Biden, Putin, and Risk

The war in Ukraine has become, or always was, Biden vs. Putin. But there is a key difference in the players. Biden is old and fading. He’s senile. He may serve out his term. But, if we’re honest, we have to admit he may not. He could either retire, encouraged by his wife, or be removed by the cabinet pursuant to the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. He then can watch television and ruminate on a lifetime in politics. 

Putin’s fate is different. He is, or seems, healthy—or, anyway, healthier than Biden. He rides horses bareback—at least when there’s a photographer handy. He can’t afford to lose the war in Ukraine. If he does, or if it seems he is about to lose, he is likely to be demoted to prisoner. Or corpse. For him, the stakes are existential—a word that has lost its meaning in the United States because of its incessant application to climate change. In Soviet Russia—’scuse me, modern post-Soviet Russia—existential still has real meaning. 

All of that is obvious and was even before the war in Ukraine began. But the United States and NATO joined the war effort anyway. 

Now we are told Russia is losing, prompting the question: What comes next?

Joe Biden is the 21st century’s Woodrow Wilson. Burton Pines wrote in his 2013 book, America’s Greatest Blunder: The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One, that there was no reason for the United States to have joined the three-year-old war in Europe. Nevertheless, the United States sent two million doughboys to Europe and broke the battlefield stalemate. That won the war, but it allowed Britain and France to impose devastating conditions on Germany, which incited German cries for revenge.

If America had not joined the war, wrote Pines, the combatants, exhausted from years of savage fighting, would have had to negotiate an end with neither side getting all it wanted. A compromise would have meant no winners, no losers, no Treaty of Versailles, no reparations, no German demands for revenge. And: no Hitler, no World War II, and no Cold War.

The lesson: going to war can be a mistake. 

But to a failed president like Biden, war must have seemed like a gift. A big war could take the citizen-voters’ minds off rampant crime; defunded police; sky-high inflation; massive government debt; the effective elimination of the southern border; hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants (as well as crime, disease, and fentanyl) flooding into the country; and siccing the Justice Department on “terrorist” parents of school children. Hardly a record for winning friends. 

 But just “going” to war isn’t enough. You have to keep fighting. So now Biden is asking for more money for Ukraine—the United States has already provided more than $54 billion—and of course, if Ukraine actually wins, the United States will probably wind up footing most of the bill for rebuilding the country, estimated at hundreds of billions of dollars. (Why the United States? Two words: Willy Sutton.)

And what will count as victory for Ukraine? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now engaging in mission creep: he wants to recapture Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

But now winter is approaching. The climate alarmists who populate the Biden Administration and worry incessantly and foolishly about global warming may not be aware that in winter . . . it gets cold. But people in Europe know that. Old people in Europe, really old people, may remember the final years of World War II and the next year, when it was . . . deathly cold in Europe. People who say history doesn’t repeat itself but only rhymes may be in for a cold surprise. 

The sabotage of the Nord Stream Pipeline could be bad news for people who can afford to buy Russian gas, but also for those who cannot, because if there’s no gas, the price of wood in Europe will go up. It takes at least three cords of wood to heat an average house for a winter (there are lots of variables). But will Europeans be able to find adequate supplies of wood? Have you ever tried to carry three cords of wood? Wood! Talk about turning the clock back.

The Biden Administration will continue to find ways to keep the war on the front page—and all this to support a country most Americans couldn’t find on a map. And which was known by those who could find it to be utterly corrupt. And which paid Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, obscene sums of money.

Will Russia win or lose? Who knows? Russia is thought to have hundreds of tactical nuclear weapons ready for use, and knows it is really fighting the United States and NATO, not just their very junior partner, Ukraine.

If Russia loses, the Bidenistas will be triumphant and tell us that it was worth the struggle. Maybe. But what if we have to fight another war right after this one? Will we have sufficient hardware? One estimate is that the United States could run out of its best precision-guided missiles “about a week” into a war with China. 

But if even the United States and NATO beat Putin, will it have been worth the risk?

Even if the world doesn’t end in a nuclear holocaust brought about by Biden’s war, it won’t mean there was no risk.

Just because you jump out of a fifth story window and land . . . in a hay wagon that happens to be passing underneath doesn’t mean it was a good idea to jump out that window.

Just because Putin may not, in the end, opt for Armageddon, doesn’t mean tempting him almost to the breaking point was a good policy decision. 

So, yes: The United States, Europe, NATO may win. But we can’t be sure. 

The worst may be yet to come. And Biden’s war may yet turn out to be as ill-advised as was Wilson’s war. 

About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

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