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Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this week, two months after Russian troops invaded his country. Given this, it is important to underscore that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have sent his forces into Ukraine in the first place if President Biden had not demonstrated such weakness on the world stage in his first year in office.
Four U.S. presidents have been elected so far this century, and, with Putin effectively in power in his country for the entire time, Russia has invaded a neighboring country on the watch of three of those four presidents. In 2008, during President George W. Bush’s last year in office, Russia invaded Georgia. In 2014, under President Barack Obama, Putin sent his forces into Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and he did so again eight years later, one year into Biden’s tenure.
Say what you want about our 45th president, but Donald Trump remains the only U.S. president elected this century during whose term Putin decided not to invade a neighboring country.
The reason Putin did not do so was that Trump demonstrated undisputed strength on the world stage, in everything from knocking heads with his NATO partners and getting them to pay their fair share in that alliance, calling out Germany for its dependence on Russian oil and gas, eliminating the ISIS caliphate and killing its leader al-Baghdadi, deterring Iran, standing up to China, beginning the pullout from Afghanistan after 19 years of war in that country, forging the first peace agreement between Israel and several of its Arab neighbors in a quarter-century, and reducing illegal border-crossing from citizens of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras by 85 percent, among other accomplishments.
Biden did the opposite. He demonstrated weakness early on with respect to China, whose leaders lectured Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on race relations in Alaska. Biden also failed to hold Chinese Communist Party leaders accountable for possibly developing, and certainly spreading the virus around the world that has killed just short of 1 million Americans to date, while continuing to cover it up.
Similarly, Biden started up talks with Iran on re-entering the weak Obama nuclear deal that Trump scuttled while failing to add countries to the historic Abraham Accords with Israel. Perhaps most telling for Putin, Biden bungled the exit from Afghanistan, losing 13 of our bravest men and women in uniform in the process and turning over the country to the Taliban, this time armed with some $80 billion of lethal NATO-supplied military equipment.
With Putin himself, Biden gave in on completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany that Trump had blocked, and Biden asked for nothing in return.
Now, two months into Putin’s second invasion of Ukraine in eight years, it is important to remember that Biden’s weakness on national security gave a green light to the Russian leader’s longtime ambitions for further military action in Ukraine that he held in check for four years under Biden’s immediate predecessor. In the wake of Blinken and Austin meeting with Zelensky, the Ukrainian president should bear in mind what, and who, set the stage for where we stand today.
Mr. Ullyot served as deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs and National Security Council spokesman, 2019-21. Mr. Grant served as senior adviser for strategic planning in the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, 2019-21, and is author of “Aggression Against Ukraine: Territory, Responsibility, and International Law.”