Putin was a ‘huge error’. The official added: ‘All this is to say that democracy and the West may well look back on this as a pivotal strengthening moment.’

Whether the Ukrainian civilians counting their dead amid their flattened cities agree they made a worthwhile sacrifice is another matter. It’s more likely they will think they were cynically misled.

If all this is true, Biden’s gaffe was to blurt out the existence of a pre-conceived determination in Washington and London to take an extraordinary risk that their plan would fall into place all of a piece, that the Russian’s would not retaliate in ways that could be calamitous and would obediently evict Putin having seen the error of his brutal ways.

This from the two countries most responsible for the disasters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. What could go wrong this time? Western sanctions have crippled the Russian economy and even Putin, backed into a corner, might shrink from nuclear war. He has another option, however.

A few months ago, Biden gave Putin a list of 16 targets in the United States which were off-limits to Russian cyber warfare in normal times. In these abnormal times, Putin knows exactly where his cyber warriors should attack. If services essential to normal life in the US go down, Americans might think again about the cleverness of the Biden White House. Boris Johnson take note.

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Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes
Donald Forbes is a retired Anglo-Scottish journalist now living in France who during a 40-year career worked in eastern Europe before and after communism.

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