President Biden: End the war in Ukraine
President Biden tells us that 8.5 percent inflation (the highest since 1981) is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fault. Let’s pretend that is true. If it is, the president has presented Americans with an excellent reason to intervene more aggressively to end the war in Ukraine.
If people in our country are struggling to make ends meet because of Putin’s unprovoked attack on his western neighbor, our president cannot just declare defeat. He must act on their behalf. That means significantly ramping up our support of Ukraine and – yes – helping to win the war against Russia.
That is not the only reason the United States and its NATO allies should step up. Much more persuasive is that the West should not sit idly by while Russian forces torture, rape and murder innocent civilians.
We are at a tipping point. Russia is reportedly turning its military assault over to the “butcher of Syria,” a commander known for unspeakable atrocities in that country. There is concern that Putin has used chemical weapons in Mariupol, where tens of thousands may have died.
The situation is about to get worse.
Will we in the West allow these monsters to commit genocide – that is how Biden has framed it – while hoping that sanctions will cause Russia to retreat? Is that the upshot of having “adults in the room”?
Is that what Biden means when he proudly pronounces that “America is back”?
In a recent poll, 70 percent of registered voters said the U.S. and its NATO allies have not been tough enough on Putin; they are right.
Unfortunately, Biden has no Plan B. He has relied on sanctions to bring Putin to heel, and those highly touted sanctions, which Biden said would hit Putin with “economic consequences like none he has ever seen,” have failed.
How do we know? Because the Russian ruble has regained most of the pummeling it took when the West announced what were described as the most momentous sanctions of all time.
The ruble today is worth $0.012, up from a low of $0.0072 on March 9. It is roughly even with where it was selling a year ago. Biden mocked the Russian currency as “rubble,” saying during his speech in Poland that it was worth 200 to the dollar. That wasn’t true then; it isn’t true now.
The Russian stock market, as measured by the MOEX Index, is down about 28 percent from last year; that’s a big hit, but it doesn’t suggest utter collapse.
How can that be? It is because western countries didn’t have the resolve to really crush Russia’s economy, which would have meant sanctioning its energy sector. Oil prices surged at the beginning of the war, as traders anticipated a big drop in Russia’s exports. For a time, it appeared that buyers were boycotting Putin’s oil, fearful of alienating the U.S. and its allies.
That didn’t last. Countries such as China and India began to buy up Russia’s oil on the cheap.
Not only has Russia been able to continue exporting oil, Russia’s finance ministry has announced that it expects to earn nearly $10 billion in extra revenue from energy sales in April because of high prices. The sanctions are not doing the job.
The White House has in effect acknowledged as much, and finally sent increasing amounts of weapons to Ukraine, trying to overcome months of hesitation. National security adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized on “Face the Nation” recently that the United States has provided Ukraine with “sophisticated” weapons, allowing the country to mount a stiff resistance. He barely mentioned sanctions.
The humanitarian costs of Putin’s savagery are dreadful. But now this war, according to Biden and his acolytes, is also hurting Americans. For sure, the conflict has caused energy prices, which were already rising, to go up faster. Food costs, too, have been hiked by the war. They are now 10 percent higher than a year ago, a serious problem for people whose wages are only rising by about 5 percent.
What can be done? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly begged for more arms; we should supply what he asks for. Last year, as Putin positioned his 90,000 troops across from Ukraine’s border, the U.S., according to Biden, sent “over $650 million in defensive assistance” to the country. That was not nearly enough.
Biden warned the world for months that Russia was planning to attack Ukraine — months in which we could have done much more to prepare for the assault. We could have sent more Javelins, more Stingers, more of everything. Before the invasion, we could have sent in those planes that Zelensky has been begging for.
Our entire involvement in the Ukraine conflict has been tempered by fear – fear of Putin. Fear, too, that economic penalties levied on Russia would rebound and hurt the U.S.
Therein lies the problem. Biden is not alone. The governments of European countries dependent on Russian energy are similarly timid, anxious not to harm their economies. As a result, the economic ring-fencing of Russia has been half-baked.
It is time to up the ante. The West needs to sanction Russia’s energy producers, increase the pace of arms deliveries and make our intelligence available to Ukrainian forces. Incredibly, according to the Financial Times, the U.S. is not sharing “data that would enable “real-time targeting” of Russian assets. Why on earth not? This is war.
We need to end the slaughter. It is a moral imperative every bit as compelling as saving the Jews from Hitler. Whatever it takes, we should do it. The United States is supposed to be the leader of the free world. Mr. Biden, you are supposed to be the leader of the United States. This is up to you.
And if you are right, stopping the war will fix inflation, too. Think how appreciative your voters will be.
Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.
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