Vladimir Putin wins big, yet again
President Biden has just abdicated the role of the United States as the leader of the free world with his meek response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This signals the beginning of the decline of the liberal, democratic way of life in the U.S., Western Europe and other parts of the world and the rise of the illiberal, autocratic way of life in Russia, China and other countries across the globe. It is as simple as that: The East wins and the West loses.
It is hard to believe that more than a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and its NATO allies were talking — yes, talking — about imposing drastic sanctions whose effects are questionable and would take time to kick in rather than deploying their power to stop him.
What the world needs now is a leader with the foresight and resolve of Winston Churchill, who had the courage to stand up to Germany during World War II despite knowing the heavy price that Britain would pay.
But it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, this way. Biden still has the choice to stop talking and start doing to put Putin in his place.
The path for Biden is clear and is based on the fundamental understanding that Putin is the product of the street gangs of the post-war St. Petersburg. He is a scrappy bully who understands and respects brute force and takes the words of Biden as a sign of weakness — and an invitation to invasion.
Biden’s pathway includes:
1) Borrow a page from Putin’s playbook and generate an invitation from the lawful government of Ukraine for “peacekeeping” assistance from the U.S. and its NATO allies to fight against the Russian forces. The West cannot leave Ukraine alone to fight for the existing world order or against Putin’s desire to reconstitute the Soviet bloc. This is simply unfair, as Ukraine was made to give up its nuclear arsenal. If Biden does not want to put American boots on the ground, this can still be achieved through the use of remote targets and by advising allies. For this task, Biden would likely get the support of Congress.
2) Support Russians opposing Putin’s invasion. Many Russians oppose Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. and its Western friends should bombard the Russian airwaves and internet with messages of support and appreciation for the people of Russia and express disdain for Putin. This is likely to further increase opposition to the invasion among Russians who have been sitting on the fence.
3) Intensify the depth and scope of economic sanctions. While past sanctions have not been fully effective against Russia, they certainly had some impact. And the new, more extreme sanctions, meant to paralyze Russia’s financial system and its high-tech industry, are bound to have more devastating effects.
4) Recruit more countries to condemn Putin’s actions.The more countries that criticize Putin’s invasion and impose their own sanctions, the better. This will increase his isolation in the world.
5) Impose sanctions on Putin’s assets. This is war, and Putin must feel it personally. He started it and should feel the consequences. Though this is not easy to achieve, it is still possible. And it’s puzzling why such sanctions have not been enacted thus far.
There is barely time left for Biden to change gears. But he must, for the character of the free world and the U.S. as its leader hang in the balance. Action now can still contain Putin and set Biden on a winning path, not only for the U.S. but for all the free world.
Avraham Shama is the former dean of the College of Business at the University of Texas, The Pan-American. He is a professor emeritus at the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico. His new book, “Cyberwars: David Knight Goes to Moscow,” will be published by 3rd Coast Books later this year.