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Russia has taken on significant losses in the early weeks of their invasion and their economy is increasingly isolated by sweeping international sanctions. While we should be heartened by Ukraine’s valiant stand to defend their homeland, we should also be prepared for Vladimir Putin’s increased desperation and therefore be prepared to check his most dangerous impulses.  

President Biden needs to draw a clear red line, now, and make it known to Kremlin officials that the United States will not stand for the use of weapons of mass destruction and detail the "devastating consequences" he recently promised. 

We cannot afford to make the same mistakes of the Obama-Biden administration in allowing such inhumane attacks to take place.  


In 2012, President Obama declared an infamous "red line" with the Assad regime if they were to use chemical weapons in Syria. 

Despite this warning, the Assad regime moved forward in deploying chemical weapons. The State Department estimates the Assad regime deployed chemical weapons over 50 times since the start of the Syrian conflict, notably using nerve agents in Damascus that killed over 1,500 in an attack – many of them children.   

The Obama-Biden administration’s refusal to act on such barbaric attacks will forever stain our credibility.  

Many of the same officials who advised Obama now occupy the highest levels of the Biden administration, including Antony Blinken, Jake Sullivan and Susan Rice. If they want any redemption for their callous record in Syria, now is the time to make good. They can also learn some lessons from the Trump administration.  

In 2018, President Trump ordered U.S. airstrikes against Assad regime targets after they breached Trump’s own red line on the use of chemical weapons. He gave the order shortly before dining with Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping, who also got the message that the Trump administration wouldn’t stand for the use of chemical weapons on civilians. 

Additionally, the Biden administration should look at how Russia responded to the U.S. killing over 200 Russian mercenaries after they dared to attack a U.S military outpost in Syria.  

How did Putin respond? With crickets.  

Deterrence was restored and the Trump administration sent a clear message around the globe that they would not stand for attacks against our troops or the use of chemical weapons. Putin heard clearly how the U.S. will respond in such an event.  

President Biden should personally state clearly that all options are on the table, including U.S. intervention, if Russia uses WMDs in Ukraine. And he must make Putin believe he will make good on his word.   

This does not necessarily mean sending thousands of U.S boots on the ground as there is a menu of response options that include cyber, space or targeted strikes to degrade Russia's ability to employ WMDs.  

The administration must also stop making vague promises of "severe consequences" and make clear that the U.S. will intervene if WMDs are used and that every Russian general involved will be charged with war crimes.  


We must begin sowing doubt in Putin’s chain of command and deterring him up front rather than confronting Russian aggression after the fact.  One of the first rules of warfare is to make your adversaries respond to you. 

Lastly, the Biden administration should make clear that Putin will be treated as an enemy of the international community and his grip on power will no longer be recognized. This should include trying him as a war criminal in international courts, seeking to expel Russia from the United Nations, and implementing a fully enforced economic boycott of Russia.  

There are several other actions the U.S. can still take in the near term, such as cutting off Russian-led nuclear negotiations with Iran, allowing for the transfer of fighter jets and surface-to-air weapons to Ukraine, and placing additional pressure on India and China to sever economic ties to Russia.  


By letting fear of escalation be the primary driver of our policy in Ukraine, we are dangerously giving Putin space to climb rung after rung up the escalation ladder.  He will continue to push unless he believes he will meet American steel.   

Should we fail to deter Putin from taking that next step, not only will the people of Ukraine continue to suffer mass atrocities, I fear China, North Korea and Iran will be next to push the bounds of their ruthlessness against sovereign neighbors.