President Joe Biden is in a predicament. He’s the weakest president in perhaps a generation, less than a year into his term, and he now has to project the strength of the United States military to our geopolitical foes.
It is challenging to convince the opposition that you are strong when no one domestically is taking you seriously.
The backdrop of the Biden White House’s weakness is increasing tensions with Russia on the border of Ukraine and China over Taiwan. These threats have varying degrees of seriousness, depending on how you analyze them. The precise point is this: We are in this situation because Joe Biden is a weak president. The data backs that up, and America’s enemies sense the circumstances. It is unclear whether or not the American president is aware he is in this predicament.
Ukraine has warned the United States, NATO, and its European allies that Russia is increasing troops and tensions along the border, with direct military threats possible this winter. For Ukraine, the threat is real. Thirteen years ago, Russia invaded the country of Georgia, failing to live up to the ceasefire brokered by European countries and placing troops on Georgian soil while violating international law.
A few years later, in 2014, Russia successfully invaded and annexed the Crimean region of Ukraine, effectively facing no repercussions from the West. In terms of reinvigorating Great Power competitions, Russian President Vladimir Putin has known when he can challenge U.S. power abroad and when he cannot.
The Georgian invasion occurred when George W. Bush was in the midst of the lame-duck portion of his presidency and knee-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan. The invasion of Crimea happened during the Obama administration when Obama was weak with Congress and proved that he would do nothing from Syria to Russia. The bulk of Russia’s actions in the 2016 U.S. election took place during Obama’s watch, and he did nothing there, either.
China’s saber-rattling over Taiwan goes back decades. China has made a lot of noise lately, ahead of a meeting between Biden and Xi, but it is doubtful they take any action. The Chinese economy is floundering, and they need leverage in any talks with Biden. Like Russia, China sees a weak Biden and is acting appropriately.
The difference between the two situations is that Putin might pull the trigger on invading Ukraine, outright daring the United States or Europe to take action. He’s done it twice with Georgia and Crimea, and nothing is stopping him from acting.
Biden’s weakness is real. ABC News and the Washington Post released their latest approval poll for Biden, and it showed him deeply underwater. Only 38% of Americans approved of Biden’s job approval.
Meanwhile, Republicans hold the most decisive lead on the generic ballot in ABC News/Washington Post polling history. Biden is underwater in poll averages, too, with trendlines showing a sinking ship.
Biden is also weak with our allies. After bailing on Afghanistan and leaving Americans, Aghan allies, and allies from nearly every nation to offer military aid in Afghanistan, Biden has no legitimacy with our partners in any coalition. He propped up the Taliban and endangered the lives of innocent men, women, and children, all to provide himself a photo-op opportunity on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
For all the talk on the left about how Donald Trump was beholden to Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden is now feckless and weak before a resurgent Russia. It is Joe Biden who Vladimir Putin looks at and sees an opening to start pushing the envelope of military aggression and great power competition.
Henry Kissinger once observed, “For the greatest part of humanity and the longest periods of history, empire has been the typical mode of government.” Russia is reverting to that mindset. Meanwhile, Joe Biden remains weak and on the wrong side of every foreign policy decision.
Russia and Putin see an avenue to exploit Biden and undermine the legitimacy of institutions supported by the United States abroad. It remains to be seen what China will do with this president. Still, they have the same circumstances as Russia, albeit with the added issue of facing the possibility of a domestic recession.
Elections have consequences for us and our allies. A president and his staff who are unprepared and ill-equipped to run the most powerful country in the world will leave it in a weaker position after they are done with their term in office. We’re less than a year into that for the Biden White House, and America’s enemies perceive incompetence, incapacity, and an opening.
I hope America’s weaknesses aren’t exploited at this moment. Perhaps we’ll get lucky, and something will cause Russia and China to back off. But that’s like hoping for a scorpion to not sting. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.