Russia on the Naughty List over Ukraine

December 9, 2021

We know what Americans think of Joe Biden -- but what about the rest of the world? Everyone is about to find out, courtesy of major trouble brewing on the Ukrainian border. Just how badly has our global credibility been damaged by this administration? As the Kremlin moves closer to a terrifying invasion, the next several weeks will tell.

Most Americans probably aren't staying awake at night worrying about what's happening in Russia -- but maybe they should be, experts warn. With Russian President Vladimir Putin inching closer to a full-scale invasion in Ukraine and China licking its chops over Taiwan, the United States could soon be on the verge of a full-scale global emergency.

"Ukraine and Taiwan have much in common," Jay Nordlinger points out, "as nations trying to hold on to their independence and sovereignty against hungry, empire-minded dictatorships in whose shadow they live." For the last several decades, America and the West have been these countries' big brothers, fighting to protect their borders and our interests from the two power-hungry regimes. Now, with a weakened Biden at the helm and the rest of the world still trying to get their depleted economies and COVID under control, the window of opportunity has never been wider.

Think about it from China or Russia's perspective, David Leonhardt explains in a good primer on the issue. "If you were a foreign leader hostile to the United States... [y]ou would know that it has conducted two largely failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 20 years, and that many Americans have no interest in fighting another faraway conflict with a fuzzy connection to national security. You would know that the U.S. itself can't seem to decide how strongly it feels about democracy... And you would know that the U.S. is so politically polarized that many voters and members of Congress may not rally around a president even during a foreign crisis."

Considering all of that, "you might not be feeling especially intimidated by the U.S.," he says. America still has the "world's largest economy, the most important currency, and strongest military," but as one of those leaders, you're becoming less and less worried that America has the stomach to stand up to your aggression. So, you do as Vladimir Putin has -- you send 70,000 troops to the Ukrainian border and test the waters.

Putin has long thought the Ukraine, formerly a part of the Soviet Union, should belong to Russia. "The two countries share a 1,200-mile border as well as cultural and linguistic ties (which many Ukrainians think Putin exaggerates)." Russia already "annexed" Crimean Peninsula in 2014, so gathering troops along the border is particularly worrisome to Ukraine and the rest of the world.

In a two-hour video conference with Putin Wednesday, Biden threatened all sorts of measures if Putin went ahead with his plan (which he denied having). The president vowed "strong economy and other measures" if there was an invasion. But just how much of a deterrent is that coming from Biden? FRC's Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin says not much. He thinks it's "very questionable" whether Biden still has the credibility to be taken seriously on threats like that. When a former Defense secretary says that Joe Biden has "been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades," Boykin explained, Russia is paying attention.

And, if given the chance, he believes, Putin would absolutely invade.

"They don't just have troops, they don't just have infantry and armor up there in that staging area. They have artillery, they have air defense, and they have the enablers or the support mechanisms to sustain a battle. So yes, I think that Putin is very serious here, and I think that this is a very tense situation now.

What we have to do is we have to provide the lethal material to the Ukrainians and make this a bloody battle... because the reason the Russians came out of Afghanistan was because after several years of sending young men home and body bags with no explanation as to why they were dying, the people in Russia really rose up against their own leadership... And the same thing has to happen this time. If they invade, it's got to be a bloody battle and there's got to be a lot of Russians killed and sent home in body bags because that will get the attention of the people of Russia, and they will not tolerate it."

With the Russian birth rate collapsing (barely 1.3 to 1.6 percent), Boykin points out, Putin is becoming more desperate. "If you think about the size of the country -- of Russia -- it's nine time zones across. You can't secure the borders of a nation like that unless you have buffer states. That's why they went into Georgia. That's why they went into Central Asia."

Of course, in many ways, Biden rolled out the red carpet for Putin when he lifted the sanction on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline the minute he got into office. He turned off America's pipelines but bent over backwards to give the Russians an avenue to Europe. "What do you think that said to the Russians? I mean, does that make sense? ...I mean, I don't know how it could make sense to anybody that is objective about this issue. So that... contributes to the lack of credibility of our president and his resolve to actually stop the Russians from moving into that part of the world and in a big way."

Let's say Russia does invade Ukraine next year. Why should Americans care? What's at stake for us? Well, for one, the global dominos would start to fall, Boykin argued. "If there was an invasion and the United States does not respond... do you think that China might be watching this? Do you think that China might think, 'Well, now is the time for us to go into Taiwan,' because that is their number one objective: to take Taiwan. And if they if we let them go in unopposed, they will take Taiwan." And that would have a tremendous -- and dangerous -- destabilizing effect on the whole world. It impacts the global economy, it impacts national security, and it impacts neighboring countries.

Maybe Biden will follow through with sanctions, but America needs stronger leadership to be effective and to have the international cooperation we need to actually stop these bad actors. "I think one of the long term setbacks [from the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal] is that other countries don't trust us. They don't trust our president," the general warned, "and they don't trust this administration. And that's a bad thing at a time like this."