Biden's wasted opportunity on Ukraine at NATO meeting shows he's way over his head

Biden gets testy with reporter on Ukraine: ‘You’re playing a game with me’

President Biden bristles at reporter’s question about effectiveness of sanctions and deterrence on Putin during press conference in Brussels.

Where’s the leader of the Western world? All I saw at the podium in Brussels during President Joe Biden’s short press conference following the emergency NATO meeting was a nice, long-serving Delaware politician with 50 years in politics and no skill as commander-in-chief.

What a wasted opportunity. With the world watching, this was a moment for Biden and America to shine by providing real help and hope to Ukraine, where the fighting is block-to-block as Russia demolishes cities. NATO may have plenty of planes, tanks, and troops but the lack of strong U.S. leadership is hampering the alliance.

Can you imagine Zelenskyy’s reaction? The promise of $1 billion in humanitarian aid was good, but Zelenskyy is pleading for military supplies to stop Russia from destroying Ukraine in the first place. Biden offered 100,000 Ukrainian refugees a place in America. I’m sure Zelenskyy would say the refugees don’t need a ride across the Atlantic, they need Russia out of Ukraine so they can return to their homes.  

Fourteen months into his presidency, it’s clear Biden’s not up to dealing with Russia at war.  

Biden on Thursday was strongest on three points: The “it’s going to be real” warning of upcoming food shortages; the anguish of people displaced by war; and the reasons he ran for president in 2020. All those came easy from 37 years as a senator and eight as vice president.  

Great Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated weeks ago that ‘Putin must fail.’ We need Biden to step up and say Ukraine must win.

But President Biden fumbled badly when asked what NATO would do if Putin released chemical weapons in Ukraine. He first said it would “trigger a response in kind,” which was ridiculous because it meant NATO would fire back with chemical weapons. Wrong page of the briefing book! Biden corrected himself and said they would “make a decision at the time.”

So weak and so sad. All Biden had to do was repeat NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s statement from Wednesday promising “far-reaching consequences” if Putin used chemical weapons. Biden couldn’t even manage that.

We knew Biden would have to grow into his role as commander-in-chief. Remember Biden’s wishy-washy attitude on the raid to capture Usama bin Laden in 2011? Unfortunately, his military advisers have not prepared him for the kind of careful brinksmanship Cold War presidents like Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy pulled off so successfully.

What’s truly scary is that Biden believes he’s doing great. “I’ve been dealing with foreign policy longer than anybody,” he told the reporters in Brussels.  

President Joe Biden speaks during a media conference, after a NATO summit and Group of Seven meeting, at NATO headquarters in Brussels
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

And as we’ve seen before, Biden gets frustrated when challenged. It took just one last reporter’s question on why sanctions didn’t deter Putin’s invasion to bring Biden to the boil. “I did not say sanctions would deter,” Biden retorted.

“Sanctions never deter. It’s the maintenance of sanctions and increasing pressure,” he continued, pledging to sustain sanctions for “the remainder of the entire year.”

Mind you, his staff isn’t helping. Biden’s State Department and Pentagon teams didn’t serve him well during the Afghanistan debacle of 2021. I shudder to think what they are briefing him now. The MiG-29 flap revealed poor policy coordination. 

Biden is in way over his head, and he’s costing America and allies a chance to help Ukraine thrash Putin’s war machine and wipe out the menace of Russia for years to come.

Presidents often get a popularity bump up from a war crisis. Not Biden. The irony is that Biden’s old Senate colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, have better instincts on how to help Ukraine beat Russia. So do the American people, who in polls favor more support for Ukraine.

Ukraine is at war with a real chance to win. Great Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated weeks ago that “Putin must fail.” We need Biden to step up and say Ukraine must win.

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