Ukraine War, October 6, 2022: Are Putin’s nuclear threats working? Will Biden blink?

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) Warren P. Strobel, Nancy A. Youssef, and Michael R. Gordon, “Ukraine’s Appeal for Longer-Range Missiles Presents Fresh Test of Biden Administration Support; Kyiv is eyeing Russian military sites in Crimea, while Washington worries the American weaponry could risk escalation with Moscow,” Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2022 (Updated 3:55 p.m. ET);

2) “Like shooting fish in a barrel; Russia’s continuing attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities, Trenchant Observations, Trenchant Observations, July 16, 2022;

3) “Russian debacle in Kharkiv; U.S. delivery of weapons capable of hitting Russia,” Trenchant Observations, September 13, 2022;

4) Katie Rogers and David E. Sanger, “Biden calls the ‘prospect of Armageddon’ the highest since the Cuban missile crisis.” New York Times, October 6, 2022;

5) “Ukraine War, March 11, 2022 (II): Putin’s brilliant success in implanting fear in Joe Biden’s mind–‘If you fight me, One, Two, Three, World War III,'” The Trenchant Observer, March 11, 2022;

UPDATE

6) Editorial, “Biden Riffs on Armageddon; He needlessly raises nuclear anxiety at a cocktail party. That won’t help deterrence, Wall Street Journal, October 7, 2022 (6:55 pm ET);

7) Camilla Tominey (Associate Editor), “Useless and nasty: Joe Biden has revealed himself; Are the President’s outbursts a product of his age — or simply a display of his character?” October 8, 2022 (6:00 am).

Analysis

As Ukraine advances toward defeating the Russian army in the East and also in the Kherson region in the South, we face once again the question of whether Joe Biden’s fear of Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threats will deny the Ukrainians the weapons they need to win the war.

Putin’s nuclear threats are aimed, most obviously, at deterring Biden from providing Ukraine with the long-range ammunition (180 miles) it wants for the HIMARS artillery pieces it has received and is receiving.

Putin’s bet, from the beginning, has been that he has the nerves of steel to beat Joe Biden in any nuclear showdown.

So far Putin has succeeded in preventing the U.S. and NATO from providing Ukraine with long-range HIMARS rockets, modern tanks, and fighter jets.

Biden owes it to the country and to Ukraine’s partners to explain clearly what the goals of NATO are, how he sees the war ending, and how his decision to supply long-range HIMARS ammunition, tanks, and aircraft to Ukraine, or not to do so, will lead to the achievement of those NATO goals.

In war, a failure of will, a failure to act at a critical moment in a battle or a war, can have a decisive impact on the outcome.

Hesitation in supplying critical weapons now, as Ukraine has enormous momentum and the Russian army is on the run, could have disastrous consequences leading to a great prolongation of the war.

Joe Biden does not have nerves of steel. He is weak, as his futile trip to Saudi Arabia to prostate himself before Jamil Khashoggi’s reported murderer, Mohamed bin Salman, has recently shown.

Biden has bad foreign policy judgment, as his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan made clear.

That is why we have called for the formation of a Nuclear Decisions Advisory Group, with people like Bob Gates and Leon Panetta, to help him navigate his way through the perilous waters of  his confrontation with Putin.

Will Biden overcome his fear of Putin?

Biden’s remarks Thursday night at a fundraiser in New York City do not convey the impression of a calm president, one who is not rattled by Putin’s nuclear threats. Rogers and Sanger report:

President Biden delivered a striking warning on Thursday night that recent threats from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could devolve into a nuclear conflict, telling supporters at a fund-raiser in New York City that the risk of atomic war had not been so high since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

“We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” Mr. Biden told a crowd at the second of two fund-raisers he attended on Thursday evening.

“We are trying to figure out: What is Putin’s off ramp?” Mr. Biden said, adding: “Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?”

Mr. Biden’s references to Armageddon were highly unusual for any American president. Since the Cuban Missile Crisis, 60 years ago this month, occupants of the Oval Office have rarely spoken in such grim tones about the possible use of nuclear weapons, much less talked openly about “off ramps.”

Dicon and Sanger report that U.S. officials do not believe the risks have reached the level of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Biden, speaking in an unscipted situation, seemed to reveal both his arrogance and his fear of Putin:

“We’ve got a guy I know fairly well,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Putin at the fund-raiser. “He’s not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say significantly underperforming.”

Here we have, once again, a monumental failure by Biden’s staff who allowed him to speak about such serious matters off-the-cuff and with no script or disciplined message. Or we have a president whose arrogance and monumental ego do not allow him to follow the advice of his staff.

Once again, we are painfully aware of Biden’s poor judgment, particularly when speaking about foreign policy.

Putin knows, as we know, that in such unscripted moments Biden is prone to blurting out what he really feels and thinks.

A tough poker player who holds his cards close to the vest Biden certainly is not.

From Biden’s deeply unfortunate remarks, Vladimir Putin is likely to gather the impression that Biden is really afraid of nuclear “Armageddon”, is concerned about Putin finding an “off-ramp”, and absolutely believes Putin will carry out his threats.

If Biden thinks he knows Putin, Putin surely believes he knows Biden, as the weak vice-president to Barack Obama who in 2014 and later blinked in the face of Putin’s nuclear threats, as the president who made the disastrous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, as the man he sized up in person at the summit in June 2021, and as the president that assured the world that NATO would not react with force if he invaded Ukraine.

Putin also knows Biden as the president who was cowed by his nuclear threats from the first days of the war, afraid to supply Polish jets to Ukraine, afraid to furnish Ukraine with the capability to defend itself with long-range artillery that could strike the bases in Russia from which missile attacks on Ukrainian cities were launched, and generally cowed by Putin’s “red line” prohibiting any attacks on Russian territory.

Putin knows what a weak nuclear strategist Joe Biden is, and how effective his nuclear threats have been with Biden (and others, such as Olaf Scholz of Germany).

In his own mind, Putin almost certainly believes he can win in any nuclear showdown with Joe Biden.

That is precisely why we have called upon Biden to form a Nuclear Decisions Advisory Group which could add uncertainty to Putin’s risk calculations.

Will Biden overcome his fear of Putin?

The outcome of the Ukraine war and the future of Europe, and the United Nations and international law, may depend on the answer to that question.

The Trenchant Observer

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