Biden must prove his dedication to Ukraine and democracy

WASHINGTON (AP), -- A little over six years ago, the Ukrainian parliament erupted in applause when Joe Biden entered the wooden-paneled chamber. In solidarity with the nation under siege, President Barack Obama sent his vice president five hundred miles away.

Biden must prove his dedication to Ukraine and democracy

Biden must prove his dedication to Ukraine and democracy

WASHINGTON (AP), -- A little over six years ago, the Ukrainian parliament erupted in applause when Joe Biden entered the wooden-paneled chamber. In solidarity with the nation under siege, President Barack Obama sent his vice president five hundred miles away.

Biden raised his voice and stated that Ukraine could prove that aggressors "cannot use coercion or bribery to extinguish dreams and hopes of a population."

"For if success" -- Biden raised his fist to the podium, "that message is transmitted around the globe."

The Ukrainian government failed to retake the territory it had lost. Now the world awaits to hear what message Russia will send as it prepares for another invasion. This would be the most challenging test for a president who made democracy defense a central part of his presidency. Biden will have to work with his allies to stop war if the threats of sanctions, weapons shipments, and intelligence operations fail to deter it. Western officials estimate that Moscow currently has 169,000 to 190,000.

The long political career of the U.S. president has been paralleled by Europe's democratic expansion. Russian President Vladimir Putin is an ex-intelligence officer who views the fall of the Soviet Union's collapse as a series of indignities. Biden, however, cheered the so called color revolutions that swept through the former Soviet republics, and supported NATO's eastward expansion.

Daniel Fried, a U.S. diplomat who has been in the region for many years, stated that Biden has "a belief" in the world free from ironic tones.

He said, "It's real." "It's real."

In a country where Biden spent years working to stop Russian aggression, it is possible that decades of progress will be reversed.

"He represents an older generation American politicians who grew-up in the Cold War, for whom the transatlantic community is the center gravity," stated Charles Kupchan who was on Obama's National Security Council. He spoke with the Ukrainian parliament when Biden said that he tried to make China's growing influence a focal point of his foreign policy, but that a peaceful, democratic Europe remains central to his view of the world.

Kupchan, a senior fellow at The Council on Foreign Relations, stated that all of the effort to combat the rise of China must be anchored on a group like-minded liberal democracies. He has gone to great lengths to create a united front.

While Biden was a senator for decades, his attention on foreign affairs shifted to Ukraine as Obama's vice-president.

The current crisis started when the country's Russia aligned leader refused to sign an agreement with the European Union. This angered a populace that viewed a better future looking east than west. In 2014, the Revolution of Dignity was a popular uprising that toppled Ukraine’s government. This triggered Putin.

He responded by seizing Crimea (a peninsula that extends into the Black Sea) and supporting separatists within the Donbas (a region at Ukraine's eastern border).

Max Bergmann, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a U.S. State Department employee at the time, said that everyone was "completely taken by surprise".

The result was a deadlock. While Russian forces and separatists retained control of some parts of Ukraine, a democratic government with its capital Kyiv tried to continue.

Biden was vice president and he visited Ukraine six times. His work in Ukraine is one of the main stories of his memoir, "Promise Me, Dad" 2017.

He said that he was warned by others about the dangers of the situation because it would be "a defeat for the West" but he didn't care.

(It eventually caused headaches in another way during the 2020 campaign when President Donald Trump babbled Biden with unproven corruption allegations because Hunter, his son, was on the board at the same Ukrainian gas company.

Biden spent several weeks crafting his speech for the 2015 Ukrainian parliament. He kept the text updated as he traveled to Ukraine. Biden described the government's struggle with two threats: Russian aggression and internal corruption.

Biden wrote that Ukraine was at the crossroads in history and wanted to remind those sitting in Rada that they were "on the cusp" of something exceptional and, like all worthwhile things in life, extraordinarily fragile.

Biden, a tactile politician who believes strongly in the power and importance of personal relationships, described feeling a sense of connection with his audience.

He wrote, "One thing that I have learned from working with politicians in other countries is that they are much more like me than different."

Biden's last mention of Ukraine in his memoir stated that the country's future was uncertain. "It might take another generation to determine if the Revolution of Dignity has really succeeded in Ukraine."

Putin wants to make sure it doesn't. He has spent months increasing pressure on Ukraine and U.S. officials accuse Putin of planning false flag operations in order to create the pretense of an invasion.

Timothy Naftali is a New York University historian who studied the Soviet Union. He said that the Russian president uses the same strategy as his Cold War predecessors.

He said, "You had a number of Soviet leaders who would try and get their way by scaring me."

Biden declined to send American troops to Ukraine to defend it, raising the possibility of war between Russia and the U.S., two nuclear-armed countries.

He's now moved more troops into Eastern Europe and warned Putin that he would "defend all inch of NATO territory." And he's also pumped more American-made weaponry into Ukraine, which isn't a NATO member.

Former officials and analysts from the United States praise Biden for rallying European countries to resist any Russian attack. This is a difficult task given that different economic and political interests are involved.

Fried, a distinguished fellow of the Atlantic Council, said that this is how it looks when it's functioning. His decades-long career as a Foreign Service diplomat included a stint in Poland as U.S. ambassador. "The French have a unique style. The Germans are always irritable.

Since Biden took office, Trans-Atlantic unity was a priority. Fried stated that solid relationships would make sanctions against Russia more harmful.

Fried stated that Putin will declare war if he is determined to do so. "But if Putin does start a war, it is our job to ensure that his regime loses."

Fiona Hill is a Brookings Institution senior fellow who was the senior director for European affairs and Russian affairs on Trump’s National Security Council. She said that an invasion could have global ripple effects.

She stated that "This isn't just about Ukraine. It's about a precedent set globally."

As he watches democracy be threatened at home and abroad, that's something Biden wants to avoid. He warns that Putin and other autocrats, who have claimed that the liberal idea has begun to eat itself, want to show that representative governments are incapable of functioning in this era.

Biden called these threats the "defining challenge of our times" during a December virtual Summit on Democracy.

At that time, Russia had already deployed tens of thousands troops at the border with Ukraine.

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