More or less the whole world – including his own advisers in the background – has slammed President Biden for his latest slip when he said in his Warsaw speech on Saturday that Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power”. There is no need to accumulate. And someone should say that Mr. Biden’s unwritten remark had the virtue of telling the truth that the problem in Russia will not end even if Mr. Putin orders his troops out of Ukraine.
Mr Biden’s remark, even after being rebuffed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday, could well make negotiating with Mr Putin on Ukraine or anything else more difficult. And Mr Biden’s habit of misrepresenting his own policies – no fewer than three times during his European tour – is particularly dangerous amid an international crisis.
On the other hand, the same critics who berate Mr. Biden have helped hide his apparent waning skills in the 2020 campaign. They circled the wagons around his Delaware basement, thinking he was the only Democrat who could defeat Donald Trump.
The reality is that we have three more years to live with Mr. Biden as President. And please stop writing letters imploring us to call for Mr. Biden to resign. Do you really want Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office? She was chosen as a nod to identity politics to unite the Democratic Party on the campaign trail, not for her ability to fill in the presidential footsteps. In the last 14 months she has not even been able to demonstrate the minimum knowledge or skills for the position. We are destined to make the best of the president we have.
In this regard, congressmen from both parties need to play a more assertive role, and the good news is that they have done so to positive effect on Ukraine. Congress has reaffirmed Mr. Biden’s resolve on sanctions and military aid. The pattern is that the White House resists tougher policy until it faces defeat or a difficult vote on Capitol Hill. Bipartisan coalitions of the willing become all the more important as the war drags on and threats from Iran, China and North Korea escalate.
As we have argued, Mr. Biden would also be wise to add some high-profile Conservatives and Republicans to his administration. In 1940, as the prospect of World War I approached, FDR brought in veteran GOP internationalists Henry Stimson as Secretary of War and Frank Knox as Secretary of the Navy. They have built credibility with the public and on Capitol Hill for the tough decisions ahead.
Harry Truman worked with GOP Senator Arthur Vandenberg to build support for NATO early in the Cold War. Jimmy Carter at least had the hawkish Zbigniew Brzezinski as his national security adviser when the Soviets tried to exploit Mr. Carter’s weakness.
Mr. Blinken has shown impressive energy as Secretary of State, and he was right in advising Mr. Biden not to pull out of Afghanistan entirely. But Mr. Biden urgently needs to diversify the advice he gets beyond the liberal internationalists who dominate his councils. Susan Rice, Ron Klain and Jake Sullivan all have Afghan failure on their resumes.
Better advice is needed because Mr. Biden is right that the Russia issue will not go away as long as Mr. Putin is in the Kremlin. That doesn’t mean that openly advocating regime change is wise. The Russians must decide whether Mr. Putin should go.
But Mr. Biden’s muscular claims in the written text of his Warsaw speech need to be backed up by more than rhetoric. The US and the West urgently need to restore and strengthen the credibility of their military and diplomatic deterrent. More hawkish advisors would send a more resolute signal to the world – and especially to opponents.
The world is entering its most dangerous time since the collapse of the Soviet Union and perhaps since the 1930s. The Covid crisis has obscured the trend, but the dangers have become apparent as opponents have responded to what they see as America’s decline, division and weakness at the root of the Afghanistan debacle. Mr. Biden must back his Warsaw words with a defensive build and far more diplomatic realism to confront the grave risks that lie ahead.
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Appeared in the print edition of March 28, 2022.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/president-biden-regime-change-putin-russia-poland-gaffe-ukraine-war-national-security-advisers-klain-rice-sullivan-blinken-11648409352 The President We Have – WSJ