For almost a month now, the Biden administration has been insisting a Russian invasion of Ukraine is imminent. That projection was re-upped on Friday when the president held a presser in which he asserted that Vladimir Putin had already made the decision to launch an attack and that it would happen in the “coming days.”
The date of the supposed invasion of Ukraine has changed several times now, showing the limits of foreign intelligence and raising questions about what exactly the administration's strategy is. What is to be gained by continually trying to publicly “predict” when Putin will make his move? And even then, Biden and his cohorts have been wrong so many times in the last month that their assertions just come across as guesses.
To this point, I've assumed that the goal, naive as it may be, was to place Putin in the position of proving the United States right if he invades. The thought behind such a strategy would be to challenge the Russian leader's ego, so that he'd choose to not invade just to be able to claim the West overreacted.
To be clear, that's a really dumb strategy with little chance of success, but as it turns out, Biden's actual strategy is even worse than originally thought. Instead of playing mind games with Putin to deter an invasion, according to Biden, the monthlong predictions of a coming invasion are simply meant to…assign blame?
We're calling out Russia’s plans. Not because we want a conflict, but because we are doing everything in our power to remove any reason Russia may give to justify invading Ukraine.— President Biden (@POTUS) February 19, 2022
If Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice.
Does the president really think Russia cares about being blamed for starting a war in Ukraine? Everyone already knows Russia is to blame for the current crisis, and Putin is far too calculating to be affected by what Denmark and France think. This is akin to the administration releasing sternly worded letters to the Taliban warning them they'll be ostracized from the international community if they don't stop terrorizing people. Why the heck would the Taliban care about that?
Here, I thought maybe, just maybe, Biden might have some actual plan working behind the scenes, but as it turns out, he's just practicing more hashtag diplomacy. A despot like Putin is not deterred by finger-wagging from Western nations. It certainly didn't deter him when he invaded Georgia in 2008 or when he moved into Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014. It is incredibly dumb to think such a move would work today, especially when the United States and NATO have only weakened further.
But don't take my word for it, though. Do you know who else thinks Biden's strategy makes absolutely no sense? The Ukrainians. You know, the country that Russia is threatening to invade.
President Zelensky reiterates that Ukraine has asked the West if you are sure will invade “within days” you should sanction them now – “it won’t help once they are there” @MunSecConf— Hadley Gamble (@_HadleyGamble) February 19, 2022
Zalensky's critique is spot on. If a Russian invasion is a foregone conclusion, something Biden himself has said, then why are the Western powers not moving to enact sanctions now? What good is it going to do to sanction Russia once they've seized the oil-producing regions in the north and started the march toward Kyiv? At that point, the genie is out of the bottle, and Putin is not going to back down over threats of possible financial hardship.
The time to use the leverage the West has over Russia is before thousands of people die, not after it's too late to matter. Biden's feckless strategy of just virtue signaling about blame only makes an invasion more likely because it signals to Putin that the United States is weak and unwilling to take real action. Ukraine's leadership is smart enough to see that. Why isn't Joe Biden?