Biden's costly miscalculation makes Ukraine a lost cause

A Wall Street Journal editorial this week highlighted the absurdity of America's strategy in Ukraine.  The Journal urges the U.S. to provide more advanced weapons to Ukraine, including a longer-range missile system, which Biden is reluctant to do.  Ukraine, with America's help, must win, argues the Journal, in part to thwart a developing Russia-China-Iran axis of power.  The Journal doesn't seem to notice that U.S. and Western support for Ukraine's military has been the impetus for this incipient axis.

Yet the fundamental flaw with America's position is being overlooked — not just by the Journal, but more importantly, by nearly the entire political class and media.  There's a good reason Biden is rightfully fearful of providing more advanced weapons: Russia is armed to the teeth with nukes.  So we'll help Ukraine only up to a point.  And Putin is well aware that Biden is terribly afraid of "escalating." 

In war, telling your enemy you'll push only so hard is a serious handicap.  It cedes a critical tactical advantage to the Russians, because you can be sure Putin won't hesitate to escalate, if he thinks he might lose in Ukraine, and compel us to retreat.  He can force America's hand by announcing that Western support for Ukraine violates Russia's sovereignty, backing it up with a significant escalation. 

What might that look like?  For a venal mind like Putin's, the possibilities are endless.  Perhaps he'd start with an "anonymous" cyber-attack against our power grid that cripples one or more major U.S. cities.  That would further weaken the already tepid American resolve on Ukraine.  He might then threaten to incinerate Kiev and other Ukrainian cities with ballistic missiles equipped with powerful non-nuclear (or nuclear) warheads if we don't stop supplying arms.  Of course, the Russians could also use their air superiority to identify and bomb Western arms shipments.  Are we prepared to bomb Russian assets in Ukraine in response?

What would Biden do?  I suspect that the Russians believe he'd fold like a cheap suit.  Biden can hardly afford to meaningfully respond to a major escalation by Russia over Ukraine, given the threat of Russia's nukes and weak support for the war at home.

In short, Putin can call the bluff of Western commitment in Ukraine and force us to back off.  So far, he hasn't needed to.  But if he feels Ukraine slipping away, he undoubtedly will.  At bottom, our support for Ukraine — beyond just costing billions of dollars — will only bolster the growing perception of America as a foolish and feckless superpower.

David Culver Brenner writes and produces the humor and commentary site, He is the author of a novella portraying the dangers of socialism, The Un-Socialist Chickens (

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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