The Americans are doing what they can to show the Russians that they take this seriously. And that means, of course, coordination with NATO. And we’ve already seen a few announcements of forward deployments in the region, F-16s in Lithuania, F-35s in Bulgaria, troops in Romania, a frigate in the Black Sea, all announced earlier today by NATO and supported by all NATO members. But the countries involved include France in directly providing those deployments, which is important given that the French president was talking about strategic autonomy and basically going the European route, which won’t work, but makes NATO and the United States weaker in its ability to respond to Russia at this time.
The Americans are also talking about potentially some level of preemptive sanction, again, to push the Russians back. Because, so far, messages from Russia have been escalated. They are the ones who first get their staff out of their embassy in Kiev. They continue to greatly expand Russian troops across all of Ukraine’s borders, including, in a short time, into Belarus with massive military exercises beginning shortly. And these were only announced very recently, and with the cyberattacks on Ukraine just over a week ago.
So the new leaks from the UK, or not actually, announced by the UK and backed by the US that the Russians have this intelligence plan to put a new government in Kyiv, doesn’t really change my point of view in the sense that it is very clear that President Putin ordered a plan to be put in place if he decided to invade and overthrow the Ukrainian government. He wants a plan and they’ve come up with a plan for him. That doesn’t mean he’s going to. It means the plan is there. And it’s consistent with the course of diplomacy and it’s consistent with Putin keeping the options open. That doesn’t tell you much about what he’s going to do.
But I think all Russian activity is consistent with, if we don’t have a diplomatic breakthrough, and diplomacy is still going on but there’s no reason to believe there’s a breakthrough, so we’ll see an additional level of escalation from Russia, and America and NATO must respond.
One of the encouraging things is that, in fact, US policy towards Ukraine enjoys broad consensus on almost every issue. Democrats and Republicans from all political walks of life agree that the United States should work hard to engage in diplomacy with the Russians now to lower tensions. Everyone agrees on that. Everyone agrees that the Americans should provide additional military support to the Ukrainian government. That’s what the United States is doing. Furthermore, there must be a strong deterrent against any Russian intervention in Ukraine. Any Russian intervention in Ukraine, the Americans must be very clear that they will pay a very significant cost. Also, the United States needs to get the Europeans on the same page with all of this. It’s a hard thing to do, but it’s still supported in the United States. And finally, overall in the United States is that Ukraine should not be offered a NATO invitation, but the NATO invitation cannot be taken off the board unilaterally by Russia.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a serious foreign policy crisis in which the United States found itself. We could talk about Iran. We could talk about Afghanistan. We could talk about the war in Iraq. Almost everything you think of, that there was this level of real agreement across the political spectrum on what Americans should be doing. Whether you put in place a Republican leader, the opinions would be the same. But the country is so incredibly divided that everyone is trying to find things to pick on. Partly because there’s no point in saying the other side is right. And furthermore, assuming that the policy doesn’t work to some extent, and there’s a high probability that the policy doesn’t work to some extent, because America is in a difficult position. The Russians care much more about Ukraine than the United States. The Russians have far more economic influence over Europe than they have over the United States. So the United States has more leeway if you were.
And it’s really difficult to get a strong coalition to agree on all levels of action, given all the weakness and reluctance that the United States has shown to be the world sheriff and to lead the world and the make it safe for democracy. Some of them are self-contained and others have to do with the nature of the world order. So you put all of those things together, and it’s highly likely that even the best US foreign policy on Ukraine will somewhat fail. And also that as a result of that, the fingers that are going to be pointed are going to be extravagant.
Now I will say that the only thing that bothered me that came from the United States and some allies, I’m looking at you, Canada, was the signal of virtue, the #StandWithUkraine hashtag, that the Obama administration has spear . I remember when Jen Psaki was posting this sign, I was really mad at her the moment she did it. And I’m pissed now too. He looks weak. The Russians think it’s a joke and it’s useless. I mean, it’s the kind of thing you do when you don’t really have a policy. But the reality is that the Americans and the Europeans, as I just said, have a policy. It’s not about politics. And that reflects both multilateralism and strength, and also reflects the limits of what the Americans are not going to do. I mean, you can support Ukraine, but we don’t integrate it into NATO and we don’t directly defend the Ukrainians if they are attacked.
It is not like Taiwan where there is ambiguity on this point. There is no ambiguity that the Americans and their allies, if the Russians call in tanks, may be sending weapons to Ukraine, but they are not directly helping Ukraine. There is no way it will be World War III with Americans and Russians fighting for Ukraine. It’s not going to happen. So precisely for all those reasons, we should stop with hashtags and we should focus on real diplomacy and real consequences, which I think most of us do, but some of us don’t. . This is, again, one of those nonsense that gets people’s hair on fire in the media and on social media. And right now is a time when the United States should come together because frankly, in reality, we are together, which is interesting and useful for us to remember.
So that’s it for me. I will talk to you all very soon.