Constituent policy

Biden’s foreign policy woes are about to define the presidency

The COVID-19 pandemic was poised to define President Joe Biden’s administration, but two years into his tenure, foreign policy issues are looming.

Now, after his murderous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, his judgment on international conundrums is again in question as Russian President Vladimir Putin launches a bloody war against neighboring Ukraine.


According to historian David Greenberg, events abroad, such as Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, “threw a wrench” in the White House’s plans.

“Woodrow Wilson did not expect World War I. Lyndon Johnson intended to achieve his Great Society when Vietnam intervened,” Greenberg told the Washington Examiner. “Biden is also discovering that world events demand his time and attention.”

Aside from his $2 trillion Build Back Better program in social and climate spending, Biden was elected to return the country to some semblance of post-pandemic normality. And while many COVID-19 restrictions are still in place and the current 12-month inflation rate is at a record high of 7.5%, with Putin announcing what he called a “special military operation” to demilitarizing and denazifying Ukraine is another foreign test that is distracting Biden from his onslaught of domestic challenges.

Even one of Biden’s biggest domestic political issues, the influx of migrants at the border, has a strong diplomatic and international component. Vice President Kamala Harris’ efforts to tackle the “root causes” of migration have been widely criticized.

Biden is “stuck with a bad hand” with Putin and Ukraine after his two predecessors cut American global leadership, Greenberg argued.

“By accepting the neo-isolationism of our time, Obama, Trump and Biden himself helped create a climate in which Putin felt emboldened to invade,” Greenberg said of former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. . “The question is whether it’s too late for Biden and our European allies to reinvigorate the kind of liberal internationalism that has served America, Europe and the rest of the world so well in the past.”

Putin’s attack on Ukraine, including an airstrike near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, comes as Biden began to regain a foothold at home thanks to the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. His nomination of the first black female Supreme Court justice has preoccupied the political chatter class for the past month, instead of pundits focusing on his failure to unite congressional Democrats behind his legislative priorities.

Now critics are seizing on Biden’s decision to stagger sanctions against Russia and not directly target Putin’s finances. They also clung to comments he made during a speech in the East Room that downplayed the chilling effects of the measures and the time frame in which they are expected to inflict economic hardship.

“Nobody expected the sanctions to stop anything from happening,” Biden said Thursday. “It’s going to take time. And we have to show determination so that he knows what’s coming and the Russian people know what he brought them,” he added of Putin. . “That’s what it’s about.”

“These are deep sanctions,” he continued. “Let’s have a conversation in about a month to see if they work.”

Deputy National Security Adviser and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, Daleep Singh, defended Biden’s remarks on sanctions against Russia soon after. Singh predicted the measures would propel “an intensifying negative feedback loop in Russian markets.”

“It will atrophy Russia’s ability to diversify away from oil and gas and modernize the strategic sector that Putin himself has said he wants to develop,” he said.

Singh also claimed that harsh sanctions against Russia from the start would have discouraged Putin from engaging in diplomacy. They could even have provided him with the justification for the war.

“Second, he might consider it a sunk cost,” Singh said of Putin. “In other words, President Putin might be thinking, ‘I’ve already paid the price. Why am I not getting what I paid for, which is freedom of thought? ‘Ukraine?'”

Meanwhile, Republicans have amped up Obama-era Defense Secretary Bob Gates, ripping Biden’s world record despite the commander-in-chief being a self-proclaimed pundit after years as chairman of the committee of the Senate. Gates wrote in his 2014 memoir that Biden “got it wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”

“Biden promised this wouldn’t happen — he promised a safe and peaceful world if elected president, specifically mentioning Russia,” Republican National Committee spokesman Tommy Pigott said. “However, the grim fact remains: when Biden was vice president, Putin annexed Crimea, and when Biden was president, Putin invaded Ukraine.”

Biden did not help himself by confusing what specific Russian action against Ukraine would trigger a US response.

“It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion,” he said last month.

Then senior administration officials were needled this week for their reluctance to use the word “invasion” before Biden described Putin’s recognition of two Russian-backed separatist regions as independent as “the start” of an incursion.

The semantic disagreement, which came after the United States came under scrutiny for calling a Russian offensive against Ukraine “imminent,” is another example of Biden’s policy flip-flops.


For example, Biden chose this week to sanction the CEO and corporate body behind Nord Stream 2, a Germany-Russia gas pipeline that allegedly bypassed Ukraine and cut its transit revenue.