U.S. must prod Russia, but toward peace
President Joe Biden has delivered his most powerful message of solidarity with Ukraine to date — one year to the week after Russia launched an unprovoked invasion of its neighbor nation. Coming off a personally risky surprise six-hour stop in embattled Kyiv, Biden brought that Kremlin-defying message to Poland Tuesday to rally NATO allies.
“When President Putin ordered his tanks to roll into Ukraine, he thought we would roll over,” Biden told an audience at Warsaw’s Royal Castle. “He was wrong.” The American president, who’s expected to seek reelection next year, said "I can report: Kyiv stands strong, Kyiv stands proud, it stands tall and, most important, it stands free."
Biden's visit helped show how Eastern European nations are solidly behind Ukraine's defense.
Give Biden credit for determination in galvanizing the U.S. and its allies against Moscow’s unhinged aggression through forceful resistance. There was little reason to believe Vladimir Putin’s bullying, expansion and occupations would go away unchallenged, despite naysaying by some Washington politicians.
During his surprise visit, Biden stood alongside Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and announced $500 million in new military support. That on top of an earlier $25 billion worth of advanced rocket and air defense systems, artillery systems, armored vehicles, and other equipment.
True to form, Putin reacted bitterly Tuesday, outrageously signaling that he will not change his spots. No surprise there. Putin suspended further participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control agreement with the U.S. — but fortunately stressed that he isn’t withdrawing from it just yet.
Putin’s latest tough-guy spew reiterated old propaganda points about Ukraine and NATO in a bid to justify continuing the war and trying to intimidate his detractors.
But now, with political temperatures rising, the real question becomes what we Americans do next. We need to find out soon what kind of future peace can be leveraged and when; what “off-ramp” can be made available to Putin to end hostilities, and how Americans can avoid a destructive 21st century reprise of the Cold War.
It’s easy to get drawn into costly commitments and stalemates. But this nation as a whole is sick of them.
Biden, the Pentagon and Secretary of State Antony Blinken must avoid the trap of endlessly pouring more money and arms into the current effort. China’s tilt toward Putin complicates things. The U.S. has enough to wrestle and work out with Beijing without a draining Russian entanglement.
The violent status quo isn’t sustainable for any nation. The U.S. goal still has to be a negotiated peace between Ukraine and Russia — which remain, by allied resolve, separate countries, much as Putin tried to destroy the border between them. Western leaders must stay united, but also work seriously to find real openings for a settlement.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.