As the Ukrainian people valiantly resist the Russian invasion, every war crime committed by Putin’s forces, every act of Russian terrorism against the civilian population leads us closer to the conclusion that the United States must do more.
I am a liberal. I generally oppose war as an exercise in futility. The use of military force during my lifetime has largely been a waste of lives and money. But the nightly news and the daily newspapers are beginning to make my blood boil.
Yes, the U.S. has imposed sanctions. Vladimir Putin characterizes even these economic measures as acts of aggression, but does anyone think Putin has been seriously hurt by banking penalties?
As I watched Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy exhort first the Canadian Parliament and then the U.S. Congress to come to his country’s aid, I found myself increasingly convinced that the U.S. and our NATO allies are not doing enough. We should at the very least give Ukraine the jets and missiles and artillery they are begging for.
“Being the leader of the world,” Zelenskyy told President Joe Biden, “means to be the leader of peace.”
That 40-mile Russian convoy that initially stalled outside Kyiv when it ran into fierce Ukrainian resistance on the ground could have been reduced to a 40-mile pile of rubble if Ukraine had the firepower it seeks. That’s what we did when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
But Russia isn’t Iraq and Putin isn’t Saddam Hussein. America and its allies clearly fear Putin’s nuclear wrath should they take up arms in defense of Ukraine. I’m not sure it’s worth the risk, but I am sure we need to do more than talk tough and tie up oligarchs’ yachts.
America looks weak. You have to deal with bullies from a posture of strength. I want Putin to fear us as much as we fear him.
The whole idea behind mutually assured destruction is that neither side will dare use its 6,500 nuclear warheads. Biden is afraid that angering Putin will provoke World War III, when, in reality, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is what might do that.
Ukraine wants a no-fly zone to prevent a murderous dictator from slaughtering the free people of a democratic nation, but U.S. leaders are cowered by Putin rattling the nuclear saber. Putin might think twice about his threats, however, if he saw his infernal army – one that targets hospitals, schools, and residences – being blown to bits in Ukraine.
The U.S. has a military budget that is more than 10 times Russia’s – $715 billion compared with $62 billion. We have a gross domestic product that is also more than 10 times Russia’s – $21 trillion versus $1.5 trillion. The U.S. is a much stronger and more prosperous country, yet we kowtow to Putin and his failed state.
I get it. Biden is being cautious. He’s a reasonable and decent man (unlike his predecessor). But what we need right now is an American leader as bold as Trump but not as crazy as Trump.
One thing is clear in all this: Biden should not be thinking about running again in 2024. He is too old, too tired, and too ineffectual. And he will not get credit for preventing WWIII if it is at the expense of Ukraine’s freedom.
As Zelenskyy told Congress, “Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting to defend the values of Europe and the world.”
Today, Zelenskyy, not Biden, is the leader of the free world.
Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!)
Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.