Column: Putin’s plans have been ‘years in the making’

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a video address to the nation in Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a video address to the nation, following the initiative of the country’s lower house of parliament and security council to recognise two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in Moscow, Russia, in this picture released February 21, 2022.
Sputnik/Alexey Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

Many politicians and pundits are expressing “shock” at Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Where have they been?

In many diverse areas, the Biden administration and its devoted acolytes in the media appear unprepared and unknowledgeable. Have they never cracked open a history book? Have they failed to follow any news reports other than those that kowtow to leftist orthodoxy? In far too many topics, current elected officials display a disturbing reluctance to go beyond ideas with no more sophistication other than what could be displayed on a bumper sticker.

The current crisis in Ukraine has been years in the making since Obama did little in the aftermath of the Crimea invasion, and fairly well advertised by the Kremlin. The Trump era delayed its implementation.

Putin has openly lusted after the restoration of the Soviet Union. Despite the 20th century’s horrendous events, including two global wars, concentration camp genocide, and the intentional murder of about 75 million people in the USSR and communist China, he has described the disintegration of the Soviet Empire as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

He has ambitiously developed the means to rectify what he describes as that “catastrophe.” Despite his nation’s weak economy, which has a gross domestic product of $1.4 trillion from a population of 144.1 million (compare that to the state of Texas which has a GDP of $1.9 trillion generated by a population of only 29 million) he spends 4% of Russia’s GDP on his armed forces, a larger percentage than that of the U.S.  Further, he has developed the planet’s most powerful nuclear arsenal, both in the type used as a strategic threat (ICBMs, etc.) and as battlefield weapons (which he currently uses to discourage NATO from assisting Ukraine.)

Brookings study notes: “Moscow’s nonstrategic nuclear weapons are… worrisome. To begin with, there is Russia’s violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile to intermediate range. While such a missile likely will not pose a direct threat to the United States, it constitutes a treaty violation and would threaten U.S. allies, as well as other countries, in Europe and Asia…The outside world has less visibility regarding Russia’s nonstrategic arsenal than Russia’s strategic forces. It appears, however, that the military has developed a range of nonstrategic nuclear capabilities, including cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles and aircraft. By contrast, the United States has steadily reduced the number and types of weapons in its nonstrategic nuclear arsenal.”

Against Putin’s robust and muscular position, Democratic presidents have used half-hearted sanctions, and have taken steps that actually finance Putin’s economy. Eliminating U.S. energy independence, as Biden did instantly upon taking office, dramatically increased the Kremlin’s ability to finance military adventures and left our allies vulnerable to Moscow’s pressure. In 2014, Barack Obama responded to Russia’s invasion of Crimea with sanctions. Putin laughed them off. Now, as the rest of Ukraine is gobbled up, Biden responds the same way: with sanctions. Those sanctions aren’t even all that tough, despite the president’s insistence that they are.

Most importantly, he failed to take the one action which would have devastated Moscow’s military spending, and at the same time restored the ability of our allies to stand tough against Russia: return American energy independence.

It is not a coincidence that Russia did not attack Ukraine again in the intervening years between Obama and Biden, and that China did not re-attack the Philippine exclusive economic zone as it did during Obama’s reign. The military spending and energy independence that marked those intervening years was an effective deterrent. Toughness and self-sufficiency by free nations does not cause wars; it discourages the dictators that start them.

It is a historical lesson that, apparently, the Biden administration and its supporters have never learned.

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