Ukraine's Biden Problem
The use of military force is where the Biden policy comes short
Before I start, my teachers and, dare I say, friends Eric Edelman and Eliot Cohen have recently started a podcast that everybody must listen to and is a Bulwark product. Look here: Shield of the Republic. They are two of the most brilliant people anybody will ever meet, and to be honest everything I write I’m just plagiarizing them (especially Eric). The two most recent episodes talk about Russia and Biden, and you should give them a listen. One includes Kori Schake as a guest, another brilliant and wonderful friend and victim of my plagiarism. The episodes are very insightful.
And since I mentioned the three of them, give a read to what they’ve written recently on Russia.
Eric Edelman and Daniel Fata: What NATO Should Do Now
Eric Edelman: The Pros and Cons of ‘Deterrence by Disclosure’
Eliot Cohen: Arm the Ukrainians Now
Eliot Cohen: Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Man
Kori Schake: America’s Russia Policy Has a Biden Problem
Kori Schake: Why I misjudged Russia’s invasion
And last point before I move on: I am including Kori’s “Why I misjudged Russia’s invasion” not simply for the analysis but also for the courage that Kori shows, something I frequently have seen in all three of them. I’m always in awe of how comfortable the three of them are in admitting mistakes and reassessing previous judgments.
Speaking of Kori, make sure to read her “America’s Russia Policy Has a Biden Problem.” Something that has been annoying me with President Joe Biden’s otherwise commendable management of the war has been his insistence that we will not deploy the military to Ukraine.1 As Kori points out, we already had boots on the ground in Ukraine, which President Biden withdrew, alongside our diplomats.
It was a mistake. Our members of the military and diplomats would certainly be at risk if they stayed there, but those who join the military or the diplomatic corps do so knowing that there will be risks. Furthermore, knowing quite a few people in both sectors, I am certain that many, if not most, people who were in Ukraine before the war began would have preferred to stay there during the war because those who join the national security sector do so out of a sense of duty and mission and are willing to make sacrifices for a good cause.
As Kori mentions on the podcast, keeping them in Ukraine—especially the diplomatic corps—would have also helped with our ability to better help the Ukrainians and providing a safe haven for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy if the worst happens.
President Biden repeated during the State of the Union address that he won’t deploy the military to Ukraine, but there is also a lot that the military could do short of combat. First, as a friend corrected me about my previous post, the invasion of Georgia happened amidst difficult times for America which had a lot to do with our mute response and which handicapped the U.S. administration. Yet, President George W. Bush deployed the Navy to the Black Sea and airlifted Georgian troops fighting in the Global War on Terror and took them back to Georgia.2 That arguably helped with containing the war to the north. So there was something our military could do without engaging combat.
In Ukraine, the U.S. military could still play a role short of direct enemy engagement.