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What Biden and NATO Should Have Done About Putin

What Biden and NATO Should Have Done About Putin

I have been a constant critic of President Biden’s too little/too late support of Ukraine.  Consequently, I have often been asked, “What would you have done I you were President? This is my answer.

I would have acted BEFORE the actual invasion. As soon as Putin placed troops along three sides of the Ukraine border, I would have issued a VERY stern warning – with specific consequences if he did not remove them.

Putin initially indicated that it was only a military exercise. If I were Biden, I would have informed Putin that we know his explanation is bullsh*t, and the United States and NATO will act accordingly.

I would have imposed severe sanctions PRIOR to the invasion – to be removed only when Putin’s troops were removed. And that would include Russian troops occupying the Crimea and the Donbas Region.

I would lead NATO and other allies in a unified strategy of maximum threat and maximum actions. I would have organized a NATO operation to send massive amounts of military equipment to Ukraine. I would have immediately commenced training of Ukrainian military personnel on the deployment and operation of the most sophisticated and powerful weapons – including fighter jets – in anticipation of their expeditious arrival in Ukraine.

Biden’s first major blunder was to assure Putin that no American or NATO troops would be on the ground in Ukraine to repel an invasion.  Biden even ordered the small number of military advisors out of the country. This was nothing less than a diplomatic green light for Putin to invade.

I would have told Putin in the strongest terms that American and NATO military intervention was NOT off the table. I would not have removed American troops prior to an actual invasion.  I would have informed Putin – in the strongest possible terms — that any deaths of American soldiers would be considered an act of war against the United States.

I would have given no credence to Putin’s nuclear threats – essentially telling him to take his nuclear missiles and shove them up his ass. More seriously, I would have made it very clear that any use of nuclear weapons would be a world catastrophe – and among the results would be his death and the leveling of the Kremlin.

I would have informed Putin that any shutting, damaging or destroying of the Zaporizhzhia region nuclear power station – especially if it sent radiation over Europe – would be viewed as act of war against NATO, which would result in military intervention.

Unlike Biden, I would not have prevented Ukrainian forces from striking military targets inside Mother Russia. Putin should have been told before the invasion that those sites would be specifically targeted. – and we would provide the long-range weapons to reach inside Russia.

I would announce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be implemented the moment Russian troops crossed the Ukraine border – or advanced further from the occupied areas. 

I would have had direct talks with China, North Korea, and Iran – and any others – that may aid and abet Putin’s proposed invasion. They would be advised that any military shipments to the Ukrainian front would be intercepted as war contraband by the United States and NATO forces.

I would have sent Navy warships to international waters along the southern coast of Ukraine to protect the sea routes into the war zone and form a blockade if necessary.

All the above is BEFORE Putin launches an invasion – and I doubt he would. But if he did, I would implement the threats swiftly.

Putin was shocked that without all the aforementioned measures, his military could not take Kyiv – could hardly advance from the occupied regions, and then only at enormous costs. Had Biden shown REAL leadership and REAL influence over NATO, I firmly believe that this war would be over … Putin would no longer be in charge in the Kremlin … and many lives and lots of money would have been saved. Ukraine would be in the process of rebuilding instead of still suffering devastating damage and loss of life.

Yes, this is all hypothetical. But well within the realm of reason – and it sounds like what President Reagan would have done. You know … that guy who brought down Putin’s precious Soviet Union.

If the United States wants to be the world leader, we need leaders who know how to lead. “Leading from behind,” surrendering and acquiescing are not the traits of leadership.  It takes a balance between respect and fear.  Under the Biden administration, the United States is getting neither.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. bobm

    Actually, some of your actions were warranted, but I think you missed a few biggies.

    I don’t think you would have been allowed to transit your ship thru the Bosphorus, despite Turkey’s membership in NATO.

    *I* would have moved NATO to NATO’s borders in huge numbers. DEFCON2-3 numbers.


    *I* would have told Putin that if he invaded, Ukraine would be immediately be accepted into NATO. (Calling Putin’s bluff on one of his reasons for going in in the first place.)

    *I* would also be forcing the UN’s hand. The folks who should be IN Ukraine should be wearing blue helmets. The UN was founded to end wars of territorial aggression. If it won’t act on this, it has failed in its core mission and, as such, disbanded. Period.

    That said, the UN, united, should give Vlad until its fleet arrives thru the Bosphorus to get out, or it will cut off Crimea by securing and steaming thru the Kerch Strait (with a blocking force at Krsnodar) and land at Rostov-on-Don to start the meet up with NATO coming down from/thru Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Belarus, Bulgaria, Moldova, and, oh yeah, Ukraine.

    Why such a response? The mere attempt at such territorial expansion is abhorrent and a punishing lesson / example should have been made. The war crimes perpetrated on the Ukrainians match those of the Nazis and the Japanese combined also warrant the response.

    And the response should NOT be for territory or regime change. But it should be made to inflict such damage on Putin’s border, perhaps even his capital, as they have on Ukraine.

    Putin is a Paper Tiger. His military and savage mercs couldn’t beat, not, got their asses kicked by an Army stood up with civilians. But, then again, he couldn’t stop a Chef from going, unimpeded to within 150 miles of Moscow. With his own civilians cheering them on- and impeding/booing the actual Army – all along the way. More than 80% of the tanks he had in storage were non-functional. Does anyone really think any of his nukes will actually work? Nukes are very temperamental and very expensive to maintain. Much moreso than tanks.

    Russia / Ukraine is nothing more than the show that the man behind the curtain wants you to see. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    • larry Horist

      bobm …. Thanks for pointing out that there was even more Biden could have done. You make some good points.

  2. Mike f

    Larry, Perhaps you need to run for President? Because I don’t think any of the candidates on the R side would have done what you suggest. I have said repeatedly that I would have been more aggressive than Biden in the Ukrainian action-however if trump had been president during this period, Ukraine would already be part of Russia..

    • larry Horist

      Mike f … Are you kidding, I am too damn old to be President. Same age as Biden. I have never been a fan of Trump’s approach to Putin — but thankful that the vast majority of Republicans in Congress are supportive of Ukraine. Ukraine as a strong bipartisan coalition on Capitol Hill.

      • Mike f

        Yes Larry, there has been support for what Biden (let that sink in) has done, but there are signs that coalition is breaking up, and the mouthpieces in congress (think MTG) are starting to get their way. Again, I will say, praise be that we have a President with some knowledge of how foreign relations in the US are supposed to work as opposed to the idiot that preceded him…

        • larry Horist

          Mikef … Have you checked out the congressional votes on Ukraine. The bipartisan coalition in support is huge. Those on the strident right are NOT getting their way on aid to Ukraine. And you seem to be unable to get off the what-about-Trump train. My commentary was what the current President could have done and did not … and still could. Trump is irrelevant to the topic. In terms of Biden and foreign relations, you are in the one-third of Americans who view Biden favorably on that issue. Two-thirds are not impressed. I will have more to say about that in a commentary that just got sent to my proofreader.

  3. frank stetson

    If wishes and buts were candy and nuts…..yes, Larry is a hawkish old man willing to send our kids to war to retain Larry’s honor…. Not quite that bad, but …. My take is we are where we are and it could be better, but at least it’s not worse….

    Here’s the huge rub imo: “I would have given no credence to Putin’s nuclear threats – essentially telling him to take his nuclear missiles and shove them up his ass. More seriously, I would have made it very clear that any use of nuclear weapons would be a world catastrophe – and among the results would be his death and the leveling of the Kremlin.” More seriously? The most serious situation in the history of man and you’re telling jokes? Very caviler approach to world destruction. Watch new Oppenheimer film, I suggest Imax.

    Remember at the beginning of WWII we could drop some bombs and stuff, but by the end, even without the nukes, we could level cites with carpet bombing, firebombing and worse. Jets replaced planes, and then the nuclear bomb superseded any weapon known to man a gazillion times. The world had changed and war amongst nuclear powers was deemed a bridge too far to EVER go. Anyone who would say “take his nuclear missiles and shove them up his ass” is as crazy as Putin. The Greatest Generation dropped two of these and vowed: never again. Read what they concluded about the use of the bomb. Think about it. Give them some credit for knowing something after seeing what these things can do. Look at what happened to the men involved in the creation and implementation to see the madness left behind. And we are many times more catastrophic than that now. We dropped 20Kt’s nuclear’s back then and we have 100Kt thermonuclear today where a single shot to NYC means 500K instantly dead.

    Here’s a interactive nuclear bomb results page: set er for the 100Kt Russian bomb on NYC and you can see the immediate destruction zone —- all the way to PA. Now drop 11,000 of them. That’s the risk.

    Nuclear power countries are in a special status when it comes to war. IMO, if their leaders do not play right, they must leave. Putin is in that camp, he has abused his nuclear status NOT by going to war, but by even mentioning nuke in communications. He must leave. We should NEVER be in that camp. We should not use it as a threat. It is not frivolous, it is not a joke, it is the end of the world as we know it and we should be that serious.

    Under Biden:
    – No Americans, except volunteers, in harm’s way so far
    – Just some money spent
    – Putin is not winning, he is stopped

    Under Horist:
    – Red line issued when Putin places border troops, I would gather crossing the line means automatic US troop involvement
    escalating the war
    – Wants to issue NATO Red line, can’t do that Larry, NATO must do that
    – Earlier sanctions, probably everyone OK with that rear view look
    – Earlier NATO, more equipment, more training, faster, always good, same rearview look. Escalating weapons on day one,
    escalates the war, I have no issue with some staging, but sure, would have liked faster staging, but on day one — when a
    guarantee loss: really, you want to ship all your stuff in when you didn’t know Ukraine would not fall in a week or two?

    Bottom line: you get my drift. We are where we are, and your recommendations add risk every time against your bet the bluff would change Putin’s mind. IMO, I would love many of the actions done earlier, it’s hindsight, but we are in a good place and Larry’s way is fraught with risk, some of which is cataclysmic. Plus, Larry seems to presuppose NATO agreement on many of these actions unless he’s suggesting unilateral actions which would be a very Trumpian mistake. Nonetheless, you can bundle most of Larry’s stuff together and just put Ukraine in NATO as Putin loads the border and chances are — he either backs down or we go in full bore, as according to NATO agreements versus Larry’s non-NATO-sanctioned unilateral actions which potentially could create a new AXIS powers between a number of these nuclear-equipped rogue nations. Then we would be potentially fighting Russia, NK, China, and Iran with more nuclear bombs on the table. It’s quite the gamble.

    As noted, the other fear we should consider today is putting all the bad actors in a box where they decide they have common cause to team up against us. NATO already does that to Russia in spades, and to a lesser degree, the Middle East. Larry’s suggestion that we go extra hard against sanction avoiders just better builds the box bigger for bad actors to join together in common cause.

    But the bottom line is Larry believes we could bluff Putin back into the box. I don’t want Putin in a box, I want him gone. Biden’s way is getting us closer to that. There has been a coup attempt. I like that.

    However, one more musing: what if this is all Trump’s fault in that Putin is only doing this to put Joe in a defensive wartime position for the 2024 election, put Trump back in power, and continue the TrumPutin authoritarian bromance started in 2016? He touts that it’s Reaganesque but, IMO, Reagan was lucky to pull it off, pretty sure Putin knows that history, not sure it’s worth the risk to do it again and, currently —— it’s just money and that’s much better than our kid’s lives. Plus, we can always destroy the world tomorrow if it does not work out……and that’s no joke.

  4. Joseph S. Bruder

    Larry wanted Biden to threaten Russia with sanctions while they were patrolling their own territory. Just how far do you think a threat like that against America would go? That would be threatening Russia’s territorial autonomy. Never mind that we “knew” that Putin had other plans – there’s no legal framework to cover pre-emptive actions. Pre-emptive strikes are considered an act of war, and at the time, conventional wisdom was that the Russian military was still strong. Even weak, if desperate, Russia could still do physical damage to the US.

    And don’t you think that Biden and his team have been communicatin with Russia? Just because Biden doesn’t sit on the toilet tweeting his every thought doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a dialog. There’s stuff meant for the public to know, and the rest is none of your goddamned business. You’ll find out in 50 years when it’s declassified.

    Secondly, Larry arm-chair-general-izes that he would lead NATO, etc. etc. WTF does he think Biden DID? Biden organized the coalition, sent tons of money and military aid, and has been a constant supporter of Ukraine. Some weapons have been slow to materialize, but A) Ukraine couldn’t use them immediately, and B) Biden was walking a fine line against Putin. Biden has been the leader that brought NATO together as a force against an agressor, as opposed to the Orange Menace who tried to destroy NATO (and probably would have by now if he’d been elected again

    Larry can play the woulda-coulda-shoulda game all day long. Biden has kept our economy strong despite Trump’s worst efforts, he’s managed to get enough aid, weapons, and training to Ukraine for them to push back the Russians, and Russia itself seems to be on the ropes. Putin’s continuing existence seems to be in doubt. There’s not a single person, Republican or Democrat, who could or would have done a better job of threading that needle than Biden has.

    • larry Horist

      Joseph S Bruder … I think you need to come out of your mentally isolate off-the-grid world in rural New England and discover reality. It seems your only source of information is White House talking points spun through MSNBC. You praise Biden by assuming there are constant “talks” between the US and Russia — and upon that assumption, you assume they are positive, productive and in the best interest of the United States. That is a lot of creative assuming based on nothing but political bias and desire.

      Biden is not leading NATO. Regarding Ukraine, NATO responded to the Russian invasion, not Biden — and was often more aggressive than Biden on the delivery of weapons. Biden was led by NATO into sending tanks … longer range missiles … and soon-to-be fighter jets. Remember it was Trump who send weapons while Obama sent blankets. As far as funding NATO, Trump got the member nations to cough up more of their obligation. NATO funding increased under Trump. But like a good left-winger, you seem to see the solution to every problem as having Uncle Sam simply write a check.

      Your claim that Biden did not send weapons because the Ukrainians could not use them is a lame and inaccurate excuse. There was nothing stopping Biden from providing training at the onset of the war. Under my approach, Ukraine would have and be trained on the most sophisticated weapons TODAY — or more likely, YESTERDAY. Virtually every military expert — even on MSNBC — has called the Biden approach too little/too late.

      You say Biden was “walking a fine line” against Putin. Nonsense. Biden was to weak to exert effective policies against Putin.. I assume you are one of those who cowered every time Putin used the word “nuclear.” Biden got bluffed and Ukraine, the United States and the world has suffered.

      And as far as the economy, Biden’s reckless spending was a major contributor to the inflation. Yes, I think Trump’s latter day stimulus money was a factor, but Biden made the inflation much worse and much more durable. Remember, he promised there would be no inflation. Until that is under control, it is premature to say that the economy is in good shape. It is Biden’s rose-colored interpretations against what the people see and feel. And it is the people who give Biden low marks for handling the economy — lower than Trump. And the economic growth rate is an abysmal 1.6 percent. Income increases are not keeping up with inflation. That is not the sign of a great economy. Perhaps you are personally sufficiently well off not to feel the effects of the inflation, but that is not the real world for most folks.

      If you are going to engage in dialoged on the issues, you need to come out of your role as being a lackey for the left.