President Joe Biden ordered American troops, attack aircraft and fighter jets into eastern Europe to reassure North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in what officials call an effort to deter further aggression from Moscow but which looks like throwing fuel on a fire.
If we cut off Russia from the SWIFT international banking system, expel the Kremlin leadership from the international community, put out arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and his allies, along with seizing their assets, it may get results without enlarging the military conflict but it would be wise to consider how this episode might have been avoided.
When the Trump administration approved the sale of deadly military arms to Ukraine, rekindling a Cold War that was once relegated to history, creating a precarious new standoff between the US and Russia, the world’s largest nuclear powers, Americans gave Russia reason to fear its neighbor and ultimately provoked this invasion.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government issued a lengthy list of demands to the U.S. and its European allies, including a call to withdraw their troops, equipment and weaponry from former Soviet-bloc states bordering Russia.
The Russian government asked for a formal halt to NATO’s eastern enlargement, a permanent freeze on further expansion of the alliance’s military bases and weapons systems in the former Soviet territory, an end to Western military assistance to Ukraine, and a ban on intermediate-range missiles in Europe.
Ever since the annexation of Crimea in 2014,
“Providing nonlethal equipment like night vision goggles is all well and good, but giving the Ukrainians the ability to see Russians coming but not the weapons to stop them is not the answer,” said New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the hawkish chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well,” said Biden on Tuesday. “I have authorized additional movements of U.S. forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic allies, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.”
The White House and European allies have scrambled to respond since Russia began massing more than 190,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders.
For months, Biden has insisted U.S. troops will not fight in Ukraine, which is not a NATO ally, but he has redoubled defenses in surrounding countries by temporarily repositioning American forces from other parts of Europe.
“These are totally defensive moves on our part,” said Biden. “We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”