The Biden Administration Should Tread More Carefully with Russia

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, I must admit to being utterly perplexed by calls from those on the left and right calling for our country’s increased involvement in Ukraine. We disagree on just about everything else it seems, profoundly so in some cases, but on this one issue we come together like bride and groom. Good grief.

The level of agreement is no small matter as we are talking about everything from state-of-the-art tanks and missile defense systems to F-16s. The cost is staggering. To put it in perspective, we have committed to Ukraine military aid totaling half of that country’s total GDP. Throw in the aid the Europeans are providing and we are collectively engaged in another nation building effort with no end in sight.

With each new funding announcement and new piece of military hardware we inch closer and closer to being in direct conflict with Russia. Here are ten reasons for why this is not a good idea:

  1. The quality of our political leadership is highly suspect, what with a president that increasingly appears to be cognitively challenged, and a vice president for whom gross incompetence is perhaps the kindest thing that can be said about her. Missteps are a distinct possibility by such a cast of characters.
  2. The political divisions in the country run deep, Civil War era kind of deep if my Twitter feed is any indication. Absent a sneak attack like that of Pearl Harbor in 1941, a country seriously debating the merits of objective reality is going to be hard pressed to come together to fight still another war.
  3. Garnering widespread public support is further hampered because many Americans cannot square risking war over another country’s borders being violated when our own southern border is a sieve.
  4. U.S. military readiness is compromised by an inability to attract new recruits. Between past Covid mandates and a fear of political indoctrination many young men and women are seeking other opportunities.
  5. Our European allies are equally compromised, if not more so. Their militaries have been chronically under-funded since NATO’s inception. They are simply not prepared to fight.  That can only mean American parents will once again have to place to sacrifice their sons and daughters at the altar of European pacifism. A tough sell to say the least.
  6. Russia sees Ukraine, particularly Crimea, as Lincoln saw the entirety of the south – as indivisible from that of the northern states. That is to say, the war for them is existential – it’s their backyard after all. Forgive me, but our track record in fighting in other countries backyards recently does not exactly inspire confidence.
  7. Russian military doctrine is prepared to sustain huge losses of life in pursuit of its objectives. This is something the West is not inclined to match, and the Russians know it.
  8. A war with Russia might just be the opening the Biden Administration needs to go ‘Woodrow Wilson’ on our civil liberties. After the Covid mandates and the unequal treatment of conservatives by the DOJ and FBI, many, including myself, have our doubts we will ever get them back.
  9. The prospect of nuclear war looms. It is uncharted territory. We have grown accustomed to fighting one another through proxies. It gets even more complicated should Putin decide to use tactical nuclear weapons. How would we respond to that type of escalation? (And again, would you want President Biden and Kamala doing the critical thinking required behind such a response?)
  10. And finally, we run the danger of fighting a two-front war (one with Russia and the other China), the bane of military strategists since the creation of nation states.

In short, risking war with Russia, worse, getting embroiled in an actual shooting war would be as General Omar Bradley once said about General MacArthur’s desire to expand the Korean War into China, “The wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with the wrong enemy.”

But the urge to risk war in that part of the world persists. Why is that? Well, I can tell you what it is not and that is a war intended to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and freedom. This is platitudinal nonsense is meant to place our critical thinking skills into a state of suspended animation.

The real reason is to loosen Putin’s grip on power, eventually overthrowing him. Senator Graham actually said the quiet part out loud back in March last year: “The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out. You would be doing your county – and the world – a great service.”

In this scenario Russia becomes distracted, freeing up the U.S. to pivot to China.

Getting to this point though is the problem as it is going to take time for the battlefield conditions in eastern Ukraine to deteriorate sufficiently before Putin becomes vulnerable. Time that we may not have if U.S. four-star General Mike Minihan is right about being at war with China as early as 2025.

Might a better option to an outright win over Russia be a stalemate? That is, provide them with just enough military hardware and technical support to maintain the status quo on the battlefield. No more. No less. In such a scenario the U.S. and its allies would avoid a potential rout of Russian forces that more robust levels of support and training to Ukrainian units might lead to, and in turn, pave the way for the aforementioned pivot to China.

There is precedent for it. During World War II President Roosevelt made the decision to prioritize the Atlantic over the Pacific theater of operations. Cold and heartless? For the Americans on Wake Island and Corregidor it was pure Machiavellian as it meant years of barbarous treatment by the Japanese. Nonetheless, it was the right call for a country desperate to marshal limited resources.

The suffering in eastern Ukraine is apt to continue for some time. An existential crisis of our own, however, dictates it be so.