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Has Biden Inadvertently Pushed Russia into Invading Ukraine?

AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Roman


With Russian troops poised on the doorstep of Ukraine, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan suggested on Friday that Russia plans to launch an invasion as early as next Wednesday. Der Spiegel, a German outlet, has also allegedly acquired detailed plans for a Russian attack, including proposed invasion routes. If Russia does indeed invade Ukraine, then there will be one clear reason: it will be because Joe Biden and his administration have fundamentally misunderstood Russia’s aims and worldview, and thus missed numerous opportunities to deescalate—leaving the Russians feeling (rightly or wrongly) that they have to do something to break the stalemate.

A few weeks ago, I outlined my skepticism that Vladimir Putin wished to either conquer Ukraine, or to escalate his long-term conflict with the West—and I stand by that analysis today. Russia’s behavior is a response to the passive aggression of U.S. policy since 2014–behavior that would force any Russian leader, no matter how pro- or anti-western, to take action to break an unsustainable status quo.

Oligarchies (and Russia is an oligarchic autocracy more than an individual autocracy as Saddam’s Iraq was) do not embark on wars lightly, especially when the physical and economic security of the entire elite and their families depend on the maintenance of the regime. The fates of the oligarchs and officials who grew up around the Yeltsin regime are ever-present in the memory of Russian officials today. The wealthy and powerful in Russia gain their status from their association with the political system and justify their status by the perceived “success” of that system. The failure of that system to properly serve Russia would delegitimize them. They would not lose reelection. They would lose their property, their positions, and if they did not flee fast enough, their lives.

If Russia is going to start a major international war, it is because the alternative is seen as holding a greater probability of failure than rolling the dice. Here is where the Biden administration has fundamentally and consistently failed to understand Russian interests, and therefore refused to seriously attempt to address them diplomatically. The Biden administration, whether honestly or because they wish for a conflict, has treated Russian complaints – about the loss of the Soviet Union, about promises broken regarding NATO expansion – as actual Russian demands, thereby painting them as delusional, impossible, and dishonest. This, in turn allows the Biden administration to create an impression that Russia is not negotiating in good faith but rather seeking pretexts for invasion in the rejection of their demands.

But these grievances are worth further examination. It is true Russia has brought up both Gorbachev’s abandonment of the Soviet Union and of the Russian position in Eastern Europe as mistakes. It is also true that they see NATO expansion as a betrayal. But despite airing these grievances, Russia has explicitly not demanded the annexation of any territory, nor has it demanded NATO reverse expansion, which has already taken place. It has not demanded Hungary and Poland leave NATO. In other words, these are complaints and observations, not demands they expect to be fulfilled.

What, then, does Russia actually want?

First and foremost, Russia is trapped in Ukraine. Since 2014, the lack of international recognition of Crimea has acted as a justification for sanctions on pretty much any Russian official or entity. This has had knock-on effects in Ukraine, where, egged on by Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has used the pretext that anyone who suggested an agreement with Russia over the Crimea was engaged in treason in order to get around Ukraine’s own laws and seize the assets of political opponents, effectively shutting down the opposition media and the most popular party in the country. In the West, “Crimea” and “sanctions” are weaponized by politicians against their political opponents, as seen by how Democrats used “Russiagate” to undermine Donald Trump, eventually trying to impeach him, and by the media campaign waged in Britain to suggest Brexit was a product of Russian meddling. Russian politicians have concluded that lack of recognition of Crimea is actually not just a threat, but a situation that serves Western politicians well, as it allows them to beat their opponents with it and keep control of Ukraine by purging anyone who dissents as “pro-Russian.”

In the meantime, the Donbass region, which is occupied by separatists, has not just been an economic drain, but a cancerous influence on Russian domestic politics. Russia’s efforts to reach a settlement at Minsk which would return Donbass to Ukraine in exchange for influence in Kiev is (in the Russian view) not only is of little interest to Western politicians and Ukrainian nationalist politicians–who would much rather use a continued Russian presence to strengthen their domestic position–, but it has also turned the separatists into a source of opposition in Russia. Discontented paramilitaries have taken to accusing the Kremlin of being sellouts, attacking Putin as a traitor, and engaging in crime and violence. As one prominent example, Igor Strelkov, who played a key role in the annexation of Crimea and fighting in the Donbass before being removed, has turned into a loud Putin critic.

How can Russia escape? Well, this is where the analogies which Biden confuses for demands come in. The Minsk negotiations were a process by which Russia was going to give up the Donbass in favor of something. The problem is, it was obvious Ukraine, and the West were not willing to pay anything for it, as they concluded they gained more from the Russian occupation than they would from making concessions to end it. That still seems to be the position of the Biden administration. That leaves Russia the option of returning it unconditionally. Herein lies the analogy with Gorbachev.

In the view not just of Putin but many Russians, Gorbachev’s error was not in giving up the Warsaw Pact or any territory at all. Even in the eyes of the most extreme Russian nationalists, there were many components of the Soviet Empire which cost more than they were worth. Gorbachev’s error was in assuming that the Soviet Empire itself was the source of Western hostility, and that if he gave it up in exchange for goodwill, he would receive reciprocal benefits in return. Gorbachev abandoned East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and the Balkans. Not only were oral promises (such as the promise of a delayed, slow compromise process on German reunification, and talks over NATO membership) ignored, but the new governments in their former satellite states showed no gratitude. Rather than being “grateful” for Russian forces leaving, Poland and Ukraine became militantly anti-Russian.

When Putin and other Russian officials discuss the end of the Soviet Union and Western betrayal, they make two points. First, the lesson that unilateral withdrawal earns not goodwill but greater hostility. Every region from which Russia has willingly withdrawn has turned hostile. As such, there is no reason to believe that if Russia withdrew from the Donbass, Ukraine would respond by being friendlier to Russia. Rather, the conclusion is that it would vindicate anti-Russian Ukrainian nationalists who would then push for an even more aggressive policy in the expectation the same strategy would work in Crimea. Second, Russian leaders are convinced, not without reason, that U.S. promises are worthless.

Putin or any Russian leader, therefore, cannot withdraw from the Donbass in exchange for nothing, much less in a way that is perceived as vindicating U.S. sanctions and Ukrainian anti-Russian defiance. That is what they have been saying. Nor can they accept abstract statements of goodwill. That is what the references to the 1990s reflect.

What then can they do? There are two politically acceptable options. The first, ironically, is for the Biden administration to take a very hard line. While the Russians cannot withdraw unilaterally, there is a long tradition in Russian history of withdrawing in the face of overwhelming force. If the Russian elite can portray the U.S./NATO forces present as overwhelming, they can justify concessions. These would, of course be painted as temporary, but it would resolve the current conflict without war, and, if it eliminated the problems of the Donbass, might pave the way for improved relations.

Biden has already rejected this option. By ruling out the use of American force, he has advertised weakness. He has not even bluffed. By making clear the U.S. will not fight for Ukraine, he makes it impossible for Putin or anyone else to justify concessions on the basis that Russia cannot win militarily and had no choice but to stand down. The United States has undercut that argument.

That leaves the second and final option. This is one in which any settlement must involve a demonstration to Ukraine that the West recognizes the futility of a hardline anti-Russian policy. This means that the West must be made to abandon Ukraine, thereby proving to the Ukrainians that any settlement must be made with Russia. Ideally, this would be accomplished by bluff. If the West were to recognize the Crimea as Russian and drop sanctions, it would represent an abandonment of Ukrainian claims and tell the Ukrainians that NATO is not a route to recover the Crimea. Putin in fact hinted last week that Russian concerns about Ukrainian NATO membership are related to continued Ukrainian claims to the Crimea, suggesting that if Ukraine joined NATO, it could force a war between the U.S. and Russia by trying to take back the Crimea. Such a settlement would also probably involve a recognition that accepting Russia’s influence in Ukraine is not treason, the justification used to repress pro-Russian politicians and media and prevent Russia from achieving influence legally.

Russia would likely prefer to resolve these issues peacefully. But the Biden administration is not even acknowledging the existence of these issues, much less considering concessions which will involve domestic costs. If the West and U.S. will not force Ukraine to recognize the Russian presence in the Crimea and will not provide cover for a Russian stand down through a hardline approach, then Russia (in the minds of its leadership, if not in fact) has no choice but to use force and compel Ukraine to accept that “reality” at gunpoint.

None of this should be taken to mean that I am arguing Russia is in the right, Ukraine in the wrong, or that the U.S. should concede. Rather, this is simply the fact of what is happening. Nations pursue their own interests, and the international system often works best when they are honest about that. Russia has interests that any Russian leader, not just Putin, would recognize. The U.S. has interests as well. The U.S. has to make choices and judgments about how to pursue them. If the U.S. is not willing to use overwhelming force to compel Russia to back down, and yet is also unwilling to discuss accommodating Russian interests peacefully, it leaves Russian leaders feeling they have few options; namely, the choice between pursuing the “discredited” strategy of Gorbachev, or gambling on their own strength. After Afghanistan, Biden has all but invited the Russians to do the latter.

Biden needs to offer a way out, be prepared to fight, or accept the consequences.

Daniel Roman is the pen name of a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.  

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7 months ago

I always trust known liars like Jake Sullivan who, if truth be told, belongs behind bars along with Biden.

Bruce s.
11 months ago

Thank you Mr.Roman for a most informative education on this matter. Both sides of the aisle could benefit from this common sense outlook. I believe that The mostly Russian speaking Eastern Ukrainian would like to go back to Russia.

11 months ago

It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if he did. What a moron!!!!!!!!

Bill T
11 months ago

Guess they all forgot what they were accusing TRUMP of during his presidency, poor diplomatic policies and he was going to start the next world war? We’ll the hypocrites are once again doing exactly what they constantly accuse everyone else of! WW3 is as real as ever with this imposter of a president we now are unfortunately stuck with.

Bill on the Hill
11 months ago

Well stated Patriot Will…
Bill… :~)

Bill on the Hill
11 months ago

The Biden administration is a collection of bumbling fools, not so different from his former boss’s administration…
Putin is fully aware of this & I too stand by my original assessment on Russia invading the Ukraine, it won’t happen despite the fact that Biden needs his little war to distract peoples attention away from his absolutely terrible job leading this nation. I don’t need to list his 1st year of catastrophes as potus, all of us are experiencing it first hand…Every American citizen, even those not born yet will be impacted by the installation of a faux democrat administration & many elements of all ( 3 ) branches of US govt. not only allowing a rigged election to stand but actively involved in making it happen…The Executive, Legislative & Judicial, i.e. courts, allowed it all to come to fruition…
Daniel Roman, ( pen name ) has done a credible job writing up his opinion in this article…
Meanwhile back at home: End the MANDATES, end the vaccine PASSPORTS, get the MASKS off of our children, end CRT, end The 1619 project & on & on it goes…
God Bless America…
Bill… :~)

Dan W.
11 months ago

Agreed that the possibility of a Russian invasion of the rest of Ukraine is remote at best.

Putin is too smart to be sidetracked by Biden’s bumbling. Putin will do what’s good for Putin and a forcible Ukrainian takeover is not good for Putin.

11 months ago

Can only hope from your last paragraph, that the country will wake up, vote in decent reps that will apply common sense to correct and resolve the above problems. There is a lot of work to be done and it needs to happen before it is too late.

11 months ago

Heck, biden “inadvertently” became POTUS! The fool has no idea what he’s doing. May our good Lord save us from biden’s idiocy! IMHO…

MAGA2024! TRUMP2024!

11 months ago
Reply to  BwaHa

biden is the supreme DUPA of all time.

11 months ago

Well, Globalists push wars to cut the population of the planet, which is one of their goals. I am sure our present administration knows what they are doing.

11 months ago
Reply to  Burmgal

The “Administration” of our country, mainly the Globalist Traitors, know exactly what they are doing – but the poor addled old fool in the White House is just following his handlers orders to keep the bribes flowing in…

11 months ago
Reply to  Burmgal

The POTUS sure doesn’t!

11 months ago

Joe Biden and his out of tough administration are going to cost American lives. More blood and treasure ………… what fools. SCARY!!!

11 months ago
Reply to  BAE

The US has more universities and colleges than any other country on the planet. Yet we produce people like joe biden.

DJ Jowers
11 months ago

This is possibly the most succinct, thorough, well thought out presentation of the region that I have read. Thanks.

Kenneth Wiezer
11 months ago

Joseph Biden distances himself from American 1st with distain efforts. He must step down.

11 months ago

They are soon to become experienced dolts.

11 months ago

Maybe this is how Biden is giving Ukraine to Russia, and will give Taiwan to China in like manner.

11 months ago

Always remember, a “magician” will ALWAYS distract your vision away from what he’s actually doing… Hmmm… Reminds me of someone named Joe and his buddy, Xi, and his buddy Putin…

11 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Joe is too stupid to be a “magician”, more like the magicians rabbit!

Russell Badolato
11 months ago

Here’s the way I see Biden gets us into a war Russia and China then surrenders and we are all forced to live under Communist rule while Biden and the Democrat elite continue to live the good life. Wait a minute did this already happen???

Kenneth Wiezer
11 months ago

Yes, I believe this could be true. The vail is lifted.

11 months ago

Speaking of dumb woke corrupt illegitimate regime? Here it is.

Nina Rae
11 months ago

This was inevitable from the moment a Democrat was elected President. Their game plan revolves around getting the USA involved in a ‘Conflict’ or all out War somewhere in the world. I’ve seen it happen repeatedly. This way they can cover their fraudulent deeds under war expenses.

11 months ago
Reply to  Nina Rae

Maybe the game plan is to continue to have a war, and there would be no election? I believe it would have to be the U.S. war…..

11 months ago

And don’t forget, this is “the Big Guy” who knows all about “foreign policy”. For about four decades. He knows so much, he has his past compadres stepping in to cover his behind and try to fix what he has really screwed up. Do you know anyone else who has done so much damage to America in so little time?

Bill on the Hill
11 months ago
Reply to  Barb

Barb… Bumbling Biden has BROKE all records of being the WORST president in US history…
He knows it, his handlers know it & he knows the American people know it…
Just like HRC, Biden being of the Elites class figures he has ” sovereign immunity ” as he continues on with reckless abandon at the expense of the American taxpayer…
Bill… :~)

Deploreable Sam
11 months ago

Just a thought here but has anyone considered asking President Putin if he would like to JOIN NATO?
I can think of SEVERAL common adversaries we share with Russia.
Just sayin’.
Also, remember what bo said, something to the tune of, “never underestimate how much fiden can phuque up”.
Let’s Go Brandon
Buck fiden

And have a wonderful day.

Anita Wasemann
11 months ago

Definitely worth consideration…..

Stephen Greenwe;;
11 months ago

The former “soviet socialist republics” did not become hostile to Russia after being released form the “union”. They did not want to be part of the Russian empire under the tsars and they did not want to join the communist empire later. I doubt that Ukrainians forget the kulak famines under Lenin and Stalin.
The former Warsaw Pact countries did not become hostile to Russia in “gratitude” for being released from the pact either. Half of Poland was partitioned first into the tsarist empire and later into the soviet empire, against its will. Neither the Magyars nor the western Slavs wanted to trade in Austrian emperors for communist emperors either.
I do think that expanding NATO after the Soviet Union imploded was what Talleyrand would have called “a mistake”. The US should have taken the opportunity to develop a non-interventionist, America-first foreign policy that kept us out of open-ended, no-purpose, no-win wars. The intelligentsia of the State Department blew it.
Now is the time to cut losses, can the CFR types in the State Dept., and develop a non-interventionist foreign policy.

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