Biden Faces Putin As Strife Over Ukraine Escalates

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Biden confronts Putin as Ukraine-related tensions intensify. Could a four-week window afford sufficient time for swift action to deter Putin from invading Ukraine?

When the US intelligence community caught signs that Russia was plotting a fresh attack on Ukraine in the fall, President Joe Biden instructed his administration to respond fast.

Biden Leveraging lessons from the Obama’s administration errors 

Aware of repeating the mistakes of 2014, when the US and Europe were caught off guard by Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Biden directed his national security team to employ all available tools to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin while an invasion was still several months away, a senior US source has revealed.

Biden
Biden

The official explained that what they’ve done has been highly calculated.  However, he added. that we only have roughly a four-week window.  

The response began with a burst of intense diplomatic effort in early autumn, including a visit to Moscow by CIA Director Bill Burns to caution Putin against making a move personally.

However, as Russian forces amassed along Ukraine’s border, the covert diplomacy swiftly shifted into stark public threats to Putin to back down or face tough sanctions and enhanced US military support to Ukraine. As a result, Top Biden officials are already underlining that the consequences would be far worse than what Russia endured during its 2014 territory invasion.

A White House official said that the sanctions they imposed on Russia in 2014 were primarily aimed at impeding the medium- to the long-term development of specific Russian state-owned enterprises by limiting their access to US capital markets and technology.

In comparison, the current options are “overwhelming, urgent, and would impose huge costs on the Russian economy and banking system.

When Biden was vice president in 2014, the intelligence community came under fire for what some legislators felt was a failure to foresee Russia’s entry into Crimea until it was too late. And following that incident, President Barack Obama essentially opposed Biden’s proposal to arm Ukraine and impose extreme sanctions on Russia.

Biden, now in charge, has shown a willingness to do things differently.

New Jersey Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, who served as the State Department’s senior human rights official from April 2014 to January 2017, said this administration has been much more proactive. There is a more realistic sense now that Putin can absorb a lot more pain to impose costs on the US and our allies.

This has resulted in far more robust intelligence sharing with Ukraine about Russia’s plans than in 2014, sources familiar with the process said. According to one former senior NATO official, this is partly because the Ukrainian government is now a “more reliable partner” than it was in 2014. However, Biden is adamant that Ukraine cannot be excluded from any discussions about its future.

Besides, the administration provided unusually comprehensive intelligence about Russia’s movements with NATO, the G7, and European allies early on.

A retired senior NATO official has observed that they did not see this level of collaboration in early 2014. That t his administration has taken a much more multilateral approach – this is novel. It is the consequence of leveraging a great deal of constructive work done during the Covid-19 pandemic to strengthen political cohesiveness and information sharing among partners.

Biden
Biden

Since 2014, the Crisis has evolved.

However, Malinowski and other officials acknowledged that today’s situation is significantly different than it was in 2014.

Malinowski noted that Putin might be preparing for demands for considerably more conspicuous acts than what we saw in 2014. The forces he is amassing are precisely the forces one would assemble were preparing for an all-out land invasion of the country, which is not what occurred in 2014 with Russia’s little green men.

According to Michael Kofman, director of the CNA’s Russia Studies Program’s research program., the Russian military is “in a fundamentally different position in terms of capacity, force structure, and posture compared to 2014-2015.   And also, the US has a far better grasp of this.

He noted the US had strengthened its intelligence capabilities, strengthened its eastern base position, improved satellite imaging, and boosted political cohesion,”   All of this, he explained, has resulted in the US and its allies being substantially better prepared than they were in 2014.

Nonetheless, current and former officials indicated that they perceive some same errors being made and comparable indicators from Russia that it is not taking US threats seriously. 

Nonetheless, current and former officials indicated that they perceive some same errors being made and comparable indicators from Russia that it is not taking US threats seriously absolutely seeing things in terms of them taking the threat seriously and engaging closely with the allies, which he believe is critical.

However, Hodges added, there are still a lot of conflicting messaging coming out of the White House, as well as a few of unforced errors that the Kremlin must be pretty pleased with; referring to Biden’s announcement earlier this month that sending US troops to Ukraine is not an option.

He concurs that this is not the time for US military intervention. However, he wonders why would that be announced? That to him was essentially a concession, whereas the Kremlin escalated its demands.

Biden
Biden

Biden’s remark further reinforced Russia’s assumption that the US will avoid becoming embroiled in another overseas conflict, particularly following the pullout from Afghanistan.

The National Security Council is also hesitant to transfer specific types of technology and weaponry to Ukraine, including air defense systems, when the US and its allies are sending to convince Moscow to de-escalate. As a result, Obama declined to supply Ukraine with any lethal assistance, fearful of further aggravating Russia – but this prudence did nothing to deter Russian-backed separatist attacks in eastern Ukraine or convince Russia to relinquish Crimea.

Hodges explained that what most provokes the Russians is when the US appears frail and disjointed.

While the military help previously offered by the US is “greatly appreciated,” an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that it would not be sufficient to deter the type of strike the Russians appear to be contemplating.

According to him, While the US military help is greatly welcomed, it is primarily intended to deter a 2014-15 green men attack and other Russian-orchestrated proxy attacks.  Further, urgent air and missile defense technology are required to counter a full-scale Russian strike, as asked more than a month ago. Kyiv is perplexed as to why information is being suppressed in light of the overwhelming intelligence shared by the Biden administration.

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