Ukraine War, May 31, 2022: Biden’s Op-ed, and his abject fear of Putin

Developing. We are publishing this article as it is being written. Please check back for updates.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

1) joseph R. Biden (Op-ed), “What America Will and Will Not Do in Ukraine,” New York Times, May 31, 2022.

2) “Biden lässt Mehrfachraketenwerfer an die Ukraine liefern; Die USA rüsten die Ukraine mit modernen Raketensystemen auf, die russische Artillerie abfangen und Stellungen zerstören können. Bis Russland reicht die Munition nicht. den 1. Juni 2022 (Aktualisiert um 3:57 Uhr);

3) Jeremy Warner, “Europe’s appalling cowardice over Ukraine has given new life to Putin; Half hearted Russian oil ban highlights EU’s difficulty in imposing effective sanctions,” The Telegraph, May 31, 2022 (6:43 pm);

4) Bojan Pancevski (in Berlin) and Drew Hinshaw (in Warsaw), “Cracks Show in Western Front Against Russia’s War in Ukraine; Allies are increasingly divided on further heavy-weapons shipments to Kyiv, Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2022 (9:44 am ET);

Commentary

President Biden approved the transfer of the MLRS rocket system to Ukraine, though with restrictions on its range that will sharply reduce its effectiveness. No cure for addled thinking in the White House has been found.

At the same time he published an Op-ed in the New York Times which, while making a number of important statements, also revealed his great fear of Putin, and the lengths to which he is willing to go to reassure the Russian war criminal that the U.S. and NATO will not cross his “red lines”.

Biden wrote,

We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces. We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.

My principle throughout this crisis has been “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” I will not pressure the Ukrainian government — in private or public — to make any territorial concessions. It would be wrong and contrary to well-settled principles to do so.

It is in our vital national interests to ensure a peaceful and stable Europe and to make it clear that might does not make right. If Russia does not pay a heavy price for its actions, it will send a message to other would-be aggressors that they too can seize territory and subjugate other countries. It will put the survival of other peaceful democracies at risk. And it could mark the end of the rules-based international order and open the door to aggression elsewhere, with catastrophic consequences the world over.

Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.

In what struck the Observer as a sign of intellectual insecurity, Biden identified himself under his byline as follows: “Mr. Biden is president of the United States.” Maybe it was just the work of an editor. But maybe not.

In any event, President Biden made a number of very positive statements in his Op-ed in the New York Times today (May 31).

First, he said the U.S. would stay the course.

Second, he said no settlement would be reached without Ukraine at the table, and by implication that Ukraine would make the final decisions.

Third, President Biden affirmed that the U.S. would not pressure Ukraine to make territorial concessions in negotiations with Russia.

Fourth, he declared that the U.S. supported Ukraine because if any country could invade another country as Russia has done, and not pay a very high price for its aggression, “It will put the survival of other peaceful democracies at risk. And it could mark the end of the rules-based international order and open the door to aggression elsewhere, with catastrophic consequences the world over.”

His reference to “the rules-based international order” is regrettable, when the proper term is “international law and the international legal order”. The term he used sounds nonsensical when translated into other languages, e.g., “die Regel-basierte internationale Ordnung” (in German). This new term was first used by an Australian prime minister in 2008, taking it from an Australian political scientist, not an international lawyer. The correct term is “international law”, which has been in use for over 400 years.

Unfortunately, Biden also revealed his fear of Vladimir Putin, telling him what the U.S. (and by implication NATO) would and would not do, as follows;

So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces. We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.

Here, Biden is telling Putin that he accepts Putin’s “red line” that NATO and other allies should not help Ukraine strike at targets inside Russian territory.

This is quite extraordinary.

Biden is in effect telling Putin he can fire missiles at Ukrainian cities and kill thousands of Ukrainian citizens, but NATO will do nothing to help Ukraine strike at the bases from which those missiles are being launched. Under international law and the U.N. Charter, both Ukraine and NATO or other countries have the right to strike those targets in exercise of the right of individual and collective self-defense.

To show Putin how afraid he is of provoking the Russian war criminal, Biden declares, “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders.”

This language reflects Biden’s decision today to allow the transfer of the MLRS long-range rocket system to Ukraine, but only with ammunition that will give it an 80 kilometer range, instead of the 300 kilometer range of which it is capable.

The Biden administration secured a commitment from Ukraine not to use the rockets to attack targets in Russia, but in typical bureaucratic fashion retained the limitation on Ukraine’s ability to strike at targets within Russia by supplying only ammunitionwith an 80 kilometer range. This is “belt and suspenders” lawyering, not intelligent military and strategic decision making.

Obviously, the weapons would be much more useful within Ukraine if they had a 300 kilometer range, but the whiz kids in the White House and their lawyers were unable to sort this out.

The bottom line in Biden’s Op-ed, as it will undoubtedly be read in the Kremlin, is that Biden is very afraid of provoking Putin and, far from confronting him, goes out of his way to tell Putin what the U.S. and NATO will and will not do.

This could become highly significant very soon, for example, in reaching decisions on whether or not to support an EU initiative to use armed convoys in the Black Sea in order to break the Russian blockade of grain shipments.  These shipments are vitally important to alleviate world hunger.

It could also become critically important at some point in the future should Ukraine find itself on the verge of military defeat.

Why does Biden tell Putin what he will and will not do, no matter what?

The answer is clear:

FEAR. ABJECT FEAR OF PUTIN.

The Trenchant Observer

***

See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

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