Putin's failure is Biden's opportunity

Joe Biden As I wrote earlier this week , has a real crisis on his hands. But thanks to Vladimir Poutine From Mr. Biden’s his...


Joe BidenAs I wrote earlier this week, has a real crisis on his hands. But thanks to

Vladimir PoutineFrom Mr. Biden’s historic blunder in Ukraine, Mr. Biden has something else: a once-in-a-decade opportunity to score a historic victory that reshapes the global playing field to America’s advantage. Capitalizing on Mr. Putin’s blunder is Team Biden’s most important task.

It requires a psychological change. Earlier in the crisis, we heard of American and European diplomats offering Mr Putin “exit ramps”. Some are still looking for compromise solutions that would allow Mr. Putin to save face. The time for such reflection may return, but for now the objective must be clear. Mr Putin must pay – and be seen to pay – such a heavy price for his miscalculation that world leaders will think twice before attacking the United States and its global alliance system.

Carl von Clausewitz noted long ago that the key to success is to pursue a retreating enemy. When an enemy is in retreat, it is possible to inflict the greatest damage on his forces, disorganized and discouraged.

Mr Putin’s armies may not yet be retreating into Ukraine, but the failure of his initial campaign – and the atrocious methods he must now resort to to save his military position – have put him on the mend. on the political and psychological defensive. The United States must do everything possible to exploit this unexpected opportunity for a decisive victory against a dangerous adversary.

The last two weeks have changed the world. Mr. Putin’s Russia is proving weaker and Ukraine stronger than many Westerners thought. And there’s more. As Zbigniew Brzezinski said, “It cannot be overstated that without Ukraine Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” Given what we know about Mr Putin and what he is doing, preventing him from building an empire on the doorstep of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must now be seen as a major Western interest.

Making Mr. Putin pay for his war of aggression is not a distraction from US attention on the Indo-Pacific. Xi Jinping also miscalculated by putting all his prestige behind the Russian alliance just as Mr Putin was sinking into the abyss. Thanks to this misstep, any setback Mr. Putin faces in Ukraine is also a setback for Mr. Xi. They reduce his prestige in China and abroad by showing, first, that he is capable of major miscalculations in world politics and, second, that he is unable to prevent the United States and its allies to humiliate Beijing’s most important ally.

Nothing matters more right now for world peace and US security than crippling Mr. Putin’s will to rebuild an aggressive and despotic empire by waging a criminal war. The Biden administration, often after being pushed by a hawkish Congress, has taken significant steps in this direction, but there are still three things to do.

First, we must support Ukraine’s combat capability. The extraordinary early performance of the Ukrainian army, combined with the utter failure of Russian military preparedness, turned Mr. Putin’s bet into a disaster. Keeping the Ukrainian army on the ground is now a major strategic interest for the United States. It is not, or soon will be, not only arms and intelligence. Ukraine’s economy has never been strong; it now faces collapse. In all areas, the burden of proof must shift from those who wish to send aid to those who wish to deny it.

Second, sanctions against Russia, especially energy sanctions, must become more effective. The League of Nations failed its first test when oil was excluded from the sanctions imposed on Italy after its invasion of Ethiopia in 1935. Europe remains dependent on Russian energy, which means that the NATO funds Mr. Putin’s war. If NATO is serious, this must stop.

Finally, the administration must, for now, make opposition to Mr. Putin the core of its overall foreign policy. Russia’s presence in places like Syria, Libya and, increasingly, sub-Saharan Africa will be harder to maintain as economic and military pressure on Moscow increases. The Biden team must be creative and act boldly to reach Russian interests around the world. Other objectives must, where appropriate, be ruled out. Greening the world’s energy supply is, for the time being, less important than weaning Europe off Russian hydrocarbons. Denying Russia revenues from nuclear trade with Iran is, for now, more important than an agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program.

It won’t be easy. Despite his misstep in Ukraine, Mr. Putin remains a resourceful practitioner of ruthless realpolitik, and he still has a few cards to play. Team Biden is mostly a collection of foxes, chasing many goals and struggling to focus on one goal. To take full advantage of the opportunity offered by Mr. Putin, Mr. Biden must get in touch with his inner hedgehog and focus his foreign policy on one thing and one thing only: making Mr. Putin pay.

Wonder Land: Virtually the entire world has pledged to repel Vladimir Putin’s invasion in some sort of spontaneous, crowd-funded alternative to the Armageddon tripwire. Images: AP/AFP/Getty Images Composition: Mark Kelly

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Newsrust - US Top News: Putin's failure is Biden's opportunity
Putin's failure is Biden's opportunity
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