As the war in Ukraine enters its third month, the Biden Administration has shown once again that it is flying by the seat of its pants in responding to the Russian invasion.
However, first, we should give some credit as the Administration seems to have clearly helped prepare our allies to respond as a group and to respond strongly. It would be simply partisan not to acknowledge that Biden has played a role in that.
Yet, exactly how strongly to respond has been one of the things where Biden just cannot seem to make up his mind and reaction to the Russian invasion is somewhat haphazard and uncoordinated, as a result. Let us look at just a few examples, from before the invasion to as recently as this past weekend.
Before Russia invaded, President Biden promised stiff sanctions if that happened. At the same time, US intelligence was exceptional and President Biden also predicted with great accuracy what Russia was planning and when it was planning it, not quite to the day but close. Yet if Biden knew Russia was going to invade, as he said before it actually happened, and he also said that stiff sanctions on Russia would be the result, then why did he wait until war actually happened to take any action? Would it not have made sense to put sanctions in place right away on either the remote chance of deterring the Russian invasion to start with or at least weakening Russia before they did invade?
The same question could be asked about arms shipments. If he knew Russia was going to invade, as he predicted and as actually happened, why did President Biden wait until days after Russia had already sent armored columns and troops across the border before he announced that he would send weapons? If he really wanted to stop Russia, why did he not send fleets of cargo planes to Ukraine before Russian warplanes started flying over Ukrainian skies? Why did Ukrainians have to die before he offered to help them with the means to defend themselves?
Or, even more, why does he keep changing his mind about the weapons he wants to send? Ukrainian President Zelensky remarked two weeks ago that he felt like a broken record because he was asked so many times about what weapons his armed forces needed but that he had never changed in what he said. If you recall, several weeks ago Poland offered to send Soviet made fighter planes from their air force, the same kind flown by the Ukrainian air force, to help in the fight. President Biden said ‘no’ and strongly made the case that no member of NATO should send aircraft because it would escalate the war. Yet, last weekend, Biden’s Secretary of Defense visited Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and told President Zelensky that the US was sending a new arms package that would include US helicopters. In addition, Biden and NATO are now helping to coordinate the delivery of Soviet made fighter planes from countries to have them in their air force, by promising to replace them with US or other NATO planes.
Why so late to make all these decisions? One cannot help but think that Biden is just making decisions as he goes without thinking ahead and without a long term plan or objective. Or, when we also think about the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan and the unprepared nature of that operation, maybe it is just an indication of the inability to effectively carry out a plan even if or when you have one.
Whatever the case, Biden always seems to be late to the game and then seems to change his mind routinely. In foreign policy, and in a world that is dealing with the largest war since World War II, the stakes for such mistakes are big and Biden is not meeting the challenge.