Biden’s impossible bond: how should the US approach Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? | Joe Biden

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It is an impossible bond. Joe Biden faces calls for America to do more as Ukrainian civilians are being terrorized and killed by Russia. But he also doesn’t want to go down in history as the US President who instigated World War III.

Russia has so far bombarded Ukraine with more than 625 missiles, causing untold death and destruction and triggering an exodus of 2 million refugees, according to the Pentagon. Vladimir Putin is now reportedly recruiting Syrian mercenaries and preparing to level cities to break the will of the Ukrainians in the face of his invasion.

In response, the US President has imposed unprecedented sanctions and joined his allies in turning Russia into a global pariah. Last month he approved $350 million in military aid to Ukraine and he gave officials the green light to exchange intelligence with Kyiv at a “breakneck” pace.

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But none of this has prevented a humanitarian catastrophe that is creating traumatic images on television and on newspaper front pages. Anger, frustration and impotence reign among many in America: Why can’t the world’s greatest military superpower step in?

A vocal minority claim that Biden can and should. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman and veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, asked NATO Declare a “no-fly zone” to disrupt Russian air operations and “give a fair fight to the heroic Ukrainians.”

The call was echoed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who accused NATO of “weakness” and “disunity” after the alliance ruled it out.

But the Biden administration has firmly rejected the idea, fearing it could require US forces to shoot down Russian planes, thus drawing the two nuclear-armed nations into a confrontation. His caution-first approach posits a three-dimensional chess game in which a bad move could portend disaster.

Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday: “In everything we do for Ukraine, the President also has a responsibility not to put us in direct conflict, direct war with Russia, nuclear war bring power and risk a war that will even spread beyond Ukraine into Europe. That is clearly not in our interest. We are trying to end this war in Ukraine and not start a bigger one.”

Most members of Congress seem to be on the same page. Both Democrats and Republicans have warned that with his back to the wall and his questionable mental state, Putin could lash out in unpredictable ways.

Republican Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, “A no-fly zone has become a buzzword. I’m not sure many people understand what that means. That means flying Awacs [airborne warning and control system] 24 hours a day. That means readiness to shoot down and attack Russian planes in the sky.

“That means, frankly, you can’t put those planes there unless you’re willing to take out the anti-aircraft systems that the Russians have deployed, not just in Ukraine, but also in Russia, and also in Belarus… That means the beginning of the Third World War.”

Biden is well aware of how the law of unintended consequences has dogged US presidents during military misadventures in Vietnam and Iraq. Neoconservative nation-building has fallen into disrepute. Last year, Biden ended the country’s longest war in Afghanistan, so he has little appetite to start a new one.

But non-interference also has a moral cost.

In 2011, when Biden was vice president, Barack Obama declared that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad should step down, but he defied calls to send in US troops even as the regime killed, detained, tortured and used chemical weapons itself unleashed people.

Ukrainian soldiers inspect wrecked military vehicles abandoned by the Russian army in the Donbass region. Photo: EyePress News/Rex/Shutterstock

Hawks in Washington are urging Biden to avoid a similar scenario. John Boltona member of the Republican government since Ronald Reagan was President, said: “If you think you put NATO planes in the skies over Ukraine and there is an altercation between a NATO plane and a Russian plane, and one of them Debate in a moment You’re in World War III, you’ve given Russia an incredible impact on us.

“They’re scaring us off now, and that’s really the point: ‘No-fly zone leads to World War III.’ That is not true.”

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, went further by tweeting a suggestion that Putin be assassinated, a comment that illustrated how quickly hostile rhetoric can spiral out of control. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, bluntly responded, “That is not the position of the United States government and certainly not a statement that you would hear anyone working in that administration make.”

On the eve of a no-fly zone, Zelenskyy has asked for Soviet-era MiG-29 jets that Ukrainian pilots can operate. On Tuesday, Poland agreed to send all of its MiG-29s “immediately and free of charge” to an American airbase in Germany for delivery to Ukraine. But the timing remains uncertain.

Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said: “The clock is ticking and Russia is attacking Ukraine’s airfields. President Biden needs to get this MiG transfer done, and he needs to get it done today. Ukraine does not have time for paperwork. Load up those MiGs and take them to Ukrainian pilots who can still make a difference. Don’t walk slowly here.”

But the Pentagon then appeared to scupper — or at least delay — the plan, saying it was not “sustainable.”

In a statement, the Pentagon said the prospect of the jets departing from a US airbase “to fly into airspace contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance.”

Meanwhile, despite domestic political risks, Biden has banned all imports of Russian oil and gas and increased the number of US troops in Europe to around 100,000. He is involved in the most dangerous showdown with a Russian leader since John F. Kennedy faced Nikita Khrushchev in the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago.

Lawrence Haas, former Vice President Al Gore’s communications director and author of The Kennedys in the World, said: “Biden needs to calibrate his response to reduce the likelihood of this crisis spiraling out of control. He made it clear that we will not send US troops and NATO will not send troops, and I think that’s reasonable.

“But I believe he could tighten sanctions as much as possible and also give Ukraine more weapons to fight its own fight.”

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