Joe Biden is upping the ante in Ukraine. Even as Vladimir Putin directs a fresh barrage of missiles, Biden is apparently planning a trip to Europe next month to deliver a major address on the anniversary of the Russian invasion and announce a substantial military aid package for Kyiv.
Good for him. A speech in Poland or Lithuania — both leaders in the struggle against Russian aggression — will strengthen NATO and demonstrate that a year into the conflict, unity, not dissension, prevails when it comes to confronting Putin’s revanchist ambitions.
At every step, Biden has checked Putin, who assumed he could invade and occupy Ukraine in a thrice. Instead, Ukraine valiantly defied Moscow and Biden seized upon its defiance to forge a grand alliance against Russia, whether it’s the expansion of NATO in northern Europe or shipping arms to Ukraine. Most recently, he managed to break the logjam on delivering tanks to Kyiv, a move that marks a decisive moment in the war as Russia plans a new mobilization and a big offensive for the spring.
For all its huffing and puffing about its nuclear arsenal, Russia has failed to deter America and its allies from providing Ukraine with vital assistance, including Bradley fighting vehicles and tanks. The latest sign of Western resolve will help strengthen Ukraine’s ability not simply to repel Moscow, but put it on the defensive. For a regime that subsists on propaganda, the conspicuous lack of victories in Ukraine threatens its very existence.
Perhaps the most ominous sign, from Moscow’s perspective, is that Germany is performing something of a U-turn in foreign affairs. Far from going wobbly, Germany, prodded by Poland, is adopting a more assertive stance toward Putin. Whether chancellor Olaf Scholz wanted to make it appear that he had no choice but to succumb to American pressure is an open question. In essence, he drove a hard bargain with Biden, demanding that he approve sending thirty-one M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, something that the Pentagon was loath to do.
But Scholz, whose Social Democratic Party contains a retrograde pacifist wing steeped in delusions about reaching an accommodation with Putin, had less freedom of maneuver than his coalition partners, the Greens and Free Democrats, who pushed all along to aid Ukraine. Particularly noteworthy is German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, who, in a keynote address Tuesday at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, decried “Russia’s murderous attack on the people of Ukraine.” She added, “We are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other.”
She’s right. Now that Scholz has approved the transfer of Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, there’s no going back. The handcuffs that the West imposed on itself over the past year in arming Ukraine have been discarded. There are no real red lines any longer. Indeed, it’s only a matter of time before Ukraine receives fighter jets from the West to counter Russian forays into its air space. Maybe the decision will even be reached by the time Biden travels to Europe, not as an innocent abroad but a war president resolved to prevail against Putin.