Bad time for Biden to flub
Paris 21, January 00h15.
The world’s attention, already on the 127,000 strong Russian build-up on the Ukrainian border, was brought more sharply into focus when a stumbling President Biden appeared to give the green light for a partial invasion by Vladimir Putin’s army.
Biden said that Russia “will be held accountable if it invades’ Ukraine, before adding that “it depends on what it does”.
“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,” Biden rambled on. “But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the force amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia.”
Media pundits everywhere were nonplussed by this blunder.
The Daily Mail commented that the security of Europe is on a knife-edge, the future of Nato in the balance. The credibility of the United States is on the line, and America’s allies are looking for a cool head and unconditional support for the basic principles of international law and order.
But the sheriff had a senior moment, gave away the game plan, and revealed he is a clear and present danger to world peace.
Even the broadcaster CNN, which acclaimed Biden’s victory in the 2020 elections with Pravda-like enthusiasm, has turned on him. Van Jones, an Obama appointee-turned-talking head on the network, called Biden’s performance on Wednesday ‘foggy and meandering, like Reagan at the end’.
Meanwhile on Monday landing ships from Russia’s Baltic fleet appeared to be skedaddling towards the Med to join up with what is increasingly looking like a full-scale invasion team. Each ship – the Korolev, Minsk and Kaliningrad were today sailing south past the UK followed by Northern Fleet warships Olenegorsky Gornyak, Pyotr Morgunov, and Georgii Pobedonosets.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, confirmed to CNN yesterday that it was considering increasing deployments of troops in the eastern part of the alliance. He said that such a move would “send a very clear message to Russia”.
Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said in Berlin that if Russia invaded Ukraine, the continent would be dragged back to a “more dangerous and unstable time” in which the threat of all-out war hung heavily over everyone. It was part of a damage limitation exercise flub to convey serious intent following the Presidential, echoed also by vice president Kamala Harris.
In Geneva later today Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is due to meet Antony Blinken, America’s secretary of state, but with little prospect of a diplomatic solution. On January 19th Sergei Ryabkov, one of Mr Lavrov’s deputies, said that even a 20-year moratorium on NATO membership for Ukraine would not satisfy Russia. In recent weeks, Russia has mobilised reservists and dispatched troops and missiles from as far away as the North Korean border, reports The Economist.
Western countries are bracing for the worst. On January 17th Britain began airlifting thousands of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Days earlier Sweden rushed armoured vehicles to the island of Gotland as three Russian landing craft passed through the Baltic Sea, destination unknown. The same day, Ukraine was struck by cyber-attacks which defaced government websites and locked official computers. Meanwhile, the White House said it had intelligence showing that Russia was planning staged acts of sabotage against its own proxy forces in eastern Ukraine to provide a pretext for attacking the country.
Meanwhile President Macron of France appeared to undermine western solidarity when he called for EU states to conduct their own dialogues with Russia rather than plough the US-Nato furrow, flying in the face of pleas for “unity.”
On a different note, here is Matt Frei’s Channel 4 interview with the Mayor of Kyiv, former world heavyweight boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko. Frei, Channel 4’s Europe editor, is dwarfed by the Ukrainian giant, who at 2.01 metres, would present a big target for Russian snipers. Klitschko is a heavyweight on the political circuit, too: a clever and resourceful voice of the people of Kyiv.