In a guest essay in The New York Times about Russian President Vladimir Putin who has led the invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden said “the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow.” Once again, Biden disavowed any plans to dispatch troops to the Ukraine, saying, “So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict.”
Perhaps this is not what Biden should be emphasizing at the moment.
Biden said the U.S. does not intend to oust Putin, but perhaps Biden meant to say that U.S. support to Ukraine is not intended to change Russia’s system of government.
Even if that were true, Putin is trampling the Charter of the United Nations, and the problem of invading Ukraine, an independent, sovereign nation, remains. There are charges of war crimes and crimes of aggression. Hasn’t Biden himself called out Putin as an “aggressor” and “war criminal”? It’s obvious that politicians who have been judged as war criminals should not be in positions of power.
We should note that Biden’s disavowal of sending troops to Ukraine is a moot point. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, which is an alliance for collective defense. It has no bilateral alliance with the U.S. The U.S. certainly bears no responsibility under any treaty to deploy troops to Ukraine.
But a careless declaration about not sending troops could be a possible hindrance in America’s ability to deter Russia from using nuclear weapons against Ukraine. In the same New York Times essay, Biden’s claim that Russia would invite “severe consequences” if it deployed nuclear weapons is not much of a discouraging tactic. Wouldn’t it be more of a deterrent if Russia suspected that the U.S. would stage a military intervention in the event Russia deployed nuclear weapons in Ukraine?
Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Biden repeatedly said that U.S. forces would not be deployed there. Putin upon hearing this may have launched his invasion with the expectation that he would only be fighting Ukraine.
Biden ought to be more aware of how much weight his statements carry, and refrain from making superfluous comments that could have negative consequences.
In an interview before a U.S.-Japan leadership summit, Biden said that if China attacks Taiwan, the U.S. military would be involved in Taiwan’s defense. This remark was significant in increasing deterrence, and one could say it was welcome.