Has the Biden administration lost sight of the risks of overheated rhetoric in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, playing into Putin’s hands and undermining global security?
The Russian military has continued its assault in eastern Ukraine, most recently celebrating the reported capture the city of Mariupol following prolonged resistance from Ukrainian forces.
Moscow has now focused its efforts on establishing pro-Russian enclaves in the nation’s east after failing to seize control of Kyiv.
The United States continues to lead international efforts to provide material support to Ukrainian forces – short of direct military intervention.
Aid has included the provision of small arms, ammunition, artillery, armoured vehicles and military intelligence.
This has been reinforced by strong US rhetorical support for Ukraine and equally aggressive condemnation of Russia.
But according to former White House communications adviser Pat Buchanan, the US has overstepped its mark.
He cites reports in The New York Times, which suggest US intelligence played a role in the targeting and killing of Russian generals and the sinking of Russia’s Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.
“Why US intelligence would do this seems inexplicable,” he writes.
Taking credit for Ukraine’s military successes, Buchanan argues, could “diminish the achievements of that country’s own forces”.
He adds the Biden administration’s public “taunt” of Russian President Vladimir Putin could provoke retaliation, risking direct US-Russia conflict.
Further, Buchanan argues US boasting “plays right into Putin’s narrative”, fuelling Moscow’s claim of US-led ambitions to “crush Russia”.
“Indeed, why are we going beyond assistance to the Ukrainians in defending themselves, into making this America’s war?” he continues.
Buchanan goes on to criticise US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s remarks during a visit to Poland following her trip to Kyiv, during which she said, “America stands with Ukraine. We stand with Ukraine until victory is won.”
He also admonishes US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who stated US intensions to “see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kind of things it has done in invading Ukraine”.
Buchanan continues: “These statements by US leaders reinforce Putin’s line that Russia is besieged by a US-led Western alliance that fears and detests Mother Russia and wishes to see her defeated and diminished.”
“Our enemies in the West who seek to destroy Russia are like those we fought in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, Putin now claims. And intervention in Ukraine was necessary to prevent today’s neo-Nazis from dragging Ukraine into their larger conspiracy to destroy Russia.”
Buchanan also reproves President Biden’s own language to describe Putin, labelling him a “killer”, a “murderous dictator”, a “pure thug”, a “butcher”, a “war criminal”, guilty of “genocide”, who “cannot remain in power”.
“Such language is designed to showcase Biden as the world’s leading anti-Putinist and the most morally outraged of all the world’s leaders at what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” he writes.
“But, again, like the public boasting of U.S. intel agents over our role in the sinking of the Moskva and killing of the Russian generals, the effect is to disqualify the US president from any role in negotiating a truce or an end to this war.
“How do we benefit from having no leader-to-leader communication with the Kremlin, which President John F. Kennedy retained in the Cuban missile crisis to end it?”
Moreover, Buchanan suggests NATO’s European members are not on board with Biden’s supposed plans to “cripple Russia permanently”.
As such, Buchanan calls on the US to moderate its tone and reassess its desired outcome from the Russia-Ukraine war.
“America needs to recognise that our objectives in this war are not the same as Ukraine’s,” he adds.
“President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would like to have the US plunge in and fight alongside Kyiv, devastate and defeat the Russian army, and expel Russia not only from the regions invaded this year but also from Crimea, which Putin annexed in 2014.
“America’s vital interests in this war, however, are to prevent it from becoming a US-Russia war or a third world war or a nuclear war.
Buchanan concludes by stressing the US’ goal of “imposing a crushing defeat of Russian aggression” should be secondary to a “far more vital interest in avoiding a US-Russia war”.
“America’s interests are best served by an early and negotiated peace,” he writes.
“Such a goal rules out imposing humiliating terms on Russia, which cause Moscow and Putin to escalate militarily – to survive politically.”
Published by Defence Connect on May 18, 2022.