Failures in America’s Wartime Leadership Loom Over Ukraine Anniversary

This op-ed originally appeared in the The Washington Times on February 23, 2024.

On Feb. 24, the Russia-Ukraine war will reach its second anniversary. As America enters a third year of proxy war with Russia, the leadership failures that have defined our engagement in this war cannot persist.

Namely, we cannot accept the consensus that peace talks are a sign of American defeat or that they are impossible while Russian President Vladimir Putin is in power.

America needs a drastically different approach to the war in Ukraine — one reminiscent of the America First approach to national security that Presidents Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy demonstrated in times of conflict. After two years, the war in Ukraine has become the largest land war in Europe since World War II. Combined casualties are nearing 500,000, and Americans are growing weary of sending aid to Ukraine without an accompanying strategy for victory. The protracted conflict in Ukraine can largely be attributed to the leadership failures of the Biden administration, which for over two years has dithered and failed to define an achievable end state.

Recently, Mr. Putin stated that he “prefers” President Biden as president because he is “predictable.” This is true. Mr. Biden is predictably hesitant and weak in his approach to foreign policy. In Ukraine specifically, predictability refers to the risk-averse pattern the Biden administration has set by arming Ukraine in piecemeal while placing all its bets on Ukraine achieving a decisive military victory over the Russians.

This approach is not only contradictory, but its tenets work in direct opposition to one another. As a result, Mr. Putin recognizes that with Mr. Biden in office, Russia can likely achieve its objectives in Ukraine. Outside of failed military strategy, Mr. Biden has bungled diplomacy. One of the greatest failures of the Biden administration has been its outlook on negotiations.

A recent report reveals that the Biden administration “dismissed” a call from Mr. Putin to commence negotiations. This is a further instance in which the Biden administration has turned down such peace talk offers, and Mr. Biden has yet to have one direct conversation with Mr. Putin since he invaded Ukraine two years ago.

The question is, therefore, why, after two years of war where Ukraine’s ability to “win,” or militarily defeat Russia and liberate all its territory, seems increasingly unlikely and American resources become scarcer, would the president of the United States dismiss a call from a foreign leader to discuss peace?

First, the Biden administration has so blindly clung to the goal of enabling Ukraine to achieve a decisive military defeat of Russia, made inexplicable given its slow-rolling of lethal aid, the notion of entering peace talks with Mr. Putin has become synonymous with defeat.

Read the full op-ed in The Washington Times.

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