Discouraging message to Moscow - WSJ

U.S. Army soldiers prepare for overseas deployment at the 35th Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on January 22....


U.S. Army soldiers prepare for overseas deployment at the 35th Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on January 22.


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35th Infantry Division

The United States put 8,500 troops on alert Monday with the option of deploying them to bolster NATO defenses in Eastern Europe, and allies are sending ships and fighter jets. The West is finally getting more serious about deterring Russian aggression, and let’s hope it’s not too late for Ukraine.

President Biden is considering deploying troops, as well as ships and planes, to NATO allies like Poland and the Baltic states that are closest to the Russian threat. Go ahead and send them, sir. Mr. Biden’s restraint strategy, hoping not to provoke

Vladimir Poutine, did not work. Mr Putin added to his own troop deployment on three different fronts on Ukraine’s borders.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO and US troops would not deploy there. But their arrival in Eastern Europe would send the message that the United States would get involved militarily if Mr Putin made a play for the Baltic states or otherwise acted against NATO countries. The Russian Navy is planning live-fire exercises off the coast of Ireland, which is not a NATO member.

The troop news also helps counter last week’s mixed messages from the White House and Europe about deterring Mr Putin. The Russians’ goal is to conquer, or at least dominate, Ukraine while dividing the West over what the US has called “massive consequences” in response to an invasion.

Mr. Putin has reason to think it might work. The head of the German navy resigned last week after sending an appeasement message to Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron chose the worst time to say that Europe should negotiate with Russia separately from the United States on Ukraine. Mr Biden slipped both with his press conference remark that a mere “minor incursion” could divide the West.

The centerpiece of Mr Biden’s foreign policy platform was to rekindle US alliances, but countries don’t have allies to have allies. The president has invested in Berlin’s culture but has little to show for it. He can clarify that the warming of ties is subject to Germany’s cooperation with Ukraine. This means pushing the German government to support tougher sanctions and allowing third countries to export arms to Ukraine.

The United States does not need to fight in Ukraine, but it can do more to help this democratic nation defend itself. This means sending anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, as well as air defense, maritime security and intelligence assistance.

If Mr. Putin invades, analysts Seth Jones and Philip Wasielewski recommend a Lend-Lease program that would provide Ukraine with weapons at no cost. As long as the Ukrainians want to defend themselves, they deserve the means to do so. The United States should also support an insurgency against a puppet regime if Mr. Putin tries to install one.

The political objective would be to increase the costs of the invasion so that it becomes too burdensome for the Kremlin to support or, better, even to begin. This would include imposing the toughest economic sanctions promised by Mr. Biden, including denial of access to the Swift financial system for dollar transactions.

***

Denying Moscow’s control over Ukraine is in the national interest of the United States. A Russia fortified by Ukrainian resources would be a more formidable adversary and a greater threat to NATO. One of the great results of the end of the Cold War was the breakup of the Soviet Empire. Mr. Putin wants to bring him into a sphere of influence that would improve his position at home and increase his influence abroad.

The consequences will extend far beyond Ukraine as other US adversaries attempt to assert regional dominance. Mr Putin could then turn to the Baltics, while Iran and China also have malevolent aspirations. Authoritarians are rarely content to control their own people.

The United States and the West must be careful about when to repel regional aggressors, but helping Ukraine stay out of Moscow’s mouth is crucial to preventing a greater threat to European peace.

Wonder Land: Joe Biden’s foreign policy is to protect Democrats’ domestic spending, not US security. Images: Getty Images/KCNA/Reuters Composite: Mark Kelly

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Appeared in the print edition of January 25, 2022.

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