Presidentish Joe Biden mumbled an off-the-cuff remark that could lead to a major war in Ukraine — just like Barack Obama almost ad-libbed our way into a major war in Syria.
As my colleague Rick Moran wrote on Wednesday about Biden’s cringe-worthy press conference, “Biden appeared to greenlight a ‘minor incursion’ by Moscow.”
“It’s one thing,” Biden said, if Russia indulges in “a minor incursion and then we have to end up having to fight about what to do and not do, etcetera.”
Message Sent: Team Biden doesn’t have any clue what they’d do if Moscow decided to snip off another piece of Ukraine for themselves. That kind of weakness, that lack of preparation, so publicly expressed, invites aggression.
“There are no minor incursions,” Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky reminded Biden early Thursday.
But it gets worse.
At a time when a real leader would at least feign international unity, Biden instead frankly admitted that NATO has no common front. He told reporters later in Wednesday’s presser: “But it depends on what [Putin] does, actually, what extent we’re going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front.”
But wait. It gets worse still.
Biden also said he thinks Russia “will be able to prevail over time” in Ukraine, indicating that Putin will be allowed all the time he needs.
The combination of indecision, disunity, and acquiescence Biden displayed forced his White House spinmasters into overtime on Wednesday.
Hours later, PressSec Jen Psaki released a statement insisting what Biden wouldn’t or couldn’t: “President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies.”
No, Biden was not clear about that. Not at all.
The Administration was desperate enough to send Alleged Vice President Kamala Harris to Good Morning America to repeat the canned spin. “We will interpret any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia and Vladimir Putin as an aggressive action and it will be met with costs, severe and certain,” she insisted.
Ignore the White House spin. What the PR-meisters come up with hours after the fact has zero bearing on the decision-making prowess — or lack thereof — of a president in the heat of a crisis.
Does any of this seem familiar? It certainly does to me. Let’s set the Wayback Machine to the Summer of 2013, when the Syrian Civil War was really getting into full swing.
Then-president Barack Obama was asked about the Assad regime’s potential use of chemical weapons:
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. [Emphasis added]
I wrote at the time that if “‘whole bunches’ of things ‘being utilized’ or maybe just ‘moving around’ changing his ‘equation’ counts as being ‘very clear,’ I’d hate to see what ambiguity would have looked like.”
The short version: Obama drew a red line on Assad simply moving weapons around. My thought at the time was that Obama had just chatted our way into war. Instead, Obama pretended as though his red line never existed, and turned over policing the Syria mess to Putin.
Obama weakened our position in the Middle East — and unnecessarily strengthened Russia’s — at a time when we were still utterly reliant on Middle East oil. A reliance that Obama was determined, with his efforts against domestic energy production, to maintain or even worsen.
A serious president… would have gone to the UN. He would have gone to our allies. He would have built up support with the American people. He would have done something other than issuing a promise to maybe look into things.
I wrote those words nine years ago about Obama and Syria, but they apply just as much to Biden and Ukraine today.
Biden could have spent the last year reducing the risk of war by taking the diplomatic initiative with NATO and the United Nations. Instead, Biden allows Putin to make moves — to take the initiative, to test the waters — and then Biden issues weak verbal replies, hasty and unprepared.
Just like his old boss, Barack Obama.
Obama very nearly mumbled his way into a major war, and Biden might yet. We avoided war in 2013 only by Obama tacitly admitting his utter incompetence, or perhaps actual cowardice.
It makes you wonder what price Biden — we — will have to pay to avoid the war he’s inviting in Ukraine.
There’s something to be said for doing your damn homework and being prepared, especially when little things like world peace are at stake.