Budowsky: President Biden leads NATO against Russian aggression

President Biden is acting as leader of the free world, combatting Russian aggression against Ukraine. Working closely with political and military leaders of the NATO alliance, and mobilizing economic and military deterrents to avoid another European war, Biden has hit his stride seeking to construct a multifaceted and multinational policy that, to his credit, has a reasonable chance of success.

Every president grows on the job. President Kennedy screwed up on the Bay of Pigs, took responsibility, and became the leader who saved the world during the Cuban missile crisis and began his great work for nuclear arms control. It is high praise, not criticism, that I see signs that Biden is growing on the job.

Let’s be clear. In the 1950s Russia invaded Hungary. In the 1960s Russia invaded Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s Russia invaded Afghanistan. In the 1980s Russia organized a coup in Poland to install a Soviet-friendly government. Freedom fighting leaders from Lech Walesa to Vaclav Havel became political prisoners.

And then, like a bolt of lightening in a darkened world, the Berlin Wall fell. Democracy was reborn across Eastern Europe. Walesa and Havel became leaders of free nations. And a powerful Russian officer of the KGB, Vladimir Putin, who was seething at the time, became the leader of Russia, which was no longer the Soviet Union.

The weak response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea has emboldened Putin. He has massed almost 130,000 heavily armed troops on the border of Ukraine, instituted covert action, amassed an arsenal of propaganda and psychological warfare against Ukraine (and NATO), and is testing the limits of how aggressively he can attack Ukraine without provoking a powerful and effective response from NATO.

Putin seeks to exploit political divisions within the United States, and assess the magnitude (or lack of) political divisions within European nations and between Europe and the United States.

Putin is aggressive, cunning, ruthless and diabolically brilliant (never underestimate the enemy) pursuing his goal of reconstituting Russian power over Europe.   

But Putin is not suicidal. Russia has powerful strengths but also substantial weaknesses and vulnerabilities. If — and only if — his sword meets steel from those united against his plans, a successful diplomatic solution is possible.

Let’s be clear. Ignore the byzantine rhetorical constructs of invasion vs. incursion. What matters is simple: Ukraine for Ukrainians, not Russians, as decided by the people and democratic government of Ukraine. Period. And when Ukraine is supported today by other nations, such as Poland, they are fighting for Poland for Poles, not Russians, well aware of the history and danger.

Biden and NATO leaders understand this.

Biden is right to organize major sanctions, and take preparatory steps to protect European economies on energy and related matters if and when sanctions are imposed. Biden is right to put thousands of American troops on alert and work with NATO nations to provide limited but critically important super-trained troops to help Ukraine defend Ukraine. Biden and NATO are right to mobilize substantial military aid to Ukraine and to use air and naval power to provide intelligence and offshore protection to Ukraine.

My hope in the coming days is that Biden host a Zoom meeting with living former presidents including Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama and Carter to brief them and seek their ideas based on their experience. This would send a powerful message to Putin and America of bipartisan unity.

It is very positive that Biden is scheduling bipartisan briefings with congressional staff this week and members after the recess. He should maximize bipartisan outreach with Republican leaders and prominent Republicans such as Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and others.

I would suggest Biden organize a presentation to the United Nations Security Council and present evidence similar to what Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis — and explore a vote in the General Assembly to mobilize not just European but worldwide support for Ukraine for Ukrainians — opposing a new Russian colonialism today.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives.

Tags Annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation international policy Lisa Murkowski Mike Rounds Mitt Romney NATO Post-Soviet conflicts Rob Portman Russia aggression Ukraine Vladimir Putin

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