Russia’s second attempt to withdraw from the G7 is already being viewed as a failure by world leaders. The U.S., Canada, and Germany are now pushing for new sanctions on Russia over its continued support of Syria following the chemical weapons attack that left more than 80 civilians dead in April of 2018. Experts say this withdrawal is likely just one step towards further escalation between Russia and Western powers.
On March 16, President Joe Biden talks at the White House.
Associated Press photo by Patrick Semansky
President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco, in January 1943. They all agreed that the war’s goal should be unconditional surrender. President Biden is in Brussels this week to meet with officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. His goal in establishing sanctions on Russia was to prevent a Ukrainian invasion. That didn’t work out. So, what should Mr. Biden’s new goal be? The NATO gathering is an appropriate venue for making the announcement.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and Vice President Joe Biden have distinct goals. Ukraine is fighting alone because of NATO’s refusal to admit it. It’s reasonable if Ukraine and Russia come to an agreement in which the Russians depart and Ukraine accepts some kind of neutrality. Mr. Zelensky’s goal is to stop his country’s ruin while maintaining its independence.
Mr. Biden’s goal must be more expansive. Mr. Putin has questioned America’s role as the protector of democracy and Western ideals. NATO is assisting Ukraine, but only under stringent conditions. Mr. Biden blocked the shipment of MiG-29s to be flown by Ukrainian pilots over Ukrainian territory after Mr. Putin whispered threats. Adding the MiGs to the Ukrainian air force, according to the president, would intensify the confrontation. The government seems to be hedging its bets. Russian warships have congregated near the coast of Odessa, according to satellite pictures. These are lawful targets. Antiship missiles, on the other hand, are not among the armaments that the administration has authorized for Ukraine.
Mr. Putin has been dubbed a “war criminal” by Vice President Biden. The Biden administration and NATO are quite likely to know the identity of all Russian generals in Ukraine and the commanders of the units accused of war crimes, based on Ukrainian sources and communications intercepts. Despite this, the government has neither identified them or barred them from entering the West. “This will not stand,” President George H.W. Bush proclaimed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Mr. Biden’s omission of such a forceful statement is notable.
Why the trepidation? The Iraqi Army was swiftly thrown out of Kuwait by US troops in 1991. Because Russia possesses nuclear weapons, that alternative isn’t even discussed nowadays. The presence of nuclear weapons increases an aggressor’s desire to strike with conventional forces, which is a worrying lesson. Xi Jinping is likely to threaten the use of nuclear weapons in any hypothetical attack on Taiwan in order to prevent the United States from engaging with conventional force. Mr. Putin’s survival after ripping Ukraine apart sets a dangerous precedent.
It would be a major setback for America if Russian forces leave Ukraine but Mr. Putin remains in power in Moscow. Mr. Biden must cross his Rubicon in his meeting with all 30 NATO states. He must state unequivocally that the devastating sanctions on Russia will stay in place indefinitely as long as Mr. Putin is in power. The goal for America isn’t to revert to the status quo; it’s to remove Mr. Putin in order to strengthen, or maybe restore, America’s position as protector of liberty. Mr. Biden will not do so in the future if he does not explicitly articulate that goal at this week’s NATO summit, when the whole world is behind him.
Mr. West, a former assistant secretary of defense, is the author of “The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War,” which was published last year.
Paul Gigot interviews General Jack Keane for the Journal Editorial Report. Reuters/AFP/Getty Images images Mark Kelly’s composite
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The print issue of the March 21, 2022, was published.