Pollak: Biden Takes High Risks in Escalating War with Russia in Ukraine

Joe Biden blows nose (Anna Moneymaker / Getty)
Anna Moneymaker / Getty

President Joe Biden’s garbled request for Congress to authorize an additional $33 billion in spending for weapons to send to Ukraine came without any explanation as to what U.S. goals in the ongoing war might be, or what victory might look like.

The answer may be in the spending proposal itself: the Biden administration may hope to defeat Russia, not just by stopping its advance in Ukraine, but by causing Russia’s ailing military to collapse and forcing President Vladimir Putin out of power.

That is the goal that Biden let slip during his address in Warsaw, Poland, in lat March, which was billed by aides as a kind of “historic” speech. (President Donald Trump’s speech in Warsaw in 2017 warning of Russia’s advance was called “racist.”)

While the so-called experts running Biden’s national security apparatus were openly contemptuous of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the start of the war, and offered to help him flee, they have been surprised by Ukraine’s strength.

They may seek to press home their advantage in the hope that they can remove a geopolitical rival to the U.S., or at least bring about a friendlier Russian regime, and send a signal to China about the price of aggression against smaller neighbors.

In the best-case scenario, Russia would undergo an internal revolution like that of 1917 — though in a more liberal, not totalitarian, direction. And the U.S. and NATO would have achieved that outcome without risking a single soldier.

If Biden pulls it off, it could be a legitimate foreign policy success — albeit an accidental one, since Biden’s first moves on Russia were appeasement — canceling Trump’s sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 project and renewing the New START treaty.

But as the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan pointed out this weekend, and as this author has maintained throughout the conflict, Biden’s strategists seem not to have reckoned with the possibility that Russia could launch nuclear weapons.

These might not be aimed at the U.S. homeland or at NATO, but could be tactical nuclear weapons aimed at wiping out Ukrainian resistance. It would be harder to muster the political will to launch a retaliatory strike by NATO against Russia.

Russia could then bring about Ukraine’s swift defeat, and emerge as an isolated power, but a much greater geopolitical threat, since it has a big advantage in the number of tactical nuclear weapons it has accumulated, as opposed to long-range missiles.

Russia also has the edge in the development of hypersonic missiles that can evade U.S. missile defenses. And its military is much larger than the force currently deployed in Ukraine. It has far greater depth, and patience, than the forces it is facing.

It is not clear that the Biden planners have taken these possibilities into account. Certainly they are not preparing the public for the possibility that U.S. support for Ukraine could be cast as an escalation by NATO, justifying a Russian response.

Much of Biden’s policy on Ukraine seems haphazard, without thought about the consequences — such as Biden calling Putin a “war criminal,” which removes the incentive for Russia to negotiate an end to the war. Indeed, talks have stalled since then.

The primary motivation for Biden’s bellicose rhetoric and increased spending appears to be to convince the American public that he is tough — though he ceded the initiative to Putin long ago, choosing, as it were, to play chess with the black pieces.

Moreover, Biden can barely read his anti-Russia speeches from the TelePrompTer. There is no confidence, at home or abroad, in his leadership. He has chosen a high-risk strategy without managing, explaining, or perhaps comprehending the dangers.

Biden took office proclaiming that “diplomacy is back.” Yet he has shown little interest in diplomatic efforts to end the war. Admittedly, such efforts could allow Russia to cement its claim to some of what was once sovereign Ukrainian territory.

That cost must be weighed against the cost in lives and economic damage from allowing the war to continue — and risking the possibility that it would expand and escalate, perhaps even breaking the taboo on the use of nuclear weapons in war.

The time for tough words is before a conflict, to deter the enemy — not after a conflict has already begun, thanks in part to misguided efforts at appeasing that enemy. Biden backed the U.S. into a position of weakness, and Afghanistan did not help.

The question that Congress must ask before approving any more spending on the Ukraine war is what Biden’s goals are, and why the administration is not pursuing negotiations that could end the war while Ukraine still seems to have the upper hand.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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