Russia is gaming Biden – again. Putin has detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, claiming he is a spy. Biden glibly shouted “let him go” from a helicopter. That was it. What a change from Ronald Reagan in 1986, when US News reporter Nicholas Daniloff got snatched by the Soviets. Reagan was clear, firm, uncompromising, and had Daniloff home in three weeks.
The contrast is shocking, and reveals far more than differing styles – or how American reporters will be treated around the world. The Soviets respected – and most historians would say feared – Reagan. By contrast, Russia and China know Biden is empty, weak, indecisive, and fearful.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan was not only bringing the Soviet leader around to understanding America would win the Cold War, he was blunt. In 1981, he had said he would fire air traffic controllers for violating the law – and did. Decades later, the Soviets admitted that shocked them.
Reagan said he would defend freedom everywhere, Space to Central America, and he did. He said he would deliver the illegitimate Soviet Union to history’s dust heap, and he did. The only party exhibiting fear back then, shying from confrontation, was the Soviet Union.
Reagan did not hesitate, did not permit misunderstanding, did not apologize for American exceptionalism, did not shift in word or deed, attitude or reaction. He did not get complacent, indulge wishful thinking, go soft, or confuse evil with good.
Reagan left no room for misinterpretation, no doubt about America’s military and economic power, and resolve to use it. He left no doubt about our alignment of power with moral high ground. He knew the stakes, engaged the debate, hit hard and won. The Soviet Union collapsed.
Contrast Biden, who can barely stay cogent, often seems lost, and like his giggly vice president – albeit for different reasons – out of his depth and regularly incoherent. Biden not only forgets stage cues, loses his way, and projects disorientation, but he has developed a record for weakness.
China and Russia are smart, cagy, and opportunistic. They are angling – in alliance – to obtain global dominance, displacing the US dollar as the world’s currency, outrunning America’s nuclear arsenal, replacing America in the Middle East, Far East, Europe and South America.
Even worse, Biden is playing right into their hands. When they snatched a US basketball player and US Marine then demanded a prisoner swap, Biden and his stumbling diplomatic and national security team simply conceded. They got a horrific, proven, death-dealing spy.
When Biden got threatened by the Taliban – a terror group America had crushed, soon to be displaced by American-trained young people at minimal added cost – he literally ran away, leaving a hundred thousand young Afghan allies to die, condemning generations.
The Russians and Chinese see coming years as their chance to flip the board, change the global calculous, grab and keep objects of geographic desire, realign alliances, and displace America.
Is it any wonder – in this moment of peril – Russia just grabbed another innocent American? Any doubt they aim to use him as “trade bait” for return of another major Russian spy or maybe subtly to demand Biden step back from the Mideast or Ukraine, let China gain ground?
Is it any wonder Putin and Xi just met and mocked Biden, planned on how to divide the world? If so, it should not be. Where Reagan had the Soviets – and to a great extent Chinese – down for the count, marginalized in their ambitions, constantly in relative fear – the reverse holds now.
To be as blunt as Reagan once was, and clear as we must be about what is afoot, the Russians and Chinese see Biden, Harris, Blinken, Austen, and Biden’s bungling band of bashful, bitter, blustering idiots – just as they are. Biden’s brand is afraid, easily cowed, and readily manipulated.
If there were ever a time to see the world as it is – dangerous, unforgiving, and nasty – and to act as Reagan did – tough, true to his word, demanding outcomes for freedom – ours, the world’s and innocent reporters – this is that time. But do not count on it – Russia is gaming Biden, again.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.