The US position and future actions on the Ukraine continue to evolve as more reporting comes out. Reportedly, in order to avoid a broader military conflict, President Biden has apparently advised Ukraine to appease Russian President Vladimir Putin by potentially ceding territory or granting autonomy to the Russian-backed separatist regions, The Daily Caller reported on Sunday.
The report of Biden allegedly urging Ukrainian appeasement of Putin coincides with public remarks he made that essentially foreswore the possibility of America taking any sort of military action to oppose Russian aggression against Ukraine.
It was the Associated Press that first reported on the supposed concessions President Biden had suggested in a call Thursday with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which came two days after a call Biden held with Putin to discuss, among other things, the unsettling situation on the border shared by the two former Soviet republics.
In a sense, Biden offered up conflicting messages to Ukraine and the world, in that he reportedly assured Zelensky that the US would defend Ukrainian sovereignty and territory and would respond to any Russian invasion with defensive aid, military deployments to nearby NATO allies, and harsh economic sanctions aimed at Russia.
At the same time, however, the Biden administration was reportedly pressing Ukraine to grant greater autonomy to the Russia-aligned regions controlled by separatists who had revolted against the government in Kyiv in 2014. Those eastern regions, such as Donbas, are currently labeled with an ambiguous and vaguely-defined “special status” that was established in a 2015 peace deal but has never been formalized.
Also, the Biden administration is reportedly holding back $200 million in aid to Ukraine. Is this to gain leverage with Russia (if they don’t invade then no aid) or is it leverage against the Ukraine to make concessions? When talking of leverage, one must always consider sanctions and embargos. The biggest item the US could embargo is gas and oil. They account for about 30% of Russia’s annual income—oh I forget that we are no longer an oil exporter. This leverage is gone and Putin knows it. This brings us back to the capitulation or some other kind of military action.
In effect, it would appear that Biden and his administration are searching for a way to cave to Putin’s ambitions and demands without appearing publicly to do so, and it will undoubtedly be a hard sell to get Ukraine to go along with it, to say nothing of other actual NATO allies situated on Russia’s flank who could see themselves facing a similar fate in the future.
Biden noted that he also informed Putin — and Putin reportedly understood — that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would likely result in the U.S. troop presence being bolstered in other nearby NATO nations, as well as that America would provide Ukraine with additional “defensive capability.”
However, as for putting U.S. “boots on the ground” in Ukraine, Biden said, “That is not on the table.”
However, there are other military options in the region that could leverage Russia to back off from any invasion of Ukraine. Whether the Biden administration has the stomach for true strategic maneuvering we do not know, but thought repeating some ideas that are now getting some visibility in Washington might be useful.
A major military operation in Ukraine would take most of Russia’s active military ground and airborne forces to accomplish, but it could be done. But what if there were other demands on those forces? Obviously, such strategic actions would be a combination of political/diplomatic, economic, psychological and military activities. However, it is the military activity that needs to be considered as it is the foremost activity that Russia will understand.
Since military force is something that Russia seems to understand, are there other theaters where Russian hegemony can be challenged creating a need for a Russian military response—thus diluting the force available to attack Ukraine? Said differently: Are there non warfighting force deployments that could demonstrate US/NATO resolve while controlling the possibility of escalation. Such deployments would also allow Biden to portray an image of strength and statesmanship. And if he followed through, he could be an emancipator.
What if the US/NATO were to threaten Russia’s previous efforts to establish buffer zones through so-called “frozen conflicts?”
In Georgia, Russia has created two autonomous zones through frozen conflicts — Abkhazia in the Black Sea region and Ossetia in the north. In Moldova, a small Russian force remains inside the breakaway Republic of Transnistria, which borders Ukraine.
These Russian expansionist deployments are exposed and vulnerable to military action. Military action by Georgia and Moldova, supported by the US and NATO. Most importantly, threatening these zones would not threaten Russian territory. Russia has not declared them to be Russian territory. Reinforcing Moldovan and Georgian forces with NATO forces could create a credible threat to retake these breakaway zones. To hold them would require Russia to divert military forces from those they plan to use against Ukraine. How much of a threat would be required? Probably several armored brigade combat teams with air support could create a credible threat. Russia would have to divert at least comparable forces not counting those required to open and maintain robust lines of communication.
Also, the US and NATO could threaten to conduct a blockade or quarantine of the Russian exclave in Kaliningrad which is surrounded by Poland and the Baltic Sea. Such an action would stress Russian military resources, especially when coupled with the build-ups around the Russian outposts in Moldova and Georgia.
There are also actions that could be taken with respect to the Black Sea, but that would require Turkish assistance. In a longer-term game such actions would be helpful, but in the short-term gaining active Turkish support against Russia might be quite difficult.
We can hope that President Biden’s strategic decisions are not limited to the weak positions outlined earlier. If the US and NATO want to prevent Russia from attacking Ukraine next month it would be prudent if they create counter pressure options similar to those noted above. That means more than “saying” we would take steps. The troops and equipment must be moved and positioned so that actions are available should NATO so choose. This is a non-combat option that will clearly be visible in Moscow. This is the kind of diplomacy through strength that Russian leaders can understand. Will leaders in Paris, Berlin, London and Washington understand?
Tuesday President Biden and President Putin conducted a two-hour teleconference. Based upon the reports Biden threatened much stiffer sanctions if Russia invaded the Ukraine. It is reported that he also promised more aid to the Ukraine from the US and its NATO partners.
Reportedly, he never put the threat of military action by the US or NATO on the table. In other words, by not threatening military action Putin can now operate on the knowledge that the US and NATO will not respond militarily to a Russian attack. In short deterrence has been destroyed if Putin is willing to absorb the threatened economic penalties. This corresponds to the growing consensus that Putin sees the US and Biden as weak. He has always seen NATO as weak (by looking at the member nations defense budgets), though unwilling to push too hard.
As a note—it never serves one well in an international negotiation to take anything off the table until a desired accommodation has been reached.
If I was Putin, I would get my economic house in order while waiting for the ground to freeze in the Ukraine. Once he is prepared militarily and economically the road is clear for the Russian attack. If/when Russia is successful in conquering Ukraine, he will have solved the strategic problem of Ukraine possible entering NATO and he will have created an economic problem in the NATO area abutting Ukraine as it deals with all of the Ukrainian refugees from the fighting and will have undermined the downstream creditability of NATO. This later may create an unintended consequence for Russia. The next time it acts belligerently, thinking that such behavior worked the previous time, the knee jerk reaction may be overwhelming and greatly exceed Russia’s expectations and NATOs normal modus operandi. In other words, NATO’s future over reaction may actually inflict real damage on Russia.
Biden and NATO need to put the military option back on the table. I would recommend mobilized forces on the southern Polish border prepared to attack and at least partially cut the Russian lines of communication into Ukraine. This threat might be a sufficient deterrent.
Ukraine, a non-NATO member may prove to be the unwinding of NATO, if the above weakness is exploited in the Baltic states. When one looks at the whole Ukrainian situation, he needs to look at a much larger three-dimensional chess board. The Biden administration, to date, has not proven to be very good at considering unintentional consequences or long-term consequences. Maybe the Ukrainian drama will teach them how to operate an a dynamic and fluid international environment—one can only hope.
As I said in Monday’s piece, we will keep our eyes open.
While most eyes have been focused on the Biden administration’s problems and attempts to impose a dictatorial state, foreign issues have continued to increase as areas of concern specifically the Russian build up along the border with Ukraine and the Chinese bellicose talk and actions in the Taiwan straits. As is my wont I will discuss these two in order with this piece being about the Ukraine and the next being about Taiwan.
Amid recent news that Russia has initiated a “large and unusual” – and potentially warlike – buildup of troops along the border with Ukraine, a top State Department diplomat has revealed that “all options are on the table” with regard to a possible response. We must consider the rhetoric and its meaning as part of any determination of what is occurring. We have been following events for several weeks and hope that this will make readers current.
The above map of Ukraine and surrounding countries highlights how geography plays in this growing “situation”. Russian seized the Crimea several years ago. Belarus remains loyal to Russia. Romania and Poland are members of NATO. Moldova is independent and neutral but has cultural ties to Romania and Ukraine.
Map courtesy of the Economist.
According to Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, countries comprising the NATO alliance were set to consult last week on next steps in dealing with the Russian military mobilization of roughly 100,000 troops. Speaking to reporters during a telephone briefing, Donfried said, “As you can appreciate, all options are on the table, and there’s a toolkit that includes a whole range of options,” according to Voice of America (VOA).
Donfried’s remarks were made ahead of a trip last week for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Sweden and Latvia in which he is slated to attend meetings with officials from NATO as well as from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and it seems certain that those talks will focus – at least in part – on Russia’s seemingly aggressive and potentially threatening conduct.
Whether Blinken was likely to meet with Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister while in Sweden remained unknown, though Donfried suggested that reporters simply “stay tuned.”(The meeting actually took place as discussed subsequently.) VOA also noted that President Biden had himself expressed alarm over the troops amassing on Ukraine’s border with Russia and reiterated American respect for the territorial boundaries of that nation, indicating also that he would “in all probability” discuss the situation with Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin, the leaders of the two countries at issue.
It was also reported that last week, Biden administration national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Andriy Yermak of Ukraine and lamented the “harsh rhetoric” employed by Russia in this regard, concurring that diplomatic measures should indeed be undertaken in order to tamp down tensions.
While concerns have grown among western nations about the troop movements along the border and the possibility of an imminent Russian attack, Putin and his deputies have continued to deny such suggestions and dismiss them as irrational fearmongering, according to VOA.
While Russia’s ultimate motivation for this latest troop buildup still is unclear a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation noted that: “What seems to have changed is Russia’s assessment of where things are going,”. “They seem to have concluded that unless they do something, the trend lines are heading to Russia losing Ukraine.”
Also, according to the defense-intelligence firm Janes, much of the recent Russian deployment has been covert, often taking place at night and carried out by elite ground units, in contrast to the fairly open buildup in the spring. The build up only became apparent due to its size.
Reports indicate that the possible invasion will occur in January when the ground is frozen, thus enhancing the mobility or armored vehicles cross country. The build up has, as noted above, been semi-clandestine. It has had a unique characteristic. The Russian troops moved their heavy equipment forward, established bivouac areas and then returned to their home stations. This prepositioning would seem to be designed to allow for the Russian troops to quickly return to their equipment and subsequently launch an attack.
Ukraine has declared its ambition to join the EU and NATO, to Russia’s dismay. While Russian officials often boast privately that their forces could quickly reach Kiev, it would be much more difficult to maintain control of a country of 44 million inhospitable people amid international condemnation.
Putin warned Europe last April that “they will regret it more than they’ve regretted anything in a long time” if they cross Russia’s “red line” on security. The deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Pyotr Tolstoy, declared that “all of Ukraine will be part of Russia and there won’t be any Ukraine” in a debate broadcast on Russian TV.
As part of the bellicose statements,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an address to the nation: “I hope now the whole world clearly sees who really wants peace and who is concentrating almost 100,000 troops on our border. “Psychological pressure from Russia doesn’t have an impact on us, our intelligence has all the information, our army is ready to repel anytime and anywhere.”
As the above rhetoric suggests neither side is backing down, nor can it without losing face. During previous confrontations in the region the Obama administration provided non-military aid, the Trump administration provided weapons and ammunition and so far, the Biden administration has provided words. The foreign aid from the US and NATO that is forthcoming from the current set of talks will be very instructive. It will indicate several things:
- The resolve of the western nations
- How serious the Russian threat is perceived to be
- The direction that tensions are evolving, and
- Harbingers of the future.
Interestingly, there has been no suggestion of reinforcing Poland or the Baltic states with NATO or US forces. Such reinforcements, would clearly be seen as reassuring to NATO allies and the Ukraine and threatening by Russia. The problem with US reinforcements is the lag time involved between a decision and boots on the ground. As we have noted in previous articles, the US maintains a small token prepositioned set of equipment in Germany, but those are a long way from any battlefields in Eastern Europe. A movement to deploy troops to that equipment would certainly be seen as escalatory by the Russians and insufficient by NATO, unless NATO were willing to forward deploy troops its self. The deployment could even serve as a decision point for the Russians to launch their attack before US troops, except the brigade or so currently deployed in the region, could enter the fray.
There are those that have suggested the President Biden’s weaknesses may be a tempting opportunity to Putin. However, those that believe in “wag the dog” theories suggest that such a move by Putin would be the recovery opportunity that Biden seeks and thus he (Putin) will not provide it. And the discussion continues. On Friday, President Joe Biden said that he is going to make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to invade Ukraine. “What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr. Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do,” Biden said.
What exactly this would entail is unclear, but it follows similar comments made earlier last week by Secretary of State Blinken, who had met with Lavrov. Lavrov, following the meeting, claimed that Blinken threatened Russia with new sanctions, but did not go into details. Lavrov also threatened a response from Russia if the U.S. follows through with such sanctions.
In an adjacent theater the Russians have threatened a US destroyer that entered the Black Sea. Historically the Russians have thought of the Black Sea as their own private lake, but since the fall of the iron curtain, now NATO states like Romania have had different thoughts. The Black Sea thus offers a separate place for a US-Russian show down to occur—one where the force multipliers are clearly in Russia’s favor.
It appears that arrangements are currently being made for a conversation between Biden and Putin—possibly as early as tomorrow.
As the situation continues to unfold, we will stay on top of it.
I, like most Americans, celebrated the Republican victories of early November. After these results all across the country the pundits said that the Democrats could lose the Senate and 70 seats in the House next year. Catastrophic? But the Democrats just seem to be yawning over such reports. I think that I can almost understand their thinking and am going to lay it out here.
Reminder: During his 8 years in office Obama lost a lot of local elections and didn’t really care. He had a long-term vision and was above those hardworking people at the grassroots level. (There is even a video piece running around the internet where he says that the people are not smart enough to understand where he was headed or to rule themselves.)
The Democrats have written off the traditional hard working middle class. Their goal is to eliminate the traditional middle class through taxes, mask and vaccination mandates, etc. They have already reduced the working population through giveaways in the name of COVID relief. The part of the population who have become dependent upon government largesse is increasing daily as they add refugees and illegal aliens and spread them around the country.
If you listen to both Biden and before him Obama the goal has always been to get rid of the middle class. They both have said that the people are incapable of governing themselves. They need the help of Martha’s Vineyard elites, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and those smart government bureaucrats who mostly live in Northern Virginia. (There may have been a small crack in that part of the ruling elite, but one election is not definitive.) (Readers will note that I excluded large corporations as most likely their shareholders may force them back to being almost politically neutral. )
Once the huge giveaways are passed and become law the Democrats’ idea is that even if the Republicans gain control of the government, they cannot take away the giveaways. Their hope is to have this all imbedded to create the dependency stage by early 2024. This explains the push on the second of the two big bills in Congress right now. Eventually the gift givers will be returned to power. Power over a few liberal elites, pockets of conservatives with some resources, and the masses who will beg for their next freebie. The younger generation already has a significant number of buy me, get me, give me members. The expectation is that that number will grow.
As part of this strategy energy development and complex manufacturing must be outsourced as the skilled labor required to accomplish such tasks will have been eliminated. Is this the Achilles heel of the plan? Will those illegals and refugees who came to America for the American dream be willing to not be able to rise towards that dream? How can you make it obvious to them that they are being denied? Maybe some Hispanics who are voting more and more for Republicans understand this threat. It is clear that they understand what cheaper alien labor means to their standard of living. There are some blacks who are also figuring this out.
What is amazing is that Biden’s handlers do not even fear impeachment. They are violating laws and judicial edicts and saying “so what” as they thumb their noses at the people who expect elected leaders to abide by the law. They know even if they lose the 2022 elections and control on the Congress there will always be at least 34 Democratic senators to vote against impeaching Biden. The fear of a Harris administration goes a long way in keeping at least 34 Senators in line. Of course if she should be eliminated first?
Trump won in 2016 by appealing to the hard workers of America. Any future Republican candidate will need to continue that theme. In the interim the Democrat giveaway strategy must be shown to be bankrupt. There will be rapes of kids in the new day care centers, there will be graft in the giveaways, and life will not be improving as promised. These problems must be highlighted! Every time a school teacher or administrator steps over the line those who protect them must be highlighted. It is the failure of the giveaways that will do more than a lot of things to make reversal of such programs possible.
I know that there are many of you who are saying that this could never happen in America and others who are saying shame on you for exposing ‘the plan.” My hope is that both groups will think about what I have presented here and decide that America is better than this. If that doesn’t happen the next likely scenario is some form of rebellion, as a I mentioned in my last article about mandates.
This may come sooner rather than later if Americans awaken to the Democratic Plan.
What would happen if nobody took the freebies?