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How Russia May Save The Biden Presidency - For Now

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is giving the Biden administration a chance to score points for its foreign policy.

The White House Flickr, United States Government Work

For the complicated world in which we live, the press coverage of the 2020 presidential campaign was notable for its lack of emphasis on foreign policy.

The media and the Deep State were committed to defeating President Trump. The menu for action was simple: suppress everything that makes candidate Biden look bad (Robert Gates's assessment that Biden was wrong on every foreign policy question; Hunter Biden; Ukraine; China) and Trump look good (no new wars; destruction of ISIS; a pivot to Saudi Arabia and record low oil prices; Abraham accords; and a tight lid on Iran). Meanwhile, the narrative that Trump was compromised, corrupt, and evil continued non-stop.

Even after President Biden was sworn in, foreign policy rarely made it to the news. The administration was more interested in making the military woke, and domestic concerns such as the Covid spending bill, infrastructure, inflation, Build Back Better, and election integrity.

But in the backrooms of the State Department, the Biden foreign policy vision, architected by Secretary Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, was taking shape. Two weeks after assuming the presidency, Biden declared that "America is back" on the global stage. He vowed to confront "authoritarianism" in China and Russia while reengaging with allies. There was just one problem. For an administration consistently high on rhetoric and weak on its ability to execute, the vision had no real chance to become policy.

And then, Russia attacked Ukraine.

Hindsight is always 20-20, but everything Biden promised in his speech a year ago is happening as though to a script. The West is more united than it has ever been in 75 years.

Fear of social media boycotts has driven corporations and individuals to stand with Ukraine, dramatically multiplying the effect of government-led economic sanctions.  President Zelenskyy is the most well-known and unifying figure in the western world. Rising in confidence with each address to a country's parliament, Zelenskyy has warned that inaction to support Ukraine will be noted in the Hall of Shame. The case of automaker Renault, majority-owned by the French government, is an outstanding example. Renault had announced that it would continue production in Russia. Ukraine complained, and within one hour, Renault announced a suspension of Russian operations.

Foreign policy at warp speed is not the staple of any government, but the Russo-Ukraine war is changing all manuals that have existed for a hundred years. There is no time for the clinking of wine glasses at expensive resort locations in Europe. There is no time for carefully-worded official communiqués.

The Left's approach to formulating policy is to find a victim created by a bad character. If a bad actor is not seen, the playbook is to create one, as they did for Justice Kavanaugh. Covid, Jim Crow 2.0, the fossil fuel industry, and Jan 6 were great motivators to unite behind a goal.

No one can be as terrible to the Left as Vladimir Putin, a pariah one step worse than President Trump. And there can be no better victim than Ukraine because, unlike in other global conflicts (Israel v. Palestine; Iran v. P5 + 1), everyone understands who the victim is.

Although in the latest TIPP Poll, 42% of Americans give Biden poor marks for handling the war, the country is decidedly behind Ukraine and against merciless Russian aggression. The White House is milking the American voter's graciousness and righteousness - even sending Biden to NATO to drive home a universal truth: that Putin is evil. Biden continues to take credit for the West's unity, ignoring the harsh reality that the West would have been united no matter who the president was.

Biden's handling of Russia - Ukraine situation

But as Biden shines in the global limelight as a world leader, the risks are profound: Americans want the war to end quickly. With gas prices reaching $7 a gallon in some parts of the country and predictions of worldwide food shortages imminent, a prolonged war of shame has its practical limits.

This week, Biden was visibly irritated by a CBS News reporter's question at the NATO press conference. "Sir, deterrence didn't work. What makes you think Vladimir Putin will alter course based on the action you've taken today?" Christina Ruffini asked. Biden appeared to lose his patience: "Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter." There was a significant problem with this categorical assertion. Every administration official, from VP Harris to Blinken to Psaki to Sullivan, has consistently maintained that the reason for sanctions was to deter Putin.

No one political event has lifted White House confidence since its inauguration. For someone who served as the Senate Foreign Relations Chairman for years, the worst international crisis since World War II is happening on Biden's watch.

But Biden understands what happens if he peaks too early. Nearly 31 years ago, George H.W. Bush's approval ratings were almost 90% after successfully prosecuting the first Gulf War. Bush lost convincingly to President Bill Clinton and became a one-term president six months later.

Related tippinsights Coverage:
Mr. President, This Is No Time For Diplomatic Faux Pas Or Provocation
Don't Let Russia Choke The Suwalki Corridor
Bracing For Russian Cyberattack
The State Department Should Rise To The Call Of The Hour
Russia's Struggle To Meet Sovereign Debt Obligations
President Biden's Performance On Russia
President Putin’s Inner Circle – The Siloviki
Putin’s War On Dissent
I&I/TIPP Poll: 56% Blame Biden's Afghan Debacle For Ukraine Invasion, Fear Putin Will Use Nukes
Biden Should Ask Blair, Gates, And Merkel To Negotiate With Putin
Russia-Ukraine Conflict: A Lesson In NATO's Importance
Twiplomacy Pressures Are Driving Us To Global War
Countering Putin's Aggression
Brothers In Arms: The Russian Army And The Wagner Group
Punish Russia, Not Russians
Putin’s Outrageous Nuclear Threat
5 Factors Behind Putin's Aggression And The Possible Endgame
SWIFT: Europe Can't Have Its Cake And Eat It Too
It’s Time To Walk The Talk To Defend Ukraine
Anti-Fossil Madness Funds Putin's Ukraine Aggression
Putin’s Nonsense Peacekeeping Mission
Nord Stream: A Lesson In Energy Dependence
Cracks Among Ukraine's Allies
Countering Putin’s Brinksmanship
Thirty Years Since The Collapse Of The Soviet Union
Who Will Prevail- Russia Or NATO?


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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics And Geoeconomics

As Ukraine-Russia Peace Talks Kick Off In Istanbul, Erdogan Urges 'End To Tragedy' – The Times Of Israel

Turkish president tells delegates from both sides that the whole world is waiting for good news to emerge from planned two days of negotiations

Erdogan with Zelenskyy

"It's up to the two parties to put an end to this tragedy," he insisted, adding that the "extension of the conflict is in no one's interest. "It is the first time that the two countries’ delegations, which arrived in Turkey on Monday, met after several rounds of talks by videoconference.

Earlier talks between the sides, held in person in Belarus or by video, failed to make progress on ending the monthlong war that has killed thousands and driven more than 10 million Ukrainians from their homes — including almost 4 million from their country.

Turkey previously hosted on March 10 a first meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Those talks in the southern city of Antalya failed to produce a ceasefire or make any other visible progress.

Turkey, which shares a Black Sea coast with both Russia and Ukraine, seeks to maintain good relations with both and has offered to mediate since the start of the war.


Russia Warns U.S. Of Consequences For 'Cyber Aggression' - Reuters

Russia's foreign ministry on Tuesday accused the United States of leading a massive cyber operation targeting Russian state institutions daily and said it would find those responsible for the "cyber aggression."

"There should be no doubt that cyber aggression unleashed against Russia will lead to severe consequences for its instigators and perpetrators," the ministry said.

"The sources of attacks will be identified, and the attackers will inevitably be held accountable for their actions in accordance with the law," it said.


Putin Orders Preparation Of Proposals For 'Unfriendly Countries' To Pay In Rubles For Gas - RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian central bank, the government, and Gazprom to present proposals by March 31 for gas payments in rubles from "unfriendly countries," including all European Union states.

Russia is working out methods for accepting payments for its natural-gas exports in rubles. It will make decisions in due course should European countries refuse to pay in the Russian currency, the Kremlin said on March 28."We are not going to supply gas for free. This is clear," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call. "

But the Group of Seven major economies has agreed to reject the demand, the German energy minister said on March 28. Robert Habeck told reporters that all G7 ministers agreed that this (would be) a one-sided and clear breach of the existing contracts.

Habeck said that payment in the ruble is not acceptable, and we will urge the companies affected not to follow Putin's demand. "Putin said on March 23 that Russia will implement the changes and stop accepting payments in currencies that have been "compromised" within one week.


International Lawyers Call For Suspension Of Extradition To Hong Kong Amid Crackdown - RFA

Anyone critical of the Hong Kong government could be arrested and deported from several countries.

The International Bar Association (IBA)'s human rights wing has called on countries to suspend any extradition agreements with Hong Kong amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent in the city.

"The last few years have seen a significant deterioration of human rights in Hong Kong as China's grip on the city tightens," Anee Ramberg, who chairs the IBA's Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), said in a statement.

The call follows threats to U.K.-based rights group founder Benedict Rogers by Hong Kong's national security police.  The security police issued a takedown order for the U.K.-based Hong Kong Watch rights website, threatening to pursue him under a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

So far, Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States have suspended their extradition agreements with Hong Kong.


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