Putin attacks the United States – Part Two
(This is a two-part series. The first dealt with the attack on America/NATO security and the second deals with what, if anything, America/NATO is doing about it — or can.)
In his address to the nation, President Biden finally detailed the sanctions he and America’s allies have imposed on the Madman of Moscow. They seem to fall short of the Draconian action that he promised would quickly cripple Russia – or cripple it at all.
In a typical Biden turn-about, he said that he knew all along that the sanctions would not deter Putin. Wasn’t that the whole point? It was folks like me that were pushing back on Biden – saying the sanctions – threatened or imposed – were not going to stop Putin.
Biden is a lot like Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther movies – claiming every stumble and pratfall was strategically planned in advance. The only difference is that Biden is not so funny.
Contrary to his pre-invasion statements, Biden has now conceded that the sanctions will take months or years for the impact to be felt. Which means that Biden knew they were never intended to stop Putin from invading as he repeatedly said.
The most significant sanctions were those dealing with the Russian banking system – limiting the activities of four major banks and completely blocking the operation of Putin’s largest bank. He also froze the assets of a small number of Russian billionaire oligarchs and their families. This was designed to get Putin’s pals to get upset with him. While that will be a huge inconvenience to them, these folks are rich enough to go on living the good life – and have no reason to push back on the guy who made them their billions.
(Hmmm. Will the freezing of Russian assets include the money the oligarchs gave Hunter Biden? But I digress.)
Biden limited the sale of certain categories of technical equipment to Russia – mostly items that Putin can acquire elsewhere – like China, which is already producing most of that same stuff for America and the western allies.
Initially, Biden exempted Putin from sanctions – although it is reported that he is being sanctioned. But there is a problem. Putin’s billions stashed in western banks are not in his name. They are being held for him by many of the oligarchs – most of whom are not being sanctioned.
Biden spent a good portion of his speech explaining all he was doing to defend NATO. Of course, NATO nations are not in Putin’s crosshairs at the moment. And like the sanctions, those actions did not deter Putin.
Again, Biden boasted about the new unity of NATO – even as the cracks were evident to everyone, including Putin. Italy did not want Russian oil to be sanctioned – so it is not. Germany only suspended the construction of the Nord Steam pipeline. NATO can hardly stand up to Putin when so many member nations get their oil from Russia. And they are sending billions of euros, etc. to help fund the invasion.
In retrospect, it may not have been a good idea to cut a deal to have Ukraine surrender its nuclear weaponry – the only nation to ever do that. Part of the deal was that America would protect the fledgling democracy. It may have been only a handshake promise – and not a formal defense agreement – but it was still a promise.
Biden threatened Russia that there would be a severe response if Putin were to engage in cyber attacks against the United States – but nothing about America helping the Ukraine government by hitting Russia with surgical temporary cyber-attacks. That seems to be off the table.
In a shameful concession that must have grievously disappointed the folks in Kyiv, Biden said that Russia is likely to succeed in taking Ukraine. Nothing we could do would stop Putin. But then we did not do everything we could have to prevent it – just as Biden surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban terrorists.
Some of the opportunities that are lost now include admitting Ukraine to NATO and placing military bases in the country. With the mutual defense provision of Article Five, even Putin would not dare invade a NATO nation with a strong contingent of western forces. I say that with less than full confidence, however. But if he did, Putin would face the response of the largest and most powerful military forces in the world – as opposed to the military strength of a single nation.
Even without NATO membership, we could have established American military bases in Ukraine – as the United States has all over the world – South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia, to name a few. That should have been done shortly after the election of President Zelenskyy. It is unlikely that Putin would have wanted to attack the American military.
Whether we would have engaged on the ground in Ukraine, Biden never should have been so emphatic that America or NATO nations would definitely NOT put any boots on the ground. IF ever there was a green light to Putin, that was it.
But much of that is water over the dam. So, what can we do that Biden did not do in his surprisingly limited sanctions – contrary to the threats? (No wonder Putin does not take Biden threats seriously.)
Let’s look at a few.
- Hit at Russia’s oil-dependent economy by driving down prices. The increase in prices is a secondary unearned gift to Putin’s war effort. That means having Europe ween off of Putin petroleum.
- Call on the United Nations to authorize a military response – as it has done in other situations. I know Russia can veto such a proposal, but then we should move to have Russia ousted from the UN with a threat to withdraw all American taxpayer support for the largely worthless so-called peace-keeping organization. It is not likely to happen, but the debate would be a major public relations hit on Putin.
- Send the Russian ambassador packing – from America and other nations. If France would temporarily withdraw its ambassador from the United States over a minor spat over nuclear technology, NATO and EURO nations can break ties with Russia until troops are withdrawn from Ukraine.
- Declare Ukraine a no-fly zone as the Ukrainian officials have begged to limit Russian air power. Better late than never.
- Offer technological support and supplies to the resistance movement.
- Open a war crimes case against Putin.
- Impose sanctions on Putin personally. Why that was not done is a mystery.
- Kick Russia out of SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. That would be a major blow to all Russian international financial transactions from the oligarchs to the average person. That would really cripple Russia’s economy.
- Reverse the policies that are restricting American oil production – making America a net oil exporter again. That would reduce the prices of gas for Americans – and reduce the income for Russia. Biden’s begging other oil producing nations to increase their production to reduce prices, while we continue to restrict the American oil is just … nuts.
- Increase the flow of military arms to Ukraine.
- Provide cyber support for Ukraine – including surreptitious attacks on Russian military and communications. We could couch them as responses to past Russian cyber attacks on America – and meddling in the elections.
- Use social media to flood Russia with images of dead Russian soldiers to combat Putin’s propaganda and encourage grassroots opposition to his policies.
- Provide support for an internal Russian protest movement.
- Threaten Putin that if he topples the democratically elected government of Ukraine, NATO will host a government an exile and support an ongoing insurgency movement.
Admittedly, some of these proposals are more practical than others, but it does show that there are a lot of things Biden could have threatened and done in the lead up to the invasions – and even now.
It is disheartening and sickening to hear the fawning news media keep praising Biden for the great job he has been doing in handling the Ukraine situation. In fact, everything he threatened to do – and did – has failed abysmally. If Putin takes control of Ukraine, it will be the second American ally he has surrendered to the enemy. Had Biden were any more incompetent and weak, Putin would have warships at the Bering Strait demanding the return of Alaska.
So, there ‘tis.