At a press conference in the White House, the president revealed the first batch of sanctions, which target Russian financial institutions, elite individuals, and the sovereign national debt of Moscow. Biden also mobilized additional American troops to NATO allies in the Baltic countries. These measures, although they will probably not solve the crisis and are the bare minimum, are politically appropriate and a step in the right direction.
Putin’s decision to threaten what could possibly be the largest conventional war since 1945 did not respond to an aggressive move by Ukraine’s Zelensky or an extraordinary change of circumstances in the ground of Eastern Ukraine. No, Putin’s move was based on the underlying assumption that America, as it displayed in the embarrassing Kabul retreat, was weak and would not make any moves to counter Moscow’s intentions.
Many of these assumptions were fueled by Biden’s previous errors, however, the decisions the president has made over the last couple of days are the correct ones. Imposing sanctions is not fueling the flames of war, but is just the reasonable and logical reaction to an aggressive Russia, let us hope that the president keeps his word and maintains his resolve if Putin decides to continue its invasion of parts of Ukraine that go beyond the Donbast region.
Sending extra troops to the Baltic states is also a logical and reasonable decision, as all of these countries have also had a history of enduring Russian occupations both under Zarist and soviet rule. It is sensible that the U.S. sends troops to NATO allies who might now feel threatened by a Kremlin that is trying to restore, in Putin’s words, the sphere of influence that Moscow had controlled for centuries. It is also sensible for NATO to not send troops to Ukraine, as it would risk a full-on war with a nuclear power.
Most importantly, the Western Alliance has managed to convince Germany to finally stop the construction of Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline that would make Berlin even more dependent on Moscow for its energy needs. By agreeing to cancel the project, Moscow has (for the moment) failed to create a wedge between Washington DC and continental Europe, although it is still unwritten if Berlin will maintain this commitment for the long term. The cancellation of Nord Stream 2, by the way, is a 180-degree policy turn of the Biden administration that had previously greenlighted the project and is a vindication for Republican Senators who heavily criticized the administration for it.
While Biden’s decisions on the beginnings of the Russian invasion of Ukraine might be a step in the right direction, this does not mean that the crisis is magically solved or that the administration’s foreign policy is now being run by illustrated statesmen, in fact, the administration still has made some debatable decisions in the crisis, like revealing timetables of Russian invasion, evacuating its embassy to Poland or recommending Zelensky to flee his own country.
There are still more than 150,000 Russian soldiers in the borders near Ukraine and the threat of a bloody, catastrophic large-scale attack remains looming on the horizon and Biden will need to show that he is up to the task, defying a fairly disastrous track record that the president has had over his first year.
Finally, let us hope that diplomacy and negotiation will be enough to solve the crisis. A full, conventional war on Ukraine would be a disastrous nightmare for the Ukrainian, Russian and European peoples, leaving dozens of thousands dead and triggering a massive refugee crisis across the continent. Although it now looks unlikely that Putin will stop any full-scale war due to threats of further sanctions, applying them remain the logical reaction, as it is better than doing nothing or threatening full-on-war with the biggest nuclear power in the world.