It is time for Washington to act like a great power – its timidity is a loser

Bob McConnell
June 1, 2024

Yes, this is the second critical email on the Biden Administration’s policy of micromanaging Ukraine’s ability to fight Putin without any strategy to allow Ukraine to defeat Russia.

Washington’s policy cannot be exposed and criticized too often – it must change.

It is embarrassing how feckless we are - and how callous we are to the human consequences of our decisions.

Are you old enough to remember “mutually assured destruction”?  Think nuclear deterrence between great powers – the United States and then the Soviet Union deterred because both had the ability to destroy the other.

Any clash between the two led to the consideration of options and worries about the other power’s reactions being held in private, behind closed doors.  In public you projected your strength.

This Administration discusses its worries in public, expressing constantly its fear of escalation.  It advertises its fears to Putin, it tells him his threats deter American action.

Washington advertises its vulnerability to being bullied, and Ukrainians die.

Being a great power and behaving like one are two different things, and advertising your timidity is not the behavior of a great power.

Half measures are losers.

Think of the human cost.

Thousands-upon-thousands of abducted Ukrainian children taken to Russia or deep inside the occupied territories, given new birth certificates, new names, indoctrinated and adopted by Russian families as Russians, systematic rapes of Ukrainian women, torture – in reconquered territories Ukrainians have found torture chambers, including torture chambers for children! – the destruction of every conceivable structure of cultural importance to Ukraine.

We constrain Ukraine’s ability to fight barbarianism and tell the world we worry about what Putin might do so that he knows he is succeeding in bullying us.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board makes the points – is anyone listening in the West Wing?


More Biden Half Measures for Ukraine

The U.S. will finally let Kyiv hit targets in Russia, at least a little.

By The Editorial Board | May 31, 2024 5:34 pm ET

The Journal included a photo of President Biden – I added this cartoon instead.

Ukrainians have been on the brink since Vladimir Putin opened a new front in the country’s north this spring, and the Biden Administration is now responding late and with more half measures. That sums up two years of the Biden doctrine, and it won’t produce the Ukrainian success that is in U.S. interests.

The Administration this week revisited its ban on Ukraine using American weapons to strike targets on Russian territory. It has been obvious for months that Ukraine needs this authority. The Russian military is exploiting its home territory as a haven to gather troops and supplies and fire glide bombs at Ukrainian cities. The Russians can spread Ukraine’s military thin across a vast northern border without fear of retaliation.

More than two years into the war, the Biden Team has awakened to the problem of handing the enemy a sanctuary. The Administration is leaking to the press that Ukraine will now be able to strike targets in Russia. But wait: Ukraine will only be permitted to conduct some strikes with some types of weapons. Not allowed: Deep precision strikes with America’s long-range missiles known as ATACMS. In other words, memo to Mr. Putin: Move your forces a little further back and you’re good.

This timidity and micromanagement from the Biden Administration is the core reason the fight has devolved into a muddle. Mr. Biden’s advisers have run the Ukraine war on academic theories of managing escalation instead of a plan for defeating Russia’s invasion.

They have been reluctant to provide weapons quickly and at scale, other than air defenses. Mr. Biden approved training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 a year ago, but the jets still aren’t in the sky. It isn’t clear Kyiv will ever receive enough aircraft, munitions, trained pilots and maintenance support to beat the much larger Russian air force.

None of Mr. Biden’s self-imposed restraint has persuaded Mr. Putin to back off his aim to annex Ukraine. The Russian is mobilizing his society for a long war and turning to North Korea and Iran for ammunition. Even after enormous losses, Mr. Putin could still emerge from the war with a hardened military, fresh battlefield experience—and more territory closer to more of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization border.

Meanwhile, Congress in its last aid bill demanded the Biden Administration produce a document detailing its strategy and objectives in Ukraine, and it will be worth reading. The strategy has been to supply only enough weapons to avoid Ukrainian collapse. When the headlines turn dark for Ukraine, make a concession to Kyiv but not enough for it to persuade the Russians that they can’t win.

This failing strategy has left many Americans skeptical of supporting America’s core interests in a stable and peaceful Europe. GOP candidates ought to be pounding this record of weakness, and explaining to voters why Mr. Biden is wrong to force an American friend to fight with one hand tied behind its back.

Co-Founder, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation
Director of External Affairs, Friends of Ukraine Network
The introduction is Mr. McConnell’s and does not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network (FOUN).