By James Jay Carafano*
A year of warfare in Ukraine has shown that President Biden is a terrible leader. The saving grace? Vladimir Putin is far worse.
That said, reliving the past is not what is most important now. There are no do-overs in war. Americans must think about what is next—the future of the U.S. in Europe. And because of Putin’s many misjudgments, that future could be very promising indeed.
The U.S. has a serious stake in a peaceful and prosperous Europe. That’s why we are still in NATO. The alliance helps protect us and our interests.
That is also why Russia and China want NATO gone and America out of Europe. The invasion of Ukraine was their biggest, boldest step toward that goal.
What happened? Well, for starters, Putin appears to be the worst war leader in modern memory. He not only can’t defeat Ukraine, he can’t even consolidate control over the occupied territory.
Still, persistent concerns that he might escalate the war remain. Well, who knows what Putin will do? But if he can’t defeat Ukraine, will he really venture attacking others (say, Moldova) as well? For the last year, Putin has fought every day, and every day his conventional land forces are weaker than they were the day before. It’s hard to see that changing.
As we mark the anniversary, we should not forget that, as titular Leader of the Free World, Biden’s leadership has often been MIA. It started before the invasion. Biden came into office sending strong signals he didn’t care about Europe, Ukraine or Russia. Then, when Russia was on the march, he spent a year doing nothing more than finger wave and threaten tepid sanctions.
Once the fighting began, Biden’s brave first act was to encourage Ukraine’s president to run away. If not for his humiliation in Afghanistan and the fact that Ukrainians refused to fall, Biden would have turned his back on Ukraine.
Now, we have Biden recasting himself as a hero. Sorry, that doesn’t sell. In his surprise trip to Kyiv, Biden declared, “We will be with you as long as it takes.” That statement surely rings hollow in the ears of Afghans now living in Taliban hell.
Blank-check Biden is also apparently not concerned about spending. Little surprise. He treats the American taxpayer like his personnel ATM. Still, Ukraine support represents but a fraction of the $5 trillion deficit rung up under Biden. Most of it was wasted on pet domestic “woke” projects.
Even the trip to Ukraine is less admirable than it appears. If he wished to show American resolve, Biden should have gone to Kyiv when Ukraine was in maximum peril. Instead, he withheld weapons that might have ended this conflict faster. But now he shows up—after first checking with Putin to make it was safe enough to go. Spare me.
Let’s be honest. There are feckless leaders in both Moscow and Washington. While we should have little faith in them, we can have faith in ourselves to make the best of the way forward.
First, we need to put an end to the profligate ways of Blank-check Biden. The U.S. has already earmarked almost $200 billion in aid to Ukraine. Thankfully, we have new leadership in Congress that looks up to the task.
Second, we need to think about what the future U.S. footprint in Europe ought to look like. Since the Russian conventional threat is greatly diminished, and our allies are waking up to their responsibilities to do more in their self-defense, a more limited presence makes sense. More forces could be rotational, but they have to be persistent and forward present on NATO’s eastern frontier to deter future Russian recklessness.
Third, we need to start building better partnerships in Europe. Europe knows Biden is a fair-weather friend. There are many and a growing number of center-right governments in North, Central and Southern Europe. Italy is but one example.
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These governments are pro-U.S., pro-NATO, anti-Putin and anti-China. They have proven remarkably resilient through the tumult of inflation, energy prices, and the unsettling war in Ukraine They are increasingly pro-family, pro-life, pro-parent directed education, and anti-woke.
They get that progressive climate policy is, at this point, a ruinous pipedream and recognize that oil and gas will necessarily be part of our critical energy mix for decades. They are weaning themselves from their dependence on Russian energy and serious about their commitments to NATO.
They see Russia losing in Ukraine as part of a better future for the whole transatlantic community. They look forward to working with a resolute and dependable U.S. president who will be real partner in building a better future that benefits both Americans and Europeans.
*James Jay Carafano is a leading expert in national security and foreign policy challenges.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and The Heritage Foundation.