Biden’s Folly in Ukraine
Americans find it difficult to determine whether the Biden administration’s policy decisions regarding Ukraine are the product of a deliberate strategy, extraordinary incompetence, or some combination of both. Threatening Russia, a nuclear armed power, with regime change and then annunciating a nuclear weapons policy that allows for the United States’ first-strike use of nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances”—responding to an invasion by conventional forces, or chemical or biological attacks—suggests President Biden and his administration really are out of touch with reality.
American voters instinctively grasp the truth that Americans have nothing to gain from a war with Russia, declared or undeclared. A short trip to almost any supermarket or gas station in America explains why. Last week, inflation hit its highest point in nearly 40 years and gas prices have skyrocketed since the conflict in Ukraine began.
Thanks to the Western media’s non-stop dissemination of unfavorable images of Russia’s leaders and its military, it would appear that President Biden is able to espouse any narrative that suits his purpose. Obscuring the true origins of this tragic conflict, however—NATO’s eastward expansion to include Ukraine—cannot alter strategic reality. Moscow can no more lose the war with Ukraine than Washington could lose a war with Mexico.
Ukraine’s proximity to Russia gives Moscow unconstrained and immediate access to Russia’s reserves of military manpower, equipment, and firepower. Notwithstanding Moscow’s determination to avoid unnecessary collateral damage to Ukraine’s population and infrastructure, Russian Air and Ground Forces are at liberty to methodically destroy Ukrainian resistance in detail.
Russia’s commodity-based economy, with its abundance of food, energy, minerals, and other resources, creates enormous strategic depth for Moscow on the Eurasian landmass. These resources make Moscow Beijing’s natural strategic partner, thus securing Moscow’s Asian border. Moscow’s role in stabilizing Central Asia also makes Russian strength indispensable for the success of China’s Belt and Road Initiative rooted as it is in the historical Silk Road, linking the economies of East Asia to Europe, Africa, and the Near East.
At the same time, Washington’s frequent use of financial sanctions have severely weakened, if not wrecked trust in the U.S. led global financial system. It is far more likely that countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa will either bypass sanctions to buy discounted Russian and Belorussian commodities or simply refuse to enforce them.
To minimize the impact of financial sanctions imposed by Washington and the European Union, Russia began “de-dollarizing” its economy years ago. Unburdened by the kind of odious sovereign debt that plagues Washington, Moscow has been able to stabilize the ruble with interest rate increases, and links to gold reserves. Now, de-dollarization is spreading. China, India, and Saudi Arabia are introducing de-dollarization policies as an anti-sanction measure. Saudi Arabia’s offer to sell oil in Chinese yuan raises real questions about the future of the petrodollar.
Despite Japan’s public display of solidarity with Washington, Tokyo really made its bed with Eurasia when Tokyo signed on to membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Program (RCEP), the world’s largest trade bloc. Predictably, Tokyo already declared it will not ban Russian oil and natural gas imports and Japan will continue to work with Russia on important joint economic projects.
Europeans breathed a huge sigh of relief on April 1, when the Russian Government announced that Moscow will not cut off sales to European buyers of Russian natural gas, as long as buyers set up accounts with Gazprombank, where payments in foreign currency will be converted to rubles. Still, Europeans will soon have to decide whether to reject trade and cooperation with governments in Eurasia that resist Western liberalism, with its universalist pretensions, or confront the specter of civil unrest at home.
Russia’s enormous share of energy and food in European and global markets always meant war between Russia and Ukraine would be a nightmare scenario. It was no surprise when German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned on April 2 of the serious worldwide consequences of the Russian war in Ukraine, saying, “We must ensure that this war comes to an end quickly.”
Scholz is right. Price surges in energy and food will now lead to expanded drilling for oil and gas around the world, as well as increased farming for wheat, barley, and corn outside of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. But these actions will not compensate for the looming structural commodity deficits or supply chain problems affecting fertilizer and metals.
Washington’s ruling class has a long record of misjudging strategic reality. Seeking to advance NATO through Ukraine to Russia’s western border may well be the worst blunder in American foreign policy since the end of World War II, but Washington learns nothing and remembers nothing. After the defeat of Anglo-French military power in June 1940, the combined power of Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Imperial Japan was unassailable. Had the three remained in alliance, neither Washington, nor any combination of powers, could have challenged them for decades.
President Biden and Washington’s uniparty are fostering the domination of the Eurasian landmass by a collective arrangement of the world’s leading economic powers including Russia, China, India, Japan, Central and Southeast Asia, thereby restoring the strategic condition Washington feared in 1940. American voters would prefer that Washington focus on shoring up American economic prosperity, controlling inflation and restoring the rule of law, not war with Russia.
President Biden would be wise to follow Scholz’s example and work to end the dangerous conflict in Ukraine. Even so, for the indefinite future the use of U.S. military power in the Eastern Hemisphere will now involve the potential for war with more than one first-class power in more than one region of the world at a time. Well done, Mr. President.
Douglas Macgregor, Col. (ret.) is a senior fellow with The American Conservative, the former advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, a decorated combat veteran, and the author of five books.