With his risky overnight train ride into Ukraine and address in the Polish capital, a venue picked for its position on NATO’s front line, Biden eclipsed Putin this week in terms of presidential staging. With his already well-known nuclear threats and anti-Western conspiracies, Putin’s speech to the Russian parliament was a stilted affair.
Biden frequently gave the impression that he was speaking directly to the Russian president as he sought to portray him to Russians, Europeans, and Americans as a despotic tyrant who was to blame for the country’s tragic mistakes and inhumanity a year after his invasion.
The invasion had a number of geopolitical effects, according to him, including strengthening NATO and bringing Kyiv closer to the West—the very reverse of what Putin had wanted from the conflict.
He made fun of the former KGB colonel for his aggression in causing one Scandinavian state, whose national sovereignty was previously dominated by the Soviet Union, to seek membership in the western alliance: “He thought he’d get the Finlandization of NATO, instead he got the NATOization of Finland… and Sweden.”
Additionally, Biden declared that “President Putin’s desire for power and territory will fail, and the Ukrainian people’s love for their nation will win.”
“Russia’s victory in Ukraine will never be complete.”
It’s possible that’s true. Yet, Putin made it quite plain in his speech that there was no chance of the war coming to a conclusion soon.
He created the conditions for months of additional bloodshed and further widened the already narrow window of opportunity for some sort of face-saving exit if Russia loses by telling Russians that the conflict was essential to the survival of their own country and a component of a Western effort to attack Russia.
They started the war, I’ll say it again, stated Putin. “And to halt it, we have used and still employ force.” Putin sounds like he’s a resident of another world to Western ears.
In response, Biden said, “I speak again to the people of Russia. I refute your charges of Western imperialism. Russian control or annihilation are not goals of the United States or the European states. Putin today denied that the West was preparing to invade Russia.
But it would be a mistake to reject Putin’s conspiratorial assertions and the idea that the West is waging a protracted campaign to unseat him.
Although a conventional triumph could be beyond Russia’s capabilities, Putin might be able to tolerate a protracted, bloody conflict that destroys more Ukrainian cities, claims more lives, costs Western countries billions, and gradually increases pressure on US and European leaders to retreat.
The Russian president will probably be keeping an eye on the conservatives’ in the US who are becoming more and more opposed to Biden’s engagement in the conflict. As Biden was standing with Ukrainians in Kyiv on Monday, for example, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis gave a hint that if he were to win the White House, the future of Ukraine would not be a top priority.
DeSantis claimed on Fox that the threat of Russia invading NATO nations and obliterating them has not even come close to materializing. They have demonstrated that they are a third-class military power, in my opinion.
DeSantis’ comments, as well as those of other Republicans like House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has cautioned against writing Kyiv a “blank check,” demonstrate that while Biden can state that the US will remain in the city for “as long as it takes,” he cannot guarantee it. It’s possible that Ukraine’s 2024 elections will be just as important as those in the US.
the US and Russia have virtually stopped communicating
Also, Biden’s visit showed that the US and Russia’s estrangement, a factor that will influence world affairs for years, is nearly complete.
As an illustration, Putin declared on Tuesday that Russia will stop signing on to the New START nuclear agreement with the United States. Since that Moscow has stopped completely executing the agreement, it was unclear what effect this will have on real-world affairs.
Russia lacks the resources necessary to start a new nuclear weapons race with Washington since its economy is in trouble and its conventional forces are under a lot of strain. But, the disintegration of one of the final pillars of the post-Cold War thaw between the US and Russia is illustrative of the competitors’ virtually complete absence of communication.
Even if the Ukraine conflict is won, there won’t be a return to normalcy between Washington and Moscow thanks to the Biden administration’s last week’s charge that Russia has committed crimes against humanity.
One reason US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated Tuesday that Washington was eager to discuss the nuclear situation with Russia regardless of what else was going on was because it is dangerous if the world’s top two nuclear powers are not speaking to one another.
Beijing dismisses warnings from Washington over the Ukrainian war
The US is attempting to defuse its most recent issue with China over what America claims was a Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the continental US earlier this month, even as it takes on Russia in the Ukraine. Last week, the US issued a warning to China not to give Russia any weapons it might use in the conflict in Ukraine, and Wang left for Moscow, bringing the two conflicts closer to a point of convergence.
Before to last year’s Russian invasion, Russia and China made an agreement to have a friendship with “no bounds,” feeding US concerns about a joint front between Moscow and Beijing. The Chinese foreign ministry scoffed at the idea that America, which has been supplying Ukraine with high-tech weapons, was in the wrong to lecture China on the subject.
Any attempt by China to provide weapons for the conflict in Ukraine would not change the battlefield’s strategic balance, but it would open a dangerous new front in the US-China conflict.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, cautioned that such a move would cross a red line for the US but did not elaborate on the potential repercussions on Sunday’s “State of the Union” on CNN.
Although China has supported Russia verbally in its dispute with Ukraine, there is little evidence in the public domain that it has actually sent deadly weapons for the fighting. With the strength disparity between Beijing and Moscow in favor of China, the concept of a formal alliance between Russia and China against Washington continues to look implausible.
Due to its own economic issues, China might not want to take the chance of facing American penalties if it means selling weapons to Moscow. Beijing, however, might also be interested in the conflict dragging on because they think it will divert US attention away from Biden’s expanding efforts to counter China’s hegemony in Asia and waste military resources.
Further serving China’s foreign policy objectives, a protracted confrontation may deepen divisions between the US and Europe. Also, it might fuel political unrest in Washington, which would make it harder for Biden to carry out his foreign policy objectives on a worldwide scale.
There are a number of reasons why China, which has long viewed the conflict in Ukraine through the lens of its rivalry with the US, may not be eager for it to stop.
That presents Biden with yet another thorny issue in the area of foreign affairs.