As we approach the one-year anniversary of Putin’s barbaric war against Ukraine, President Biden and his administration will deliver plenty of platitudes. The American people should not confuse rhetoric for results.
The results of our Russia policy are worse than anyone could have imagined two years ago: the outbreak of the largest land war in Europe since WWII, the Russian economy set to grow this year under sanctions, and Ukraine repeatedly forced to beg Biden for weapons they should already have. This war should never have started and with the right policies in place may have already resulted in a decisive Ukrainian victory.
That is why, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Putin’s invasion, POLARIS National Security has chronicled the historic and ongoing failures of the Biden Administration’s Ukraine policy.
Standalone links (for best viewing experience):
Fact Sheet 1: Biden’s Failure to Deter Russia.
Fact Sheet 2: Biden’s Failure to Sanction Russia.
From the day he took office, President Biden and his team implemented a series of policies that strengthened Putin’s hand, undermined Ukraine, signaled weakness, and demonstrated a dangerous lack of willingness to defend Ukraine.
Yesterday, President Biden admitted that this war was launched despite the U.S. having advanced warnings months ahead of time. Biden diagnosed the failure of deterrence well: “Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided…he thought he could outlast us.” President Biden is directly responsible for laying that groundwork for Putin’s assessment.
15 Key Actions Biden Took That Encouraged Russia to Invade Ukraine:
January 20, 2021: Biden launches war on American energy – President Biden cancels the Keystone XL pipeline and bans all new federal drilling, handicapping the American oil and gas industry and killing as many as 59,000 jobs. European allies intensify their reliance on Russian energy supplies.
January 27, 2021: U.S. announces re-entry into New START Treaty – President Biden re-entered the New START treaty with Russia in the first week of his presidency without any attempt to renegotiate the terms which were favorable to Russia. Three weeks ago, the Biden Administration admitted that Russia was violating their renewed treaty. The Trump administration had fought for the treaty to include China and be re-negotiated in a way that did not unfairly benefit Russia.
February 18, 2021: Biden cancels sanctions blocking Iranian-Russian weapons trade - Biden’s State Department unilaterally cancelled the Trump Administration’s snapback of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which had reimposed the UN arms embargo against Iran supplying weapons to Russia and other countries or terror groups. After Biden’s move, Iran and Russia were able to legally conduct arms sales with each other. Biden received nothing in return from Iran or Russia.
March 2, 2021: Biden blocks $150 million in Ukrainian military aid – In a manner repeated multiple times throughout 2021, the Biden administration blocked significant amounts of military aid to Ukraine that had been authorized by Congress, claiming that Ukraine needed to implement certain reforms before receiving weapons.
May 7, 2021: Russian hackers shut down Colonial Pipeline, Biden does nothing – Russian hackers from the REvil syndicate used a ransomware attack to shut down pipelines across the southeast United States for nearly a week. Instead of holding Russia responsible for individuals operating on their soil, Biden officials later said the President “believes in diplomacy”.
May 19, 2021: Biden waives sanctions on Nord Stream 2 – Against firm bipartisan opposition, Biden waived sanctions on the new Russian pipeline that sought to pump gas into Western Europe and isolate Ukraine. This move signaled to Putin that his previous coercive energy diplomacy was acceptable and that western funds would continue to pour into Russia.
June 18, 2021: Biden blocks another $100M in weapons for Ukraine – The White House halted a $100M package of lethal military aide to Ukraine, with NSC officials saying they would provide the package to Ukraine if Russia invaded the country, not beforehand to deter Russia.
July 20, 2021: Biden officials tell Ukrainians to shut up about Nord Stream 2: Politico reports that Biden administration officials tell Ukraine to stop their criticism of Biden’s deal with Germany to continue Russian gas shipments, and to not discuss any details of the deal with Congress.
August 15, 2021: Fall of Afghanistan – Biden pulls out of Afghanistan as the nation immediately falls to the Taliban, resulting in the deaths of 13 American servicemembers. The Washington Post reports that U.S. intelligence showed Putin believed Biden was “chastened by the humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan and wanted to avoid new wars.” Accordingly, Putin believed the U.S. response to an invasion would be “high on outrage but limited in actual punishment”.
November 5, 2021 – Biden rejects Republican Calls for Stronger Presence in Black Sea - Key Republicans tell Biden to send troops and ships to the Black Sea and weapons to Ukraine to deter a Russian invasion. Biden’s Department of Defense declines to act, despite requests from Romania and Ukraine.
December 12, 2021: Biden Holds Back $200M in Aid - Despite appeals from Ukraine, Biden admin holds back additional military aid to Kyiv amid diplomatic push with Russia. Ukrainians will suffer in the early days of the war from this lack of weaponry.
January 11, 2022: Biden officials lobby Congress not to impose sanctions on Russian pipeline – Top Biden administration officials lobbied Senators to oppose sanctions on Nord Stream 2.
January 12, 2022: Biden tasks Wendy Sherman to prevent war – Biden sent the State Department’s Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, who negotiated the 1994 Joint Framework that allowed North Korea to develop a nuclear weapon and negotiated the JCPOA that allowed Iran to legally develop a nuclear weapon by 2031, with another vital task: preventing war.
January 19, 2022 – Biden: “It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion” - Biden says that a minor incursion of Ukraine might not be met with a strong response and that they’d have to debate what to do. Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy chastises Biden.
February 4, 2022: State Department greenlights $10 billion Russian-Iranian nuke deal – As part of their efforts to appease Iran and Russia into join a new nuclear deal, the State Department issued waivers for a series of Iranian nuclear projects led by Russia’ state-owned nuclear enterprise, Rosatom. These waivers included a greenlight for Russia to construct two nuclear reactors in Iran, a contract worth $10 billion.
February 24, 2022: Russia invades Ukraine – Meanwhile, the Biden Administration is still debating whether they think it is legal to send military aid to Ukraine, worrying it could be provocative.
Key Takeaway: The most provocative action of all was Biden’s repeated appeasements and weakness that signaled a bright green light to Putin that the costs of invading would be low.
Biden’s Sanctions Fact Check:
Administration Claim: On April 6, 2022, President Biden said "The steps we're already taken are predicted to shrink Russia's gross domestic product by double-digits this year alone."
Administration Claim: Biden: Russia’s economy will shrink by half in the coming years. White House: Putin’s war will wipe out the last 15 years of economic gains in Russia.
Administration Claim: Biden: “As a result of our unprecedented sanctions, the ruble was almost immediately reduced to rubble.”
Administration Claim: Biden officials claim: “Russia is suffering a dramatic decline in oil sales that stands to deprive the Kremlin of a key source of government revenue.”
Administration Claim: Putin is struggling to finance his war and is taking drastic measures to keep his economy afloat.
Administration Claim: Sanctions made it harder for Russia to equip its military and access foreign-provided weapons.
Administration Claim: We are going to focus on curbing sanctions evasion in 2023.
Administration Claim: The United States enacted nearly 2,000 sanctions on Russia since the start of the war.
Key Takeaway: The Biden administration needs to spend less time talking about how wonderful its sanctions have been and more time building sanctions packages that actually target the primary sources of Russian revenue. It should look to the Trump Administration’s Maximum Pressure campaign on Iran – which cut Iranian GDP, oil revenue, and military spending by double-digits – as a rubric for a successful sanctions campaign to weaken a war machine.
While the Biden Administration pays lip service to supporting Ukraine, Biden’s top officials have gone to great lengths delaying, denying, and downgrading military aid for Ukraine that is needed to repel the Russian invasion. We previously documented the repeated failures to arm Ukraine before the war. This fact sheet documents Biden’s ongoing failure to do so.
Biden’s Strategy to Arm Ukraine: Delay, Deny, Downgrade.
March 9, 2022: U.S. rejects Poland's offer to give it Russian-made fighter jets for Ukraine, claiming it could provoke Russia (which had just started a land war in Europe).
March 10, 2022: The United States won’t give Patriot air defense system to Ukraine, claiming it may provoke Russia (which had bombed a maternity hospital killing hundreds of children, mothers, and doctors the day before).
May 18, 2022: Biden rules out giving Ukraine Multiple Rocket Launch Systems (MLRS) that can strike into Russia because it doesn’t want to provoke Russia (which had been bombarding apartments and other civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv).
May 31, 2022: Biden finally agrees to give Ukraine MLRS, but only if Ukraine promises not to fire them inside Russia. WWIII does not commence.
June 15, 2022: Biden finally agrees to send Harpoon anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, which will take several months to reach Ukraine. If the Harpoon missiles had been in Ukraine before the war (or even at the start of the war) they could have been used to deny Russian naval access and dominance. WWIII does not commence.
August 9, 2022: Biden refuses to send ATACMS munition that Ukraine has requested, because the administration is concerned it would provoke Russia (which had recently struck residential buildings, a supermarket, and pharmacy in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv).
September 16, 2022:Biden administration holds off Ukrainian request for more long-range missiles for fear of provoking Russia (which had recently set up torture chambers in occupied Kharkiv).
October 10, 2022: Biden finally agrees to give Ukraine advanced air-defense systems after the Russians strike Kyiv with several missiles. The systems will take two months to arrive – if they had been sent two months earlier, they could have intercepted incoming missiles. WWIII does not start.
November 29, 2022: Eight months after saying it couldn’t provide Ukraine with Patriot missile defense systems, the Pentagon is considering sending Patriot batteries to Ukraine.
December 21, 2022: Nine months after refusing to provide Ukraine with Patriot missile defense systems, the United States reverses course and agrees to send Patriot batteries to Ukraine. WWIII does not commence.
January 20, 2023: Eleven months into the war, the Pentagon argues against sending tanks to Ukraine, saying they won’t get there in time and that training on the tanks takes months.
January 25, 2023: Pentagon sends Ukraine 31 M1 Abrams tanks. WWIII does not commence.
February 13, 2023:The U.S. tells Ukraine it won’t send long-range ATACMS missiles because it has few to spare – despite having nearly a whole year of war to increase production. This is a changing excuse from six months prior, when the justification was that it could provoke Putin.
Key Takeaway: If Biden had sent all the systems Ukraine asked for when Ukraine needed them, many thousands of Ukrainian lives would have been saved and WWIII still would not have started. Russian forces would be far weaker today, and the prospect of peace could be far closer.
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