Family business in Ukraine and disappointing leaders in Europe: Biden’s weakness certified

The slip in Warsaw: Biden evokes the regime change in Moscow, but the intervention of the carers is triggered and the president is forced to turn around. Patch worse than the hole: a gaffe magnified by sudden adjustments. Paris, Berlin and Brussels are unmarked , the first cracks between the allies . ..

Taking stock of US President Joe Biden's trip to Europe, where he attended a NATO summit and the informal G7 and European Council meetings last week, and then went on a visit to Poland, we could easily define it as disappointing, borrowing the words used by Ukrainian President Zelensky's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, to comment on NATO's decisions: “we are very disappointed”.

The US and its allies have confirmed a very prudent line both on military aid, limited to "defensive" weapons so as not to risk an escalation, and on economic sanctions, as Europe cannot afford to risk an energy blackout (it would not be a question of lowering thermostats by a few degrees). “We expected more courage. We expected courageous decisions ”, the Ukrainian leaders said. If not a no-fly zone , at least fighter jets, the MIGs on which, however, a halt there has arrived from Washington.

President Biden has tried to engrave in stone the decision of European governments to free themselves from dependence on Russian gas, committing them to guarantee a demand for liquefied gas, which would be the US and other countries, such as Qatar, to supply, up to 50 billion. cubic meters per year, which would be equivalent to about one third of Russian gas imports. But for this year, the cubic meters arriving would be only 15. The Qatari energy minister has made it clear that at the moment there is no alternative for Europe to Russian gas. Therefore, nothing that could allow European countries to immediately use the energy weapon to stop Putin's war. Rather, US "help" to make sure Europeans take seriously their commitment to break free from Russian gas addiction in the medium to long term, which is not helping Ukrainians today .

Biden's European tour ended with two news stories that highlighted his extreme weakness in managing this crisis. The first , which we will not elaborate on here, is the confirmation of the authenticity of the laptop of the president's son, Hunter Biden, and of the emails contained therein, a scoop from the New York Post on the end of the 2020 presidential campaign branded as Russian disinformatja by the liberal media and literally hidden from American voters in the last, decisive days of the campaign ( Twitter , as you recall , went so far as to ban the newspaper). Eventually even the New York Times had to admit that laptops and emails exist, they are real.

But what does it have to do with Ukraine? Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma , a Ukrainian energy company, while his father was vice president of the United States. In a video, the then vice president publicly bragged that he had obtained the dismissal of the attorney general of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the Burisma board of directors of which his son was a member. Now from that laptop there are emails showing the role of the president's son in financing biological laboratories in Ukraine, thus reinforcing the Russian accusations that the country was used by the US for the development of biological weapons.

Today, the affairs of the president's family in Ukraine, already known at the time of his election, weaken the position of the United States in the crisis that sees that country at the center, offering the side to Russian propaganda, which justifies the invasion also with the presence of those laboratories. The New York Post and Donald Trump were therefore right to want to warn the American public, yet another demonstration of how the liberal media from 2016 onwards have managed to corrupt the US political debate.

The second is the sentence pronounced by Biden last Saturday, concluding a speech in Warsaw: "For God's sake, this man (Putin, ed ) cannot remain in power". Thus implying that regime change in Moscow is the goal of US policy in the Ukrainian conflict. A few minutes later, in fact, a White House official was quick to rectify, specifying that the president meant that "Putin cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbors or the region" and that "he was not talking about Putin's power in Russia or regime change ". Yesterday the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, returned to the point, recalling that the United States has repeatedly said that "there is no regime change strategy in Russia or elsewhere". And in the evening the president himself turned around: "I did not ask for a regime change " in Moscow.

According to the US media, the sentence pronounced by Biden was "off script", that is, it was not foreseen in the prepared text. The president let himself be taken "by the force of his rhetoric" and "rode the wave with a nine-word statement that his aides would not have wanted him to utter," explained the Washington Post .

Now, the president has let slip a sentence that is probably inappropriate. If it had been backed up by facts and his administration, it would not have been a gaffe. But if regime change is not in the plans (and it does not seem to us that the US and its allies have put in place suitable instruments to achieve it), evoking it can be an own goal. If for whatever reason it is not realized, it ends up strengthening Putin rather than weakening him, to fuel his paranoia and determination in Ukraine. “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” goes the adage. The problem is when the opposite happens.

Biden's words "have made a difficult situation even more difficult and a dangerous situation even more dangerous, that's obvious," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations , commented on Twitter . " Regime change may be a hope, but not the basis of our strategy". And he added: “The White House turnaround is unlikely to resolve. Putin will see this as a confirmation of what he has always believed in. An ugly lack of self-control that risks extending the scope and duration of the war ”. But Haass represents the bipartisan establishment of US foreign policy, which often sinned with excessive "realism", even in the 1980s.

Biden's phrase has been compared to the famous one pronounced by Ronald Reagan in 1987 in Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! " , also criticized at home and abroad by the allies. Two years later, the Wall would actually collapse, taking the Soviet Union with it.

However, some decisive differences stand out. The phrase was in the text of the speech, although Reagan had inserted it overcoming the reluctance of his collaborators. Most importantly, it was not immediately rectified by his own administration (Josh Rogin on Twitter made a parody of it: the White House specifies that President Reagan was referring to the Pink Floyd album, "The Wall" ) and Reagan was actually, lucidly pursuing the goal of bringing down what he had called the "Empire of Evil" with the tools that would prove effective. This did not prevent him from having a cordial relationship with Gorbachev. Who knows, with a little luck even Biden's phrase could have aged well. Too bad his own team didn't believe it.

In our opinion, the patch was worse than the hole. Such a sudden correction, on a very delicate and highly symbolic speech abroad, a few kilometers from a war, reinforces the image – unfortunately already quite rooted – of a president surrounded by carers, raising doubts about who is really in command. Washington. Rather than rectify in a flash, it would have been better to let the president himself explain the next day. English The Spectator recalls Obama's phrase about his then deputy, “Don't underestimate Joe's ability to fuck things up” . But are we sure that in this case it was not the men that Obama himself put next to him who messed things up even more?

Yesterday they arrived from Europe clearly distanced themselves from the phrases pronounced by President Biden during his visit to Poland. "I would not use" the definition "butcher", "because I continue to argue with President Putin", said French President Macron in Dimanche en Politique , on France 3 . "If we want to stop the war that Russia has launched in Ukraine without entering the war", we must not feed "an escalation of words or actions", he added. Velina of Paris immediately received by Enrico Letta: "Biden's speech was perhaps what was expected there in Poland, but outside it opened doubts and questions that should be quickly clarified". So, secretary of the Democratic Party a little less anti-Putinian than he suggested …

Even the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, wished to specify that "the EU is not seeking any regime change in Moscow". Finally, in the evening, Chancellor Scholz also clarified that it is not NATO's aim to achieve regime change in Russia.

The distances from Paris, Berlin and Brussels (French always the first to distance themselves from Washington, underlining their ambition to lead the foreign policy of an autonomous Europe with respect to the USA) show what is breeding just a layer under the transatlantic unity found in these weeks. The Biden team has built the NATO and US-EU unity, in itself a value, on a minimalist course of action in Ukraine, very prudent. This is the basis of the expressed compactness of the NATO and EU countries in this crisis. If there were in Washington the intention to do something more for Ukraine (which does not seem to exist anyway), especially since Putin seems to be in trouble, many key partners would not follow, as the reactions to Biden's departure show .

On the contrary, the prevailing approach in London. In his Sunday Times commentary yesterday, Dominic Lawson urges not to give Putin "a way out to save face". "If the Ukrainians are ready to resist a long war, we should support them." Not only because it would be "presumptuous" for us to set conditions acceptable to them, but also because such proposals are described as "face-saving" for Putin, "something that he can present to his people as a victory". "On the one hand we say he is a war criminal, on the other hand he should be able to claim that war crime pays."

But the problem is: is enough being done? The surprise of the Russian difficulties and the Ukrainian resistance was such that someone in Washington must have begun to think that the "minimum wage" we saw at the beginning would be enough to give Putin the shoulder.

A dangerous illusion that we have already analyzed in Atlantico Quotidiano , taking up an article by Niall Ferguson, who commenting on Biden's release observed: "As I said last week, the Biden administration has apparently decided to exploit the war in Ukraine. to bring about regime change in Russia, rather than trying to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible. Biden just said it out loud. A highly risky strategy ".

In short, there would be temptation in some, but the means do not seem up to par anyway, I would like to but I cannot. If that's the plan, the Biden administration would do well to review its tools and work to bring European allies on board if it doesn't want to find itself with a frayed front very soon. But as we have repeatedly stressed, she seems to us in limbo, a prisoner of her uncertainty and contradictions: she is not doing enough to defend Ukraine and inflict severe punishment on Putin for his gamble, but by now she has gone too far, above all with rhetoric, to be able to afford to let it go without the sacrifice of Kiev appearing as a setback and a serious wound to the European security order guaranteed by NATO.

In confirmation of these contradictions, now that 800 Hezbollah militiamen join the Russians in Ukraine, we are curious to see how the Biden administration, which has threatened Beijing with "consequences" in case of military aid to Moscow, will be able to justify Tehran and conclude the Iran Deal 2.0, in partnership with the Russian leader himself just described as a "butcher" by the president himself. Chaos.

The post Family affairs in Ukraine and disappointing leaders in Europe: Biden's weakness certified appeared first on Atlantico Quotidiano .

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Mon, 28 Mar 2022 03:57:00 +0000.