President Biden has succeeded in uniting and reinvigorating NATO after four years of Trump disparaging the alliance. The accession of Finland and Sweden to the defensive coalition is a tangible response to Putin’s aggression. Henry Kissinger says we should have brought Ukraine under the NATO umbrella before the Kremlin resolved to invade. Now, the President says Ukraine is not ready for NATO membership. Surely, Ukraine has proved a stronger defender of freedom and human rights than Erdogan’s Turkey. With a growing military might, Ukraine would strengthen NATO and herself be constrained from engaging in any revanchist moves against Russians.
Further, Mr. Biden is giving Ukraine cluster bombs. This move is deeply divisive to NATO, where most members oppose the use of these weapons. They should be opposed particularly by pro-life Americans. Most victims of cluster bombs would be the Ukrainian children who will be killed by unexploded remnants of these delayed detonation weapons. It is for this reason, the human rights activists oppose use of cluster bombs.
Contrast President Biden’s otherwise staunch backing of Ukraine’s independence with Mr. Trump’s conduct. He applauded the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea in 2014. He called it “brilliant” as it was happening. No other leader of a democracy, not even an opposition leader in a democracy, gave Gospodin (Mr.) Putin’s aggression such blanket endorsement.
Notoriously, Mr. Trump was recorded telling his Ambassador to the European Union “I don’t give a [ship] about Ukraine.” He was first impeached for first opposing and then slow walking congressionally mandated aid to Ukraine. This was in line with the wishes of the Kremlin. He pressured Ukraine’s reform-minded president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to dig up “dirt” on his election opponent—before receiving the aid earmarked for his country’s survival. Mr. Trump thus stepped on Zelenskyy’s oxygen hose.
Now, Mr. Trump promises to end the war in Ukraine “in twenty-four hours.” Easily done by capitulating to Kremlin demands. We are led to wonder how else this war could be ended without humiliating defeat for either combatant.
Here’s a challenge: Mr. Trump could now make a public appeal to the Kremlin. Gospodin Putin pocketed NFL owner Bob Kraft’s Super Bowl Ring. Mr. Trump counts the Russian ruler as his BFF—Best Friend Forever. Ask him to return the ring.
If this happens, it would confirm their historic closeness. Then, it should be another gesture for peace for Mr. Trump to ask the Russians to leave Ukraine’s 2022 borders. That would leave Crimea to later negotiation.
There are sound reasons to set Crimea aside. We cannot accept this brazen seizure. In 1940, Stalin grabbed the Baltics. A desperate Winston Churchill was ready to concede Stalin’s occupation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Franklin Roosevelt strongly objected and Churchill had to bow to U.S. pressure. America was even more vital to Britain’s survival than Stalin’s favor. As a result, the U.S. never recognized the Baltics as part of the USSR, even through 1991, when they re-established their independence.
That can be our model for dealing with Crimea. The absence of any substantial resistance to Moscow’s takeover since 2014 contrasts with militant and heroic pushback by Ukraine since the 2022 invasion suggests strongly that Crimeans are not chafing under Moscow’s rule. Further, Russians seem unanimously to regard Crimea as Russian. Even democracy champion Alexei Navalny claims Crimea as part of his embattled nation.
President Biden has, in the main, staunchly backed Ukraine’s brave fight. Unfortunately, he adds to his stand some troubling elements. Calling Gospodin Putin “murderer and thug” cannot help bring him to the negotiating table. Asking God to remove him is a thinly veiled appeal to assassins in Russia, a most alarming step. Mr. Biden’s endorsement of indicting Mr. Putin for war crimes—and backing a trial before the International Criminal Court—can veto any peace talks.
Why should Mr. Putin agree to such demands while he holds nuclear weapons? Our own American precedents argue strongly against any such statements by our President. John F. Kennedy carefully avoided such personalization of our clash with Khrushchev and the USSR. JFK painstakingly avoided calling Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko “a liar”—even when that dour Russian had clearly given false, more false and still the falsest statements to Kennedy in his Oval Office.
Ronald Reagan was widely dismissed as a wild cowboy. When the USSR’s Yuri Andropov shot down an unarmed Korean Airlines jet straying into Soviet territory—killing all 267 innocent passengers and crew—President Reagan did not even leave his Rancho del Cielo over a Labor Day vacation. He took no move to suggest a super power confrontation at a time of mounting tensions.
Both Presidents, one a liberal Democrat, the other a conservative Republican, avoided World War III. Kennedy once remarked that he would like his epitaph to read: “He kept the Peace.” Reagan is known to have said “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
That is the reason to walk softly and carry a big stick. The best way to avoid nuclear war is to be prepared to defend Ukraine and Taiwan with conventional weapons—avoiding inhumane examples like cluster bombs. We need to keep world opinion on our side. We need vision to carry us through this perilous night.