DANIEL VAUGHAN: Biden repeating same mistakes from Afghanistan over Ukraine and Russia

President Joe Biden’s administration makes utterly no sense on any foreign policy issue they encounter. In Afghanistan, they claimed exceptional intelligence and watched everything they touched fall apart spectacularly. Whatever intelligence predictions the White House released, it was as if the Taliban took that as a personal challenge to beat. And now, with Russia and Ukraine, the White House is doing the same thing, in the opposite direction.

The White House is warning that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day” now and is throwing out massive death and destruction possibilities. The White House released “intelligence” that claimed, “Should Russia continue adding to its forces and then mount an all-out attack to try to take over the entire country, 25,000 to 50,000 civilians could be killed or wounded, the intelligence assessments project.”

The report added, “Between 3,000 and 10,000 Russian troops and between 5,000 and 25,000 Ukrainian troops could be killed or wounded, according to the assessments. One million to five million Ukrainians could be displaced, the assessments said.”

In fairness to the White House, these are likely the worst-case scenarios of what could happen between Russia and Ukraine. But it seems like the Biden White House has pivoted from their lackadaisical view with Afghanistan, where the worst case couldn’t happen and did, to assuming and declaring the very worst-case scenario at every press briefing regarding the conflict in Ukraine.

The shift has little to do with reality and all to do with optics. Stung by their incapacity to predict the Afghanistan fiasco, the Biden administration is going full doom-and-gloom over Ukraine. That messaging is the exact opposite in Ukraine.

In a Wall Street Journal report, “Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged calm and said his country’s military was prepared. ‘Don’t believe in apocalyptic scenarios. Various capitals calculate different scenarios but Ukraine is ready for any development,” Mr. Kuleba tweeted Sunday.'” Furthermore, “Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov put out a statement dismissing the warnings. ‘At the current state, we continue estimating the probability of a significant escalation as low.'”

This is not to say a Russian invasion is unlikely. It’s just the opposite; some form of Russian military action in Ukraine is likely. But the reality of how far Russia goes is inhibited by the genuine military and economic limitations Russia has against it. Russia is assertive geopolitically because the price of oil is shooting up, which makes it easier for Putin to squeeze the West.

However, squeezing the West and jumping into a full-throat invasion of another country are two radically different concepts. Russia’s military is making moves to invade, and any action is likely to occur after the end of the Olympics in Bejing, China, sometime after February 20, 2022. A full-scale invasion would be at odds with how Russia has acted in the past in conflicts with Georgia or the Crimean region of Ukraine.

Russia lacks the kind of military capable of holding a country like Ukraine. A full-scale invasion would wreck the Russian economy and severely handicap Putin’s capacity to make moves in Europe. The specter of Russian action is greater than the realized threat.

Those points then bring up the Biden administration. By raising the specter of a full-scale Russian invasion where cities are burning, and civilians are dying. Biden presents the real scenario that Putin makes a more limited move and makes US intelligence look just as bad as it did in Afghanistan. The United States has a moral obligation to aid Ukraine here. We promised Ukraine that we would help them if they ditched their nuclear arsenal after the collapse of the USSR.

What we’ve gotten with the Biden administration is a bizarre mishmash where he comes out declaring the very worst-case scenario. But Biden refuses to take the actions that would severely inhibit Russia and Putin’s capacity to operate. Sanctions against Putin’s core oligarchical supporters, important Russian companies, and more would go a long way towards kneecapping the Russian response.

The Biden administration has declined to take such actions. Even more shocking, the Biden administration isn’t building a coalition of European countries willing to do that very thing. It’s all statements. The Secretary of State is more a Secretary of empty statements than the primary progenitor of US foreign policy. There’s no power, only #hashtag diplomacy, where we talk about “standing” with people looking at an enemy military crossing their borders.

The Biden administration’s response is bizarre, makes little rational sense, and is setting the United States up for failure — again. The Afghanistan debacle was all Biden’s doing. Ukraine is different. This is a situation that requires a President to react. It’s unclear whether Biden or anyone in the State Department has any idea of what they’re doing.