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Biden team tenses to avoid repeat of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

During his campaign for the White House, President Joe Biden portrayed himself as a veteran statesman whose decades of foreign policy experience could guide America back to the top of the national order. economic.

On Tuesday, Biden could face the most significant test of that promise.

The video call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the second bilateral meeting between the two leaders, is expected to focus on Russia’s growing military presence on the border with Ukraine — and its ability to operate swift US action if Putin invades its southern neighbor for the second time since 2014.

But Biden, facing multiple domestic political crises and still politically battered after the crisis in Afghanistan, may not have as much room to maneuver as he might need to prevent Putin from taking action. an annexation or invasion of Ukrainian territory.

American officials have tried to quash speculation that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is a matter of when, not if. But from US Secretary of State Tony Blinken to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, officials have noted a buildup along Ukraine’s border, along with disinformation campaigns about troubles in the region. The country is believed to be in eastern Ukraine, the cause of Russia’s 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

“We know what President Putin has done in the past,” Psaki told reporters Friday, following Blinken’s remarks. “We see that he is offering the possibility to act in the short term, and if he decides to invade, that’s why we want to be prepared in an area that we already have. expressed serious concern.”

This problem is old — Russia has long considered Ukraine “one people” with Russia and Territorial expansion is already the name of the game for several years. Typical: Russia’s successful annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing conflict in the Donbass. But Russia’s buildup of troops and military equipment along the Ukrainian border is raising alarm that Russia may be more serious about an incursion into Ukraine than it was in April this year and is perhaps preparing to proceed. an even bigger attack than their 2014 campaign.

According to the US intelligence assessment, Russia is expected to continue to increase its number of troops to 175,000 early next year, with equipment arranged to accelerate quickly, according to the assessment of US intelligence. Articles washington reported.

So far, the Biden administration’s plan to contain Russia has come complete with economic sanctions and measures to prevent Putin from further encroaching on red-line territory — including the nuclear option. is to cut Russia off from the global network of communications used to facilitate payments and transfers between banks or other means against Putin’s associates, CNN reported.

But even the severity of any economic sanctions imposed on Russia in response to an invasion is a fine needle to thread. Sanctions that are not strong enough to inflict material damage on the Russian economy will ultimately do little to deter further aggression in the region and beyond. However, sanctions that are too harsh could harm US allies in Europe, who are increasingly dependent on Russian oil and natural gas imports to meet their energy needs. .

“We believe we have a way forward that will involve substantial economic countermeasures by both Europe and the United States that will cause serious economic damage to the Russian economy, if they choose to continue,” said a senior administration official, adding that they felt that the potential action plan would “send a clear message to Russia that there will be real, meaningful costs and permanent” to a military escalation in the region.

The president’s public opinion ratings have yet to recover from US withdraws from Afghanistan, considered by many to be a humanitarian disaster and a humiliating defeat despite decades of fighting, thousands of military casualties and trillions of dollars. The possibility of another foreign draw – even without US troops on the ground – risks further undermining Biden’s argument that his administration will hand over authority to foreign policy. of America.

Biden finds himself in between a rock and a hard place in other ways. Misuse the preparations for an eventual Putin-led invasion, and the administration risks looking like a “boy crying wolf” if, as some analysts have warned, Russia doesn’t actually invade. Ukraine strategy. But being too soft on Russia or acting too slow in the face of Russia’s growing military buildup and equipment and Biden risks essentially opening the door for Russia to take more drastic measures.

“The US and our European partners have tried to appease Putin before,” ambassador John Herbst, who served as US ambassador to Ukraine under President George W. Bush, told The Daily Beast. “We did it with Georgia in 2008 and what we got was Russia taking Crimea in 2014. We did it with Crimea in 2014 and what we got was intervention. militarily into the Donbass in 2014. We know that appeasement doesn’t work.”

However, economic measures alone may not be enough to break Putin’s resolve, Herbst said.

Herbst told The Daily Beast: “The more the merrier, and says America has to run with both economic means and military means. “We should further strengthen our military presence in the East of the alliance… we should try to do that now in a timely manner; in the Baltic countries, in Poland and Romania. “

The complex nature of the tripartite relationship between Russia, Europe and the United States has cause a big headache for the Biden administration on the diplomatic front. Nearly 100 candidates for State Department and ambassadorial positions have been nominated by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) due to Biden’s refusal to implement sanctions imposed by Congress on Nord Stream 2. , a now-completed natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. Biden suspended the implementation of all those sanctions at Germany’s request in hopes of mending America’s relationship with the country, which had become a frayed history under the Trump administration.

Pointing to the delicate nature of Biden’s tightening action, the president spent much of Monday talking to European leaders to “coordinate his message and make sure he goes Enter that conversation with President Putin with strong allied and transatlantic solidarity,” according to a senior administration official. Joining the crowded conference meeting were Biden, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

All five leaders “agreed that their groups would stay in close contact, including in consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a comprehensive and coordinated approach” to the meeting. crisis, according to a news release published Monday night.

The alternative is to speak a language that Russia can best understand: military force. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are working to increase Defense Department security assistance to Ukraine to $50 million in an effort to use military aid as such. a deterrent signal for Russia to turn its back on killing.

When it comes to when the US should ramp up military aid and station more US troops abroad to counter Russia, that’s also a delicate balance, Shaheen told The Daily Beast.

“There have been a lot of requests from the Baltic states – from Poland – to increase the number of US troops stationed in Europe near the border with Russia,” said Shaheen. “We have to be very thoughtful about our response because we want to make it clear to Putin that entering Ukraine is unacceptable. But we also don’t want to provoke an incident that gives him an excuse to go to Ukraine.”

Putin “stated that NATO and the West are threatening Russia… on the border of Eastern Europe, so it is really important to be careful about how we react so that we don’t give him an excuse to go into Ukraine like he did. maybe he’s protecting his own interests,” added Shaheen.

But the Biden camp seems reluctant to force it to continue with a more dramatic military focus. Asked if Biden had told Putin that there would be direct military intervention if Russian troops entered Ukraine, the official called the suggestion “massive public attacks,” and let Biden himself say under what circumstances the US military would be involved.

“The United States will not seek to end up in a situation where the focus of our countermeasures is the direct use of American military force, as opposed to a combination of support,” the official said. Ukrainian military, strong economic countermeasures, and a significant increase in support and capabilities for our NATO allies. “

The official rejected the notion that public threats of retaliation, even private ones, would be an effective tool to warn against Russian aggression, promising that Biden will engage in bilateral negotiations “in a professional, frank, candid manner… without any kind of hype flourishing or waving. (At that time, Biden will likely avoid repeat his dispute from last spring that Putin was a “murderer,” a comment that angered the Russian government at the time.)

Mr. Shaheen said, on whether the Biden administration and NATO have prevented Russia from carrying out an invasion to the end, the jury is still out.

Shaheen told The Daily Beast. “And I think we’re still really growing. That’s why the president will talk to Vladimir Putin tomorrow, that’s why several senior State Department officials have been sent to different countries in Europe and NATO to talk. talk to them”.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/team-biden-straining-to-avoid-repeat-russia-invasion-of-ukraine?source=articles&via=rss Biden team tenses to avoid repeat of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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