In the epic book “The Guns of August,” Barbara W. Tuchman detailed in fascinating detail how the European powers stumbled their way into World War I. None of them wanted the conflict. None of them anticipated its scope. Nonetheless, step by step, devoid of strategy and foresight, as if compelled by some invisible force, they proceeded down the path to a conflagration that would ultimately claim 20 million lives.
We may be on the precipice of such a catastrophe again. Joe Biden, incompetent and compromised, has no plan whatsoever for managing the building Ukraine crisis, and yet, compelled no doubt by plummeting poll numbers and domestic political considerations he is now pushing American forces forward into Europe and to the borders of Russia.
Multiple press outlets are reporting that Biden is in the final stages of identifying American military units to be sent to Eastern Europe. As many as 50,000 troops may be involved. He is also reportedly preparing to send warships and aircraft to Europe. The forces being dispatched will apparently be sent to multiple locations including the Baltic republics, which share borders with both Russia and Belarus.
On Sunday, the United States ordered the families of its diplomats in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to leave the country due to the threat of a Russian invasion. The Biden administration has also warned American citizens in Ukraine to leave on their own, stressing the U.S. government will not be able to evacuate citizens should Russia invade.
‘Given that the President has said military action by Russia could come at any time, the U.S. government will not be in a position to evacuate US citizens,’ officials said during a State Department call over the weekend. ‘So, US citizens, currently present in Ukraine should plan accordingly,’ they added.
Meanwhile, NATO said on Monday it was putting forces on standby and also reinforcing eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets. Reportedly Denmark, Spain, France, and the Netherlands were all planning or considering sending troops, planes, or ships to eastern Europe, NATO said. Ukraine shares borders with four NATO countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.
All of this is happening because of the massive Russian troop buildup on its border with Ukraine and the movement of large numbers of Russian troops into Belarus. Indications are that the Russians are preparing for a possible two-pronged attack on Ukraine and a potential deep thrust to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
These developments are extremely concerning. To the extent, they suggest that Vladimir Putin is preparing to invade Ukraine and transform it into a vassal state, they should command the attention of Washington and every member of NATO. We ought to take the threat seriously and formulate a clear, coherent policy for countering this Russian aggression.
We should also face reality. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. We have no treaty obligations to defend Ukraine nor realistically – short of full mobilization and a protracted conventional war with Russia – do we have any real options for militarily countering a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine and Russia share a long border. There are no natural obstacles between Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine is making noises about becoming part of NATO and welcoming American and European forces onto its soil. American troops in Ukraine will be, from Putin’s perspective, poised to strike at the heart of Mother Russia. He looks at the possibility a lot like we would look at the prospect of seeing Russian tanks on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Putin may be a thug and want desperately to reconstitute the Soviet Union. He is not wrong about the strategic implications of Ukraine’s westward drift and flirtation with NATO.
A rational, pragmatic administration would recognize all of these factors and act on a strategic level to address them. It would begin by rolling back efforts to cripple American oil and natural gas and instead do everything possible to stimulate that industry and put us in a position to export energy to Western Europe and make it independent of Putin’s attempts to use natural gas exports as a weapon. A pragmatic administration would also do everything possible to prevent the building of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will allow the Russians to get natural gas to Western Europe without pumping it across Ukraine.
Money made from selling oil and natural gas fuels the Russian military. Let’s start by shutting off that income. Then let’s look across the globe at every other pressure point we can identify and take steps to make Putin feel the pain of his imperial ambitions. Let’s prepare to turn Russia into a pariah state and bankrupt it if Putin moves into Ukraine.
We might then be able to sit down with the Russians from a position of strength and discuss how to proceed on Ukraine. Perhaps we might even craft an agreement that would give Putin the assurance that NATO will not put troops in Ukraine but still preserves Ukrainian independence and allows it to continue its path toward true democracy. We might find a way forward that addresses American national security interests and steers us clear of war.
To do that, however, would require clear-eyed, competent analysis and deliberation. That is nowhere to be found in the Biden administration. Biden is an empty suit who long ago sold his soul to the Chinese Communist Party. He is surrounded by the weakest national security team in American history. Many of them are compromised by the Chinese as well. They have all made their careers on appeasement and surrender.
This team of weaklings and incompetents has no plan, and they show no prospect of developing one. In Afghanistan, the whole world saw just how feckless they are. They have learned nothing since.
The world knows we are adrift. The American people know so as well. Biden is deeply unpopular. His party is looking at a massacre in the coming midterm elections.
And, so, now we will send troops, and ships and planes into harm’s way devoid of a plan or strategy just so an impotent old man whose life work has been selling out to the highest bidder can pretend to have some virility and backbone. Our forces will deploy, tensions will continue to rise and the whole world will hold its breath.
All it will take will be one misstep, one mid-air exchange of fire, one collision at sea, one misinterpretation of a movement on the ground and we will be at war. We will be at war with a major conventional military power in Eurasia. And no one will be able to tell you exactly why or when it will end or how many of our sons and daughters will die this time.
In 1914 they were the Guns of August. Let us hope now we do not hear the guns of February.