Biden's weak-kneed appeasement provokes Putin, America's enemies

Sen. Cotton: US adversaries see Uncle Sam with ‘kick me’ sign on his back

Senator Tom Cotton argues that weakness from President Biden during his first year in office contributed to the tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Within days of taking office, President Joe Biden’s campaign-trail veneer of tough-talking Russia hawk melted away to reveal a weak-kneed appeaser unwilling to constrain the Russian bear. Today, Russia may be on the brink of invading Ukraine because President Biden’s weakness has emboldened Vladimir Putin.

In his first week in office, Biden agreed to extend the one-sided New START nuclear-arms treaty. He ignored nearly two thousand Russian tactical nuclear weapons outside the scope of the treaty and took no actions to constrain China’s massive nuclear buildup—both critical U.S. priorities related to New START. A no-strings-attached U.S. extension of New START was one of Putin’s top foreign-policy objectives. Joe Biden gave it away with nothing in return.

Instead of satisfying Putin, this concession only whetted his appetite.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – JUNE 16:  (RUSSIA OUT)  Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) greets US President Joe Biden (R) during the US – Russia Summit 2021 at the La Grange Villa near Lake Geneva, on June 16, 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland. U.S.President Joe Biden is meeting Russian President Putin in Geneva for the first time as presidents, on Wednesday. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

In April 2021, the Russian dictator sent tens of thousands of soldiers, tanks, and munitions to the Ukrainian border. In response to this provocation, President Biden rushed to propose a presidential summit in Geneva, elevating Russia in the eyes of the world. This meeting allowed the image-obsessed Putin to strut on the international stage and pretend that Russia was once again an equal to the United States—another priority for Putin since Russia’s economy is less than one-tenth the size of our own.

A month later, Russia-based hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 2.5 million gallons of fuel every day to communities across the Southeast. Long gas lines inconvenienced millions of Americans as a result. The Colonial Pipeline company paid $4.4 million in ransom to the hackers and the Biden administration took no significant action against the nation that almost certainly authorized or permitted the attack. In fact, President Biden has since turned over a high-profile Russian hacker in U.S. custody to Russian authorities.  

Also in May, in anticipation of the June summit with Putin, President Biden waived sanctions on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. Biden did so in part as a capitulation to German demands. Yet, he received nothing in return from Berlin. In fact, the German government continually undermines U.S. interests and NATO unity through their own appeasement of Moscow.

Biden’s Nord Stream 2 decision was yet another unbelievable victory for the Russian dictator. Once online, the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline will consolidate Russian control over Europe’s energy sector.  Most important, the pipeline severs Russia’s reliance on Ukraine for transit of natural gas, which would allow Russia to attack Ukraine without having to worry about losing revenue from gas sales to Europe.

Next, the Biden administration froze a $100 million military-aid package to Ukraine. Thanks to a single summit, Putin increased his international status and accomplished two key foreign-policy objectives. The United States again received nothing of value in return. Instead, President Biden meekly handed Putin a list of critical U.S. infrastructure entities, which he told the Russian dictator not to hack. Apparently, the president thinks this passes for strong leadership. 

At the same time, Putin began restricting the supply of natural gas to Europe as our allies prepared for the winter, in yet another unanswered provocation.

Then, in August 2021, Putin watched as President Biden tarnished American honor in Afghanistan. When asked about the Biden administration’s catastrophic withdrawal, Putin responded by saying, “naturally, this will primarily affect the attitude towards the US of those countries that consider the US their ally,” directly calling into question America’s reliability as an ally.

In November, Putin began his most recent buildup of more than 100,000 Russian troops along the Ukrainian border.

Biden is again going down the Russian wish list. Administration officials have openly discussed allowing the Russians to dictate American defense policy in Europe, including U.S. military exercises with NATO allies. No president should even entertain such preposterous demands.

Finally and most dispiriting, at a press conference last week, President Biden essentially gave Putin a green light by implying that NATO might not firmly respond to a “minor incursion.” The president also openly admitted to significant divisions within the alliance about how to respond to Russian aggression. When he needed to exude strength, Biden exuded disorganized weakness.

President Biden has allowed a declining power to steamroll the most powerful nation and alliance on earth. The crisis in Ukraine is in no small part the result of Biden’s appeasement and weakness. If he fails to deter—or severely punish—Putin, our enemies around the world will engage in similar acts of aggression against America’s interests. As China looks to Taiwan, they will take note of what happens in Ukraine—as will the Iranians as they move closer to a nuclear weapon. 

Strongmen like Putin ruthlessly exploit weakness and only understand strength. It’s time for President Biden to take a stand and send a message to America’s enemies: the days of appeasement are over.

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