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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, and you will see a list in chronological order.
To understand the broad context within which current developments in Ukraine should be considered,see
“Ukraine War, October 26, 2022: The context for analysis of current developments; The “dirty bomb” as a Russian propaganda distraction from current war crimes,” The Trenchant Observer, October 26, 2022.
1) Joe Barnes, “Antony Blinken ‘warns Ukraine’ against retaking Crimea; US secretary of state fears that efforts to reclaim the annexed peninsula would be a red line for Vladimir Putin,” February 16, 2023 (2:45 pm);
2) Alexander Ward andi Paul McCleary, “Blinken: Crimea a ‘red line’ for Putin as Ukraine weighs plans to retake it; The secretary of state, in a private call with experts, expressed his hesitation about a possible Ukrainian offensive for the peninsula,” Politico, February 15, 2023 (8:42 p.m. EST);
3) Christoph B.Schiltz, “Darum ist ein Sieg der Ukraine inzwischen unwahrscheinlich,” Die Welt, den 16. Februar 2023;
4) Christoph B.Schiltz, “That’s why Ukraine’s victory is now unlikely,” DicWelt, February 16, 2023;
We have warned since the beginning that Antony Blinken was a disastrous coice for Secretary of State. We have argued, consistently, that President Biden needed to strengtgen his foreign pokicy team, and to do so he needed to replace Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
As one who ha followed U.S. decision making related to the Ukraine war closely every day, this author believes the need for reshuffling Biden’s foreign policy team, the absolute latest time for doing so, is NOW. RIGHT NOW.
Blinken, no doubt with Biden’s agreement, has just delivered a body blow to the Ukrainian government of Volodymyr Zelensky. and the war effort of Ukraine and its allies, including the United States.
No greater gift, short of strait abdication, could have given Vladimir Putin greater hope and joy than this one dastardly act.
We must imagine Putin drinking champagne this evening, and offering toast after toast to Anthony Blinken, who has done for Russia that which all of Putin’s tanks and nuclear threats have been unable to achieve: abandonment by the West of Ukraine’s overwhelmingly strong and unassailable legal position that Russia must withdraw its troops from all of Ukrainian territory.
Blinken’s statement and articulation of Biden’s new policy toward Ukraine will be perceived in Ukraine and other countries, particularly those in the Baltics, Poland and other East European countries as an act of utter betrayal.
Blinken’s statement demonstrates, once again, how dangerous it is to have inexperienced men, men who are not battle-hardened by significant experience in foreign countries and outside the clubby coterie of foreign policy intellectuals in Washington, to advise the President on matters of the utmost consequence.
Let us not forget the foreign policy disasters the Biden/Blinken/Sullivan team have brought us since January 2021:
1) Blinken blew the first bilateral meeting with China in Anchorage, Alaska, in March 2021, by personally embarrassing the Chinese foreign minister and launching an attack against China aimed at an American domestic political audience, instead of exploring areas of possible collaboration and shared mutual interests. Blinken thus set the negative emotional tone which has characterized the relationship ever since.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov sensed the opportunity and traveled to China only days later, to reach a strategic partnership agreement with Xi Jinping.
2) In March 2021 Putin massed his troops on Ukraine’s border threatening to invade. For some unknown reason the crisis eased. In April Biden announced his catastrophic decision to withdraw all U.S. troops and all U.S. contractors from Afghanistan.
With the U.S. withdrawing, U.S. partners did the same. With no U.S. contractors to maintain the planes, the Afghan air force could not fly. Without the support of the Afghan air force, the Afghan army could not fight and win.
Joe Biden’s decision consequently made it inevitable that the democratically elect ed government of Ashraf Ghani would fall. It did fall, and the Taliban occupied Kabul on August 15, 2021.
3) Biden met with Putin in June, 2021. He apparently did not impress, but rather only confirmed Putin’s impression of his weakness.
4) Biden announced publicly and repeatedly after October 2021 that NATO countries would not respond with force if Russia invaded Ukraine.
5) Biden, Sullivan, and Blinken failed to deter Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Their attempts to do so were woefully inadequate, with the threats always coming “too little, too late”, often delivered with Delphic ooaqueness, e.g. “If Putin invades Ukraine, there will be consequences.”
6) Since the invasion, Biden’s fear of Putin and his nuclear threats has systematically led to the withholding of the timely supply of modern weapons systems Ukraine needed for its defense. This has led to delays which have probably cost thousands of lives, and resulted in Ukrainian forces losing momentum after tremendous victories in Kharkiv and Kherson provinces in tge fall of 2022.
7) It has been reliably reported that Sullivan has engaged in secret back-channel conversations with Putin’s top advisers. Neither the secret conversations nor their contents have been publicly announced.
8) Finally, one of the greatest failings of the Biden/Sullivan/Blinken foreign policy team has been a consistent lack of strategic vision, which often gives the impression that the administration cannot think more than 30 days into the future.
Many examples could be given, but perhaps the most striking and serious has been the failure to plan and implement war production of munitions at adequate levels, such at those achieved in World War II, Just yesterday we were treated to reports that allied production of artillery ammunition was so low that U.S. commanders were expressing the expectation–or hope–that Ukraine’s expenditure of artillery shells would be reduced as a result of new training and advice by the U.S. and other allies on how to fight the war.
This is crazy! It is a case of the tail wagging the dog, of battle plans being shaped and determined by the availability of ammunition. One might more properly have have inquired into why Ukraine did not have an adequate supply of ammunition.
The answer us clear. For the last year and until very recently, the Biden administration did not grasp that in a land war that could last many years, there was an urgent need to move to a wartime footing and greatly increase war production, perhaps even up to World War II levels.
We simply do not know if Biden has reached understandings with Putin, through Sullivan and Putin’s top advisers, about respecting Putin’s “red lines”. One such “red line” has been the prohibition against hitting targets in Russia proper, despite the fact that Ukraine is authorized to do so under international law and Article 51 of tge U.N. Charter.
Throughout the war, the wavering and unsteady leadership of Joe Biden has had two paradoxical effects. On the one hand, he has succeeded in in generating military and financial support for Ukraine which has enabled it to continue the war, and to obtain significant victories on the battlefield.
This military and economic aid is quite impressive, particularly when compared to previous outlays. Unfortunately, the self-satisfied announcements attending such achievements reflect a self-referential frame of mind, instead of a realistic assessment of the realities on the battlefield.
Allied unity has been maintained by and large, often by slowing the pace of decisions and reaching decisions based on the lowest common denominator. For example, the delivery and deployment of German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks has been delayed by six-nine months, with the consequence that they are not available to defend against the current Russian offensive in the Donbas, and may not be deployed in time for the Ukrainian offensive now expected later in the spring.
On the other hand, Biden and his foreign policy team have not been adept at prosecuting the war of self-defense of Ukraine against the Russian invasion and occupation which began on February 24, 2022.
Now, with Blinken and Biden acting as enforcers of Putin’s “red lines”, the U.S. has gone so far as to tell Ukraine not to try to liberate the Crimea, which Russia seized by military invasion in February 2014, in flagrant disdain for Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter which prohits the threat or use of force across international frontiers.
Since 1932, the U.S, has followed “the Stimson Doctrine” and refused to recognize the acquisition of territory my military force, This policy was broken by Donald Trump when as president he recognized the Spanish Sahara as belonging to Morocco. This was part of Trump’s deals with Israel and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, which reportedly have brought billions of dollars of benefits to Jared Kushner, his son-in-law.
Blinken now urges Ukraine not to try to liberate the Crimea, thus enforcing one of Purin’s “red lines”. He apparently has no idea of how the Crimea might otherwise be returned to Ukraine.
One thing is absolutely clear. Blinken and Sullivan must go. They must be replaced by seasoned foreign policy officials including those with military experience. A prominent international lawyer should also become a member of the team.
With Nicki Haley, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, having entered the Republican primary race, and Mike Pompeo, a former Secretary of State, waiting for the right moment to throw his hat into the ring, foreign policy is certain to be a major issue in the Republican primaries and also in the general election in 2024.
Biden, who has benefitted from the silence of Democratic-leaning foreign policy experts, may be surprised by the vehemence and fact-based nature of the criticisms that will be coming his way.
With foreign policy a central issue in the 2024 presidential race, about the only way for Biden to become a viable candidate for the presidency, when he will be nearly 82 years old, is for him to replace his protegés, his “Biden boys”, Blinken and Sullivan, with a strong new foreign policy team which can credibly claim that they will not repeat the blunders of Biden, Blinken, and Sullivan.
Pundits, seeking to match Donald Trump’s talent for coming up with memorable nicknames for his opponents, are already referring to the current trio as “Biden, Blinkin and Nod”.
Blinken and Sulivan must be replaced because they lack the competence and judgment their high positions require, and because if Biden keeps them he will have no way to defend his foreign policy record.
Ordinarily that doesn’t matter much because American voters don’t follow foreign policy closely.mBut with the Ukraine war continuing, 2024 is likely to be an exception, particularly if Pompeo joins Haley in the primary challenges to Donald Trump.
If the Democrats are to win in 2024, Blinken and Sullivan must go. Now.
The Trenchant Observer
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