News & Politics

Is Russian Military Buildup on Ukraine Border a Bluff?

(Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The Russian military buildup along its border is now at 100,000 troops, according to a defense official in the EU. And more than 20 Russian warships have sailed into the Black Sea.

“Just exercises,” the Russian government says. But with Russian threats against Ukraine increasing at the same time, and Vladimir Putin laughing off President Biden’s warnings, you have to wonder what the Russian endgame actually is.

GOP Senator Lindsey Graham:

“What did Putin say when Biden called him a killer? The next time we talk, I want it to be on live TV. Meet me there, because I don’t think you can stand up to me,” Graham said yesterday in an interview on Fox. “Nobody in Russia is afraid of Joe Biden. Nobody in the world is afraid of Joe Biden. And that’s dangerous for us here at home.”

“We’re withdrawing from Afghanistan against sound military advice. We’re trying to get back into the Iranian nuclear agreement, and the Iranians are threatening to enrich at 60%. You need 90% to get a bomb. The Chinese are pushing us around out in Asia. The border is completely out of control. So, what Putin’s looking at is, in his mind, a weak adversary,” Graham told Fox News anchor Ben Domenech. “I have never seen so much deterioration of our national security in such a short period of time as I do right now. On multiple fronts, Ben, America is weaker, and the world is more dangerous. And I blame Joe Biden and Tony Blinken for this, so far.”

It’s not as bad as all that, is it? Yeah — it is.

This is not so much “America First.” It’s “America alone.” Putin can see that as well as anyone. He’s betting that Biden and NATO won’t go to war over Ukraine and allow him to slice off two provinces from Eastern Ukraine as easily as he stole Crimea on Barack Obama’s watch.

Ukraine isn’t worth going to war with Russia over but perhaps some gestures on the part of Washington might put a kernel of doubt in Putin’s mind and give him pause. Perhaps we could sell more sophisticated arms to the government in Kyiv. Maybe we could tell Putin to go to hell and move our own ships into the Black Sea. Biden was prepared to do that but he was afraid it would “escalate tensions.” That was great news for Putin, who has now moved his own fleet into the Black Sea.

Who’s “escalating tensions” now, Joe?

It’s not written anywhere that the Black Sea is a Russian lake. Something must be done to forestall what could very well be a bloodless conquest worthy of Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland.

Donald Trump made an uncomfortable point that Biden doesn’t want to hear.

“Well, something’s going on because they never did this with me, that I can tell you. Nobody was tougher on Russia. And frankly, getting along with Vladimir Putin is a good thing. And I got along with him very well,” Trump said in an interview at his Mar-a-Lago estate. “The relationship was very good, very strong. But they never encircled Ukraine.”

The only way that Putin would pull the trigger and order an invasion is if he thought Biden was so weak that Russia could get out of it with very little cost.

The way it’s looking now, that might be a pretty good bet.