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Biden Lays Out War Goals

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President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.,  wrote a guest essay (no-paywall link) for the New York Times. In it, he lays out the American role in Russia’s war on Ukraine. It strongly supports Ukraine’s position and clarifies American intentions.

There’s nothing in it he hasn’t said before, but there’s value in its coming from the President of the United States and having it all in one place.

America’s goal is straightforward: We want to see a democratic, independent, sovereign and prosperous Ukraine with the means to deter and defend itself against further aggression.

The US has provided Ukraine with “a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition,” to include “more advanced rocket systems and munitions,” which, the Department of Defense later said, are four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS.

We will continue cooperating with our allies and partners on Russian sanctions, the toughest ever imposed on a major economy. We will continue providing Ukraine with advanced weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger antiaircraft missiles, powerful artillery and precision rocket systems, radars, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi-17 helicopters and ammunition. We will also send billions more in financial assistance, as authorized by Congress. We will work with our allies and partners to address the global food crisis that Russia’s aggression is worsening. And we will help our European allies and others reduce their dependence on Russian fossil fuels, and speed our transition to a clean energy future.

We will also continue reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank with forces and capabilities from the United States and other allies. And just recently, I welcomed Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO, a move that will strengthen overall U.S. and trans-Atlantic security by adding two democratic and highly capable military partners.

The reaction to the next was relatively muted, but I saw a couple of neocons on Twitter rending their garments that such things should not be said:

We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia. As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces. We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.

It’s important that he say this for a number of reasons. First, it assures Putin, insofar as that is possible, that he is not existentially threatened by the US. That brings down the likelihood of Putin’s using a nuclear weapon. Second, it states to the world, that although Russia’s spokespeople continue to call this a war against NATO, the US (and presumably NATO) doesn’t see it that way. That undercuts Russia’s credibility, which has been a continuing American objective. Third, it emphasizes that Ukraine is not a US pawn, which is an important message to send to Ukraine, Russia, and our allies.

He supports Ukraine in a number of ways: “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine.” He recognizes Russia’s crimes against the Ukrainian people.

Standing by Ukraine in its hour of need is not just the right thing to do. It is in our vital national interests to ensure a peaceful and stable Europe and to make it clear that might does not make right.

We currently see no indication that Russia has intent to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, though Russia’s occasional rhetoric to rattle the nuclear saber is itself dangerous and extremely irresponsible. Let me be clear: Any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences.

Clear on the intelligence, ambiguous on the consequences, a good balance. There were additional statements from within the government yesterday that “severe consequences” would, first of all, be non-nuclear. But, of course, they depend on the circumstances, another reason for ambiguity.

And, finally, a statement of resolve:

Americans will stay the course with the Ukrainian people because we understand that freedom is not free. That’s what we have always done whenever the enemies of freedom seek to bully and oppress innocent people, and it is what we are doing now. Vladimir Putin did not expect this degree of unity or the strength of our response. He was mistaken. If he expects that we will waver or fracture in the months to come, he is equally mistaken.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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