Reviews | The Ukraine crisis will test America like it hasn’t since the Cold War
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, appearing in the White House briefing room on Friday, issued an urgent plea for evacuation: “There will be [no] possibility of leaving, and no prospect of a US military evacuation in the event of a Russian invasion,” he said. Late Friday afternoon, the White House announced that President Biden would speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone late Saturday morning.
On the face of it, any move by Putin to invade Ukraine would defy logic and Russia’s self-interest. The prospect of major losses, a major shock to Russia’s already weak economy from harsh sanctions and increased international isolation would cause Russians considerable hardship. It’s unclear whether Putin doubts the West’s response, or whether he’s gone so far on a limb that he can’t back down without suffering humiliation, as a veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller explains:
Putin has climbed such a tall tree with such excessive demands and such threatening military buildup that it is hard to see a diplomatic ladder to descend. It looks more and more like a set-up or close-out situation, with the situation on the ground favoring the former.
—Aaron David Miller (@aarondmiller2) February 11, 2022
Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that “While Putin fabricated the Ukraine crisis believing he held a clear advantage over the West, he made a mistake that can prove dangerous even for an arts practitioner. experienced martial: he underestimated his adversary. Haass adds that even if Putin opts for a “limited” invasion, he “risks making Russia’s situation worse: controlling a little more territory, but facing new sanctions, to a stronger NATO and to a neighbor whose people have developed a more separate anti-Russian organization. identity.” To be sure, Putin has already united Europe and the United States to a degree not seen since 9/11.
If Putin did act, it would arguably be the biggest provocation since the end of the Cold War. Like the Berlin Wall and the Berlin Blockade before it, entry into Ukraine would be a direct challenge to the West’s commitment to democracy, the territorial integrity of European allies, and the credibility of the United States. on the world stage.
With this in mind, the administration should bear in mind the importance of American public opinion in the event of an invasion. Such an action would require a major address from Biden’s Oval Office. The American people should understand what is at stake, where American troops have and have not been deployed, and the consequences of allowing Russian aggression to succeed. The president will want the full support of Congress to impose tough sanctions; therefore, he must ensure that the legislators’ voters support his actions.
As for his critics, it would behoove Republicans in MAGA to stand with Biden, congressional Democrats and our European allies. Not so long ago, Republicans complained that Democratic criticism of Republican presidents gave the appearance of division and indecisiveness. The same is true now that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Fox News’ Tucker Carlson are recycling Russian talking points. (Disclaimer: I’m an MSNBC contributor.)
The administration has so far responded competently to this crisis, but the real test will be whether it follows through on its rhetoric, as previous presidents have done by staging the Berlin airlift and using force. military force to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Biden has the ability to forge a stronger alliance and send a tremor across the illiberal world; conversely, non-compliance with the promised sanctions would be devastating for the West. As China watches Taiwan and other authoritarians consider aggressive actions, they will pay close attention to our response in Ukraine.
The president can say “America is back” all he wants. But that means nothing unless the United States can lead an effective response against authoritarian aggressors.