Russia's position on the U.S. is clear. Biden is weak, compromised and can be exploited. Since Biden's inauguration, Putin has set in motion a series of events that are aggressively testing Biden's foreign policy leadership.
Over the last several weeks Russian has maneuvered its military forces along the Ukrainian border citing military readiness exercises. The cease fire in the resource rich Donbass region, which held together during the Trump administration, has disintegrated under Biden, arguably Russia's doing.
Most recently, Putin deployed a nuclear torpedo to the Artic capable of creating a tsunami that would obliterate most of the U.S.'s eastern seaboard.
Thus far Biden's reaction and response has been to "monitor" these developments. It is a dangerous and foolish approach for America and our allies. Ironically, Biden has seen Putin play this game before. He, more than anyone, should know better than to underestimate Putin's resolve to cause mayhem.
In March 2014 Russia violated the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine and forcibly seized the autonomous region of Crimea. Putin aggressively staged his coup following the demise of Ukraine's elected government that was directly precipitated by the misguided and arrogant policies of U.S. government officials.
The chaos in Ukraine at that time afforded Putin a risky but rewarding opportunity. He began assembling the Russian military along Ukraine's borders. He rattled NATO and confounded the West with his unexpected military maneuvers. He provoked ethnic unrest in the eastern region which led to civil war. Simultaneously, he destabilized the region and expanded the Russian empire.
Then Vice President, Biden was the Obama administration point-person for U.S. policy in Ukraine. He failed to bring Putin to account then, and there is little confidence that he will do it now.
The entire Obama-Biden response to Russia's 2014 invasion was a tragic display of cowardice and submission. It vastly diminished the U.S.'s global standing seven years ago and is precisely why Putin believes he will outplay Biden today.
The many miscalculations of Vice President Biden in Ukraine are a result of unpreparedness and correlate directly with his family's personal conflicts of alleged financial misdeeds.
His request to personally use his office to oversee the U.S.-Ukraine policy portfolio was highly unusual. He traveled to Ukraine six times while in office, more than any other U.S. president or vice president.
Three of those trips occurred in 2014 as his son Hunter was being appointed to the board of Burisma Holdings, an energy exploration company. Burisma is at the center of an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Hunter. The company was seeking to use his father's power and influence to avert corruption charges in Ukraine.
Recall in 2018 when the braggadocious Biden claimed responsibility for the dismissal of Ukraine's prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, after threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to the country. Biden's ultimatum emanated from Ukraine's failure to tackle corruption. Yet, Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings and a $3 million payment it made to Hunter Biden's company at the time.
It is his history of poor policy judgments and personal conflicts that cripples Biden's ability to lead with strength and authority today. The mistakes he made in Ukraine are adversely impacting his ability to contain Russian aggression and Putin's antics now. Putin knows this and fully intends to exploit Biden's frailty.
To be clear Putin does not want war, he wants territory. He wants to resurrect the Russian empire to its former glory and power. Putin's actions leading to the seizure of Crimea started first as a series of tests much like now. He began his campaign of mischief by personally interfering in Ukraine's efforts to join the EU. He ultimately forced Ukraine out of the highly anticipated partnership with economic threats, dismantling years of progress.
Regrettably, he was aided by disastrous U.S. policy mistakes that forced Ukraine into Russia's hands. In the end, the West took no substantive punitive measures against Putin for deliberately derailing Ukraine's future with Europe. Ukrainians were left devastated by its government's failure to formalize the partnership. The short-lived sense of hope was now eclipsed by anger. This sparked massive countrywide protests which ignited the fire Putin desired and required to act.
The protests escalated and led to violence culminating in 130 deaths. The West blamed Russia for inciting the violence. Naturally, Russia responded in kind with numerous allegations of political and financial interference from the U.S.
While the U.S. was grappling with Ukraine's fallen government, Putin began moving soldiers along Ukraine's borders and waited for a response. The U.S. and NATO's stern rhetoric was just that, empty verbal threats. Putin was keenly aware that the U.S. and Europe had no intention of positioning their troops inside Ukraine. Another test in which the U.S. failed to react and resolve.
Attuned to the discord among the U.S. and its allies about Ukraine, Putin made his move. He took Crimea and he won. There was an oft-used analogy then about the outcome of these events that still resonates today. Putin was playing chess while Obama and Biden were playing checkers.
The impact of Putin's actions in 2014 reverberates in Biden's administration today. The consequences of Biden's undisciplined approach and self-interest as vice president have empowered Putin to continue his tests and provocations many years later.
Now, as president, Putin sees Biden as damaged goods, defending U.S. interests from a position of extreme weakness. This might just embolden Putin to act again, and that should concern all of us.
Rick Gates has worked on U.S. and international political campaigns over a span of 25 years. He is a frequent political commentator and opinion contributor. Rick is the author of "Wicked Game: An Insider's Story on How Trump Won, Mueller Failed and America Lost." Read Rick Gates' Reports — More Here.
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