But there is a problem with all of this: if he was ever going to do this trip it is about six months too late and creates a massive amount of problems for the president.
Like what the heck is your Ukraine policy anyway? I do this for a living and I struggle to understand what it is.
Ok, the moment of truth, I don’t know what it is.
The problem for Joe Biden is people are now actually going to start asking real questions about U.S. policy when it comes to the Ukraine war. You don’t need a Ph.D. from Princeton to dream them up: what are our goals in Ukraine, how do we plan to achieve them, and what we are willing to risk to reach them?
And believe me, those are never questions any president wants to answer when it comes to matters abroad.
Imagine if we asked these questions before or even during Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the Second Gulf War? The world as we know it today would not look the same.
For example – and let’s try to look past Biden’s photo-op foreign policy moment in Kyiv – does anyone have a clue exactly what Joe Biden’s end goal is for giving Ukraine billions of dollars of military aid?
I can answer that for Joe Biden – he doesn’t have one.
Want proof? It seems the administration only gives the sort of aid that would make a difference – M777 artillery, HIMARS, M1 Abrams tanks and I am sure soon it will be F-16 fighters – when pressured – and only then. That means Ukraine has enough arms to push Russia back and gain some ground but never achieve anything spectacular on the battlefield.
There is no end game, just to make sure there is no media outrage that we aren’t helping Ukraine. You know, Biden has to worry about 2024 and keeping his poll numbers from not slipping any more than they have.
But from here the questions get even harder. Has Joe Biden ever articulated exactly how he wants to see the war in Ukraine come to an end? For example, will Biden press Moscow and Kyiv to start negotiating once say Ukraine pushed Russia out of all lands it took beginning one year ago? How long will America keep taking ammo and weapons out of its own stocks to help Ukraine fight? You can’t answer that until you get some sort of idea about the administration’s end goals and what the strategy is to get there. This isn’t a war we can keep supporting forever and ever – no nation can or would.
Or – and this is where things get quite dangerous- is Biden’s war goals in Ukraine something more extensive? Does Washington truly want to see Ukraine take Crimea, another land grab by Putin nearly ten years ago that could be a real Russian redline that could push Moscow into actually thinking about tactical nuclear weapons or something even worse? And what are we willing to risk to get that goal achieved?
For the sake of argument, let us assume that Joe Biden wants to help Ukraine take back Crimea and see the nation restore its borders to its pre-2014 state. How much money and equipment are we willing to spend to do that? What weapons platforms will we give Kyiv to accomplish that task? How much intelligence are we willing to share?
Joe Biden has opened a Pandora’s Box when it comes to his trip to Ukraine as it will force him to some extent to answer – or at least try to answer some of these questions.
I hope the photo-op was worth it.
Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive and serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. He served on the Russia task force for U.S. Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz, and in a similar role in the John Hay Initiative. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of the book The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also has a background in defense journalism, having served as Editor-In-Chief at The Diplomat and Executive Editor for the National Interest.