President Biden Blinked First and Turned into Chamberlain
Ukrainians around the world – and probably peoples of the former captive nations – were hoping against hope that President Biden would demonstrate strength, conviction and loyalty in defending Ukraine against Russian terrorism and invasion.
That was not to be. Biden on December 7 came virtually eye to eye with Moscow’s führer Putin and the American commander in chief blinked first. Munich 1938 repeated itself in December 2021 with the White House favorably listening to the possibility to appeasing Moscow.
According to the Associated Press and other media, Washington has been caught supporting the idea of perhaps arm twisting Kyiv into ceding Ukrainian land to Russia to quench its aggressive appetite for re-subjugating Ukraine. This has been the goal of Moscow for the past 1,000 years though the Ukrainian nation has bravely fought off Russia’s armies and solidified independence for three decades only to raise again its armed forces to defend against Russian invaders.
“Administration officials have suggested that the US will press Ukraine to formally cede a measure of autonomy to eastern Ukrainian lands now controlled by Russia-backed separatists who rose up against Kyiv in 2014. An undefined ‘special status’ for those areas was laid out in an ambiguous, European-brokered peace deal in 2015, but it has never taken hold,” reported the Associated Press and other news outlets today.
With that kind of offer on the table, Moscow doesn’t have to demand anything. Its position now will be to let the Americans trip over themselves as they expand on this suggestion or walk it back.
Some analysts revealed that for Biden the challenge will be to encourage Kyiv to accept some of the facts on the ground in eastern Ukraine, without appearing to cave to Putin — a perception that could embolden the Russian leader and unleash a fresh line of condemnations by Republicans as Biden’s popularity is already in decline. Truthfully, the cat is out of the bag with this disclosure. Even Steven Pifer, a former US ambassador to Ukraine, suggested that Ukraine may be asked to make some step forward on topics such as allowing the Russian-occupied Donbas to control its own health care, police and schools, he said.
Biden has offered US participation in negotiations alongside Europeans, not just to settle the conflict in eastern Ukraine but to address Putin’s larger strategic objections to NATO expanding membership and building military capacity ever closer to Russia’s borders. These meetings would reportedly address the future of Russia’s concern relative to NATO expansion, “and whether or not we could work out any accommodations as it relates to bringing down the temperature in Ukraine’s east,” Biden said.
That premise is wholly wrong and perfidious. It places the onus on Ukraine for mollifying Russian demands. No special status, no more discussions. Negotiations have resulted in nothing except wasting time and effort which contributed to civilian and military deaths and infrastructure destruction. And Ukraine is the victim, not the perpetrator. Ukraine was violated by Moscow and its people have been killed, maimed and imprisoned by Russian soldiers and terrorists. That’s like asking a rape victim to participate in a compromise with the rapist.
Everything that is being discussed today, every idea and word, conjures up a distasteful compromise that no sovereign nation can be asked to accept. The only point worthy of talks is when are the Russian armies, tanks and artillery packing up and evacuating back to their Moskovy. If Washington doesn’t endorse than issue 100%, then it is not worthy of being a friend, ally or strategic partner of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Moscow is still threatening Ukraine with swift and bloody reprisals if its armed forces attempt to re-capture and liberate Donbas, surely a righteous mission of all subjugated nations. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, called media reports about Russia allegedly preparing an attack on Ukraine “a lie” and charged that Ukraine is to blame for escalating tensions in war-torn Donbas, by deploying new weapons there. He warned Kyiv against using force in the area. “Any provocations by Ukrainian authorities to settle the Donbas problems with force will be suppressed,” he said.
Ukraine’s last great hope is the US House of Representatives, which approved on December 7 the 2022 annual defense spending bill that includes $300 million in aid for Ukraine. As part of the bill, the Ukrainian armed forces would receive $300 million in 2022 under the Security Assistance Initiative. This includes $75 million for lethal weapons. The package is $50 million greater than Biden had requested earlier.
The only consolation the White House could offer Ukraine, whose President Zelenskyy still believes in America’s undying support for his country’s independence and sovereignty, is Biden continuing to warn Putin that Moscow would face “economic consequences like none he’s ever seen” if it invaded Ukraine and that an attack would prompt the US to reinforce a presence in NATO countries and provide support to Ukraine. However, nothing more. Asked if he would rule out troops on the ground in Ukraine, Biden said that is “not on the table.”
“We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article 5, it’s a sacred obligation,” Biden was quoted as saying. “That obligation does not extend to NATO – I mean to Ukraine. But it would depend upon what rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well. But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on, in the cards right now. What will happen is there will be severe consequences.”
Those unspecified consequences never have and never will faze Putin.
The White House and President Biden must appreciate that being a friend, ally and strategic partner of Ukraine, which has fought for everything that it has achieved as it borders its greatest enemy Russia mean more than just mere words. The 1,000-year-old aspiration of a civilized people to become independent and then preserve it in the face of numerous enemies over many centuries cannot be demeaned and quelled even by purported allies’ betrayal. There will be a great deal of blood as Ukraine continues to fight against Russian aggression. Ukraine’s divine right to its existence, independence and sovereignty cannot by violated by friends’ disloyalty or enemies’ invasions.
The free world should take to heart the words of Anne O’Hare McCormick, an English-American journalist, New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner, who wrote a long time ago: “But the responsibility of the United States is the greatest of all, for the nations trust her to make a good peace.”
Indeed, the remnants of that belief still remain in the post-Afghanistan era. And among those who naively or not still trust America are 45 million Ukrainians in their native, besieged Ukraine and about 25 million Ukrainians abroad.
President Biden, shed Chamberlain’s waistcoat and be a mensch!