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Is the War in Ukraine Really Joe Biden’s Fault?

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the October jobs report, Friday, November 5, 2021, in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

Ukraine is not Joe Biden’s Fault: The GOP Shares the Blame – Leave it to Donald Trump to make the Ukrainian catastrophe all about him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine had the 45th president been reelected, he claimed: “I stand as the only president of the 21st century on whose watch Russia did not invade another country.”

The Joe Biden Is to Blame for Ukraine Idea

It’s all about the weakness of President Joe Biden, especially the Afghanistan withdrawal, according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a gaggle of other Republicans. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that the Russians wouldn’t be on the border of Ukraine with 100,000 more troops had we not indicated to the rest of the world we were pulling the plug on Afghanistan and going home,” claimed McConnell.

This is obvious partisan nonsense. If only the Biden administration was continuing to waste American lives and resources in Afghanistan, Putin would be cowering in the Kremlin basement. If only members of the foreign policy Blob had supported more needless wars, Moscow would have behaved itself and done as Washington wished. The Ukraine conflict has nothing to do with Russia and everything to do with America.

 It’s a ludicrous claim, yet constantly repeated by politicians who push war at every turn.

The immediate cause of today’s crisis reflects a decision made in Moscow. The reasons Putin chose war go back to the end of the Cold War. Despite the revisionist history pushed by those who disclaim any blame for Washington, declassified records demonstrate that many assurances were given and broken by US officials that NATO would not expand to Russia’s border. Moreover, the West ran roughshod over Moscow’s perceived security interests by backing regime change in Georgia and Ukraine (twice) as well as the war against Serbia. Putin also pointed to Washington’s promiscuous war-making after the disaster in Iraq. Whatever the justification for such actions, Moscow viewed the allied policy as hostile.

Although Bill Clinton began the needless process of NATO expansion, it was President George W. Bush who did the most damage—no surprise for the man who committed what is widely considered to be the worst foreign policy blunder in decades, the Iraq war. He added the most members, including the Baltic states. He also insisted on promising NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine, a fateful move. All the while ignoring Russia’s and Putin’s oft-stated opposition to this process. The Obama and Trump administrations added Balkan microstates and, more significantly, continued to promise Tbilisi and Kyiv inclusion.

Trump’s confidence that Moscow would not have moved on to Ukraine is based on his macho self-image, the endless posturing, and blustering with which he addressed the world. No doubt, that behavior in others impresses him. However, the rest of the world was less impressed with him.

Ironically, to his credit, as president he was a bit of a peacenik, being the first president since Ronald Reagan not to initiate a new war. Indeed, Trump repeatedly stepped back from military confrontation. He favored withdrawal from both Afghanistan and Syria and negotiated the Afghan exit. He rejected most of his officials’ proposals for military action. He abandoned “fire and fury” toward North Korea and refused to retaliate against Iran—for downing an American drone, hitting US bases with rockets, and striking Saudi oil facilities. Attacks by Iraqi militias on American facilities forced his secretary of state to threaten to close the US embassy, an ostentatious show of weakness. The claim that Trump’s presidency left evildoers around the globe quivering in fear is a fantasy.

Moreover, Trump spent four years lavishing Putin with praise and vilifying NATO. His working relationship with members of the transatlantic alliance, who he refused to affirm America would defend, was poor at best. Whether his appointees, who in a second term might have agreed with his more “America first” perspective, could have delivered a unified European approach to Russia is unclear. From Moscow’s standpoint, he would have looked more like a pushover than tough guy.

The only reason Putin might have foresworn action would be to wait and see if Trump acted against NATO during his second term. If so, the former’s worry about Ukraine joining would dissipate. Again, Moscow would have been reacting to perceived Trump’s weakness or indifference, not strength. Trump was a legend only in his own mind.

Nor is there any evidence that Afghanistan had anything to do with Putin’s decision. That is one of the most ridiculous arguments made by Washington factotums who pretend to be omniscient. Biden followed through on his campaign promise and Trump’s plan to leave Afghanistan. The Soviet Union had already suffered through the same experience, leaving Afghanistan in defeat. Yet no one in America declared the USSR to be weak for abandoning a hopeless commitment.

In contrast, Washington stayed twice as long, demonstrating foolish, uncomprehending bullheadedness, not toughness. The exit was botched but Russia long had witnessed American firepower and capability around the globe. Finally, leaving Afghanistan freed up resources and left Washington with one less conflict to manage. That was no green light to anyone.

More important, a US willingness to waste more lives and money by staying endlessly in Afghanistan would not likely strike fear in Putin’s heart. He almost certainly acted because he was confident in his nation’s own power and strength. He knew that Russia possessed a significant conventional force with local superiority against Ukraine. Moreover, Putin realized that America would be understandably reluctant to go to war with Russia for any reason but the most vital, which was not present—else Washington would have strong-armed acceptance of Kyiv into NATO.

Moscow also had a nuclear force comparable to America’s. Washington’s capability to defeat decrepit third world regimes paled in comparison. The US had to believe the issue was worth a potential nuclear confrontation, a point reinforced when Moscow recently put its nuclear forces on higher alert. That, likely more than anything else, including supposed perceptions of Biden’s weakness, is what encouraged Putin to act. Despite the assumption by many people within the Beltway, the world simply isn’t all about the US president, or even America more broadly.

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden delivers remarks to Department of Defense personnel, with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2021. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

This is not the first time that blundering hawks have attempted to rescue their misadventures by insisting that to sustain American credibility no mistake can ever be admitted. For instance, President Barack Obama sensibly refused to back an off-hand comment about chemical weapons in Syria by bombing the Damascus government. Conventional weapons had killed far more people and the American public opposed getting entangled in another Mideast endless war.

Yet warrior wannabes such as Bret Stephens of the New York Times claimed that this alleged show of weakness led to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea: “Vladimir Putin took note of Obama’s palpable reluctance to get involved.” Far more relevant is the fact that there was nothing America could have done militarily short of war, which would have been idiotic: the US had no vital let alone substantial interests at stake; Russia had local conventional superiority; any attack on Moscow’s forces would invite escalation to nuclear weapons. Who seriously believes that if only Washington had bombed the decrepit Syrian military, which could not resist, that nuclear-armed Russia, with the world’s second-ranked military, would have abandoned its aggressive foreign policy and subordinated itself to America?

Nation-states tend to act ruthlessly and brutally when they believe their security is threatened. Finely calibrated assessments of American “credibility” are unlikely to have much impact. As with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Don’t Throw the Plane Onto Joe Biden

Ultimately, if the US “invited” Moscow’s aggression, Bush bears the brunt of the blame for his foolish and, in retrospect, reckless expansion of NATO. Biden is not without fault—earlier this year he should have announced that Washington anticipated no additions to the transatlantic alliance. However, he would have had to face down virtually the entire Republican congressional caucus, which consistently puts the interest of other nations before that of Americans.

Debating the past might not help in dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for which Vladimir Putin and his ruling circle are fully responsible. However, the US should learn from its mistakes. Tragically, in Ukraine, thousands will die and many more will be injured or displaced as a result. Ukraine is Washington’s mistake, not Joe Biden’s mistake.

A 1945 Contributing Editor, Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Times. Bandow speaks frequently at academic conferences, on college campuses, and to business groups. Bandow has been a regular commentator on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. He holds a JD from Stanford University.

Written By

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties. He worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan and editor of the political magazine Inquiry. He writes regularly for leading publications such as Fortune magazine, National Interest, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Times.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Commentar

    March 5, 2022 at 8:42 am

    It is Biden’s fault, nothing to do with trump or GOP.

    Biden, ailed by creeping dementia and possibly Alzheimer, deeply troubled by hunter, sees confrontation with Russia and ukraine war as the natural platform to show the public he’s a Mike tyson.

    Trump in contrast doesn’t share Biden’s high regard for NATO. In July 2018, trump dissed the idea of Montenegro being a useful member of NATO. “Why should my son(s) go to Montenegro to defend it?”

    Biden is similar to Adolfo, who also thought smashing up Moscow was a piece of cake.

    Biden, like Hitlero, has bitten off more than he can chew. Biden never understood that Russia is a nation that has more nukes, is a top commodity powerhouse, a major source of gas, oil, titanium, cereals and edible oils and therefore a country that can easily put the whole globe in a tailspin if it desired.

    Biden is a fool, an 80-year-old megalomaniacal fool.

  2. Eric-ji

    March 5, 2022 at 8:43 am

    There is logic to Trump’s claim. Foreign leaders fear unpredictable American “cowboy presidents” more than they fear leftist appeasers.

    That said, I’m against our activities as the world’s protector & enforcer. US politicians & analysts who want US boots on the ground or planes in the air should think the situation is dire enough to put their own close family members on the front lines.

  3. Jacky

    March 5, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Biden has thrown the Ukrainian people under the bus, and the whole world knows it, except Biden himself and his coterie of sycophants.

    For now, the ukraine people is paying the price. Later, the rest of the world will have to carry their cross for Biden and his NATO horde.

  4. Michael Kearins

    March 5, 2022 at 9:06 am

    Lefty author and a democrat. N Korea stopped firing missiles after Trump went and visited the DMZ and met their leader. Trump armed Ukraine before this war. Author talks about Trump not doing things against Iran missiles strikes etc. but Trump took out the Iranian terror leader in a missile strike. No one would have had guts to do that. Biden is put in place by a voter fraud op.. Its a fact and we knew it happened even before all the proof has come out of audits from Arizona, Wisconsin and now Georgia Secretary of State has said it. We have a mentally deficient president and the enemies of the USA are going to take advantage of us now because of the voter fraud op.. Our nation’s duly elected president was overthrown in a voter fraud operation and a illegitimate not mentally fit president is leading us into a possible war with nuclear annihilation. The bad guys were scared of Trump. The author is a lefty democrat and is blinded to the truth about the voter fraud op that put our national security at risk.

  5. Michael Kearins

    March 5, 2022 at 9:13 am

    Trump was all right about NATO and it shows now how even they all combined land power minus the USA can not field 3 infantry divisions. Germany has 100 operational tanks when 30 years ago they had 3000! All of the NATO countries not even giving 2% of their budget and using accounting schemes to get to that number or below it claiming they fulfilled their obligation. Trump was all right about hem not paying their share. The author is a lefty fool. Now they are starting to spend money when war starts!. The author’s articles is not based on fact and is cloudy by his leftists beliefs. If not for the voter fraud op against Trump we would not be in this situation. Also Trump kept complaining how Germany is buying oil from Russia and they are funding a future enemy and that they should be buying from the USA. Now we just are getting ready to release 29 billion to Iran in a bs nuke deal and they will use the money to kill us and make weapons. We are like Russia in many ways now in our system because we are having presidents put in power through voter fraud done by one party.

  6. Michael Kearins

    March 5, 2022 at 11:11 am

    the comments are censored here. if they do not like what you write they will remove the comments if they point out the voter fraud op or a differing opinion they do not like. This is a pro left wing military site controlled by the radical left communist in this country that are overthrowing our government wit censorship and voter fraud

  7. A penny tossed to the wind

    March 5, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    Excellent reasoning in this article.

    As mentioned previously, this war is the underbelly of simmering tensions finally bursting into the open.

    To read the war in terms of previous wars, incursions and conflicts is to limit the factors in play.

    There are many surface issues which are, if the term can be used, spectacular. These garner attention and capture the mind.

    However, underneath these are forces which are less visual, less immediate (as in how they impact the mind) and which have turned previous beliefs (upon which geopolitical conflicts were based and later analysed) on their head.

    In short the new world order has been developing quietly, obvious if one goes looking, underneath the sensational, the immediate and the spectacular.

    Firstly, ask: From where do you get your information, to form your national or world view?

    This is not to blame the media, though it is both cause and symptom, because it is humanly natural that we are drawn to, and captured by, the spectacular and sensational.

    As the article has interrogated the American role, in perceptions and falsities and truths and effects, let’s look at that.

    The surface, the spectacular, immediate and sensational is “America is a superpower” and “America stands for democracy”.

    The underbelly, the forces at play that do not so readily capture the mind, includes and is not limited to inequality, bought elections, false or manufactured ‘democracy’ and everything else that by definition can be no superpower. These are forces of internal failures, severe lack and gross wanting. None of this stands on the world stage and shouts “superpower” and “democracy”, at least to any persuasive extent.

    It is just as much, if not moreso, these failures that have inspired Putin.

    Hypocrisy? Absolutely. Let’s take it as a given that to speak of national leadership we are speaking also of hypocrisy.

    Putin, as have many within the US, looked upon these and so many more Western failures, writ large in the US (this comment being US-centric per the article), and see it as persuasive reason to fight against.

    Then, added to that, Putin has difficulty, if not incapability, of seeing the good things in the West, in so much as to allow them in and embrace them. He represents a strange, confused mix, just as much as any other world leader, being representative of that nation itself.

    He’ll take some ideologies from the West, reject others.

    If we, humanity, are going to take the focus off warring, to move into an era of peace, each nation would I think benefit in seeing how its own failures are raised into awareness by another nation’s rejection of, and fight against, them. These failures are made known to each other, almost every other day, on the national stage, in countless forums.

    Yet the response to these is war. Fear.

    What are we, as ‘humanity’, learning? (We are learning, but this is not spectacular, nor sensational nor immediate.)

    The new age is arriving. Barriers to nations are less certain now, eroded by the slow yet powerful convolutions of education, trade and communication.

    We may also benefit from acknowledging the style of world leadership as generational. The current generation of world leadership is in decline. Younger people get old. These once-young people are moving into positions of power. Generational change has begun.

    So the conversation now, to really try to get to grips with this war – as physical, painful underbelly brought into the open – would benefit by looking into these deeper failures and accepting these, too, as causes for it.

    The war, obviously, will capture our minds and attention for a long time yet.

    And generational change, though arrived and begun, is not yet in effect. Far, far from it.

    But it here and it is coming and it is this which will shape and determine the new world order.

    By focusing on the spectacular, sensational and immediate surface stuff, we are ignorning underlying causes which are working inexorably towards a world very different from what is currently generationally-defined.

    It can be argued this is always the way. How things go. But that, too, has changed now. Because barriers and definitions of nation states are changing, and the means of definitions changing with them, driving them.

    So this war represents not only the breaking into the open of each nation’s underbelly, it represents a turning point.

    Not easy to see, sure. Not now. But, loooking back, humanity I believe will see it as so.

    In short, if the world is to become truly civilized, generational change would bring with it nations looking not outwardly at other nation’s failures, with those as cause for conflict, but internally — to try better to fix them.

    Each nation’s chest beating for how great it is, once persuasive, is in this new era rapidly becoming mere piss and wind.

  8. Sam McGowan

    March 5, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Biden allegedly promised Zelensky that Ukraine would be brought into NATO. If that is true, he damn well is responsible for the war. As the author pointed out, this situation goes back to Bill Clinton, who never should have decided to use NATO for his own purposes. NATO is a Cold War relic that should have been disbanded when the USSR collapsed and all US troops should have left Europe. But no, the draft-dodger wanted to use all that military might to police the world. Now we’re on the verge of World War III.

  9. samir sardana

    March 6, 2022 at 8:49 am

    Zelinsky has to note that the Z on the Russian armor is named after HIM !

    It is time to prepare , for URBAN WAR , IN KIEV !

    It is time to think of ways,to CHOKE THE SUPPLY CHAIN,of the Putin sambos !

    WHAT WILL ZELINSKY DO WITH THE AIRPORTS, OIL DUMPS IN KIEV ? PUTIN WILL USE THE FUEL DUMPS TO STOCK UP ! HE WILL USE THE AIRPORTS TO AIRLIFT TROOPS AND FOOD !

    Is it time to destroy the airport and fuel dumps and bridges ?

    KIEV WILL FALL – it is just a question of time ! It is time to prepare for urban war – IEDs and Street fighting !

    Rising Oil and Wheat and Food and Edible Oil

    This is the matrix,of Putin !

    As only Putin, can solve it !

    There will be Tahrir’s,in every nation of GCC and North Africa !

    That is time for a war,in the Persian Gulf – it could be Arabs + Persians Vs Israel.

    When there are riots,on the Arab street – war is the solution – and the prime target, is Israel

    Russian are already in Syria and Tartous !

    PUTIN HOLDS ALL THE CARDS ! dindooohindoo

  10. Landon Tesar

    March 7, 2022 at 12:24 am

    Read the paragraph about Crimea. What is different about this incursion?

  11. Alex

    March 7, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Yes, yes, yes))) The United States, as always, is not to blame for anything))) Clowns)))

  12. Le Jit

    March 15, 2022 at 8:44 am

    Putin received plenty of warnings from us about attacking Ukraine. He knew he would be risking Russia’s economy by doing so, yet he somehow felt it necessary to do anyway. All other things being equal, it doesn’t seem likely that the identity of the particular individual sitting in the Oval Office was going to change his mind. We still have a Commander In Chief if need be, and he still has his advisors. Trump would find himself with exactly the same amount of immediately available resources as does Biden. War is never a one man show.

  13. Robin

    March 18, 2022 at 9:52 pm

    I can smell a Democrat in 3 words and this guy stinks of, perseved weekness is never a factor in war. That said. Bush was a neocon idiot who i would place against a wall along with Cheney and the neocon clan save Colin Powell and Condi because she is a woman. Afghanistan was the issue Iraq was an itch. Then their is the masked crusader Obama whose foriegn policy and Apology tour was worse yet with premature Iraq-ulation or withdrawl and his Putin face off. Trump was the Tasmanian devil in the cartoon but he was unpredictable and followed thru with his goals as much as he was allowed by his handlers. No US president has ever had as much raw power as Xi, the Soviets, Putin other dictatorial power when it comes tho Nukes. Biden is the bumbling 3rd term of what Obama democrats wanted with a majority and thats as bad as it gets except for nuclear war and financial collapse as it inevitably will and all of which i hope happens on the democrats watch so we have an excuse to eliminate them like the communist lovers they are.
    Anyone got a wood chipper?

  14. Anthony Luzio

    April 11, 2022 at 6:50 am

    😂😂😂😂

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