President Biden should heed his own words and put his foot down - opinion

Biden is faced with a situation no President has encountered since World War II; how he handles it will define his legacy whether he likes it or not.

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.  (photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden delivers remarks on Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.
(photo credit: LEAH MILLIS/REUTERS)

‘Big nations cannot bluff” has served as a catchphrase of sorts for President Joe Biden his entire career; it made regular appearances throughout his presidential campaign. The war in Ukraine and its lead-up is plagued in instances where Biden broke one of the cornerstones of his apparent world views. Given Biden’s fifty-year political resume, it would be wrong not to highlight the times when he chose to go back on his own word.

For starters, Biden is acutely familiar with the situation in Ukraine and its history. Biden was a US Senator for the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at its signage by the US, the UK and, in a grim sense of the word irony, Russia. While not legally binding, the memorandum saw Ukraine forfeit its nuclear arsenal in return for its sovereignty being protected by the signers. Now Ukraine is under siege by one of the parties and has no nuclear deterrence, an arguable death blow to the disarmament community.

As vice president, Biden was the point man for president Obama’s policy regarding the 2014 conflict with Russia and Ukraine, which saw the theft of Crimea. The world watched as Russia stole a chunk of its neighbor with minimal resistance or condemnation on the world stage. Biden would dedicate a large share of a chapter of his 2017 book Promise Me, Dad to these events.

Biden admits in his book that Europeans told him the taking of Crimea felt like a “canary in a coal mine” that if the West did not stand up in that moment, Russia would return to “start carving up pieces of their territory near the Russian border. Or more.” Unfortunately, these warnings fell on deaf ears; the current situation did not have to be this way.

Biden’s writings on Ukraine feel as if he fully understood the conflict ahead, making his efforts as President even more lackluster. Biden outlined in his book that he agreed with President Obama that the US should take no steps further than economic sanctions against Russia and played strong revisionist history on how Crimea unfolded.

Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces drive during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine press service November 17, 2021. (credit: PRESS SERVICE OF GENERAL STAFF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)Tanks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces drive during military drills at a training ground near the border with Russian-annexed Crimea in Kherson region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine press service November 17, 2021. (credit: PRESS SERVICE OF GENERAL STAFF OF THE ARMED FORCES OF UKRAINE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

Two years before the Crimea annexation, Biden echoed Obama’s now-famous mocking of Mitt Romney for stating Russia was the most significant global threat in 2012. If one only read Biden’s book, you would think he was in lockstep with senator McCain, who warned the world of Putin and the danger he posed to Ukraine for years.

If one chooses to ignore the fact that Biden outlined much of his current strategy five years ago, you would still know what the US response was going to look like. In a dubious move, the Biden administration attempted to work with China to lessen tensions with Russia, resulting in China feeding information directly back to the Kremlin. Now Russia is seeking to decapitate Ukraine and has taken necessary steps to wait out the economic lengths they believe Biden is willing to go. China waived restrictions on Russian wheat exports and is largely thought to be ready to buy up whatever gas Europe no longer purchases.

Biden could easily double the impacts of his sanctions by working with US and OPEC allies to increase the fuel in circulation, considerably decreasing the value of Russia’s lifeline while also lessening the weight of the sanctions on global citizens at the pump. The situation is teed up for the US to dominate the exports marketplace, a win-win for the US and its allies. It has never been more clear that the US needs to work with Europe to find energy sources beyond Russia’s borders.

President Biden should heed his own words and put his foot down. Putin has always only done what he believes he can get away with. Too many times has Biden said this time he is serious for another red line to be crossed. I am by no means saying boots on the ground is the answer, but a containment strategy means Ukraine fends for itself as we watch in horror. Biden is faced with a situation no President has encountered since World War II; how he handles it will define his legacy whether he likes it or not.

The writer is pursuing a master’s in public policy (environmental policy) at Arizona State University.