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Days ago, Vladimir Putin did what we all have known he was going to do for months: He invaded Ukraine.   

This invasion was by no means inevitable. We in the Trump administration knew that it was Putin’s aim to establish Russian dominance and influence over all the old Soviet bloc countries, including in Ukraine. We were able to keep an invasion like this one from occurring by establishing a model of deterrence not just with respect to Russia, but with anyone who threatened to harm or undermine our interests.   

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking to the media during a news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 1, 2022. (Yuri Kochetkov/Pool)

We kept the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from being completed, we withheld talks on a new START treaty, and we worked with our partners in NATO to increase defense spending and present a greater potential response to any act of Russian aggression.  


We knew what Putin wanted to accomplish if given the chance, and we took the steps necessary to ensure he didn’t get that chance. Make no mistake, Putin is about the business of trying to bring back the Soviet Union.  We must not allow that to happen.  

It is not Vladimir Putin who has changed; it’s American leadership that’s changed.  

The Biden administration has been threatening to execute what Vice President Kamala Harris called "some of the greatest sanctions, if not the strongest, that we’ve ever issued." But Putin has shown from day one that he is largely unconcerned with Western sanctions. As Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy said in response, "We don’t need your sanctions … after we will have no borders and after we will have no economy or part of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then?"   


These sanctions, and their threat weakened by the administration’s announcement that they would not include Russia’s access to the SWIFT banking system or their oil and gas industry, failed as a deterrent to prevent a Russian invasion of Ukraine.   

President Biden has been weak toward Putin, unstable and unclear.

They failed because sanctions are just one tool for executing effective diplomacy and establishing deterrence, yet the Biden administration has acted as if they are sufficient as a reactionary strategy. They are not; deterrence must be multifaceted – military force projection, American energy dominance, allied resolve, and clear, concise dialogue and expectations.  

In the Trump administration, we incorporated all these factors into our strategy of diplomacy and deterrence, yet the Biden administration has allowed each to slowly erode with feckless, muddled responses to Russian aggression that have neither projected strength nor imposed costs on our adversaries. They have stopped speaking in the one language that Putin understands: strength.

They gave Putin a new START treaty without extracting any costs or concessions; allowed Russian thugs to hack the Colonial pipeline, driving gas prices up and creating lines at the pump not seen since the 1970s; and they gave him Nord Stream 2, ceding a market for our natural gas to the Russians.   

When Russia massed the largest number of forces in modern history on the border of Ukraine, Joe Biden said it was OK if Putin invaded, as long as it was only a "minor incursion." And once they did invade, struggled to call it as such. 

Team Biden wasted grand summit gatherings in Europe attacking the Trump administration and celebrating a "return to normalcy," all while failing to lead and prepare for Russian aggression toward Ukraine. And when Putin began threatening invasion, the response from Europe was not unified, and American leadership was nowhere to be found. 

President Biden has been weak toward Putin, unstable and unclear – he doesn’t understand what is at stake in the fight against Russia and doesn’t know that it takes strength to defend America and keep us out of war.  


This conflict will have major implications for the American people. Energy prices will skyrocket due to the invasion’s effect on global energy markets. The rising cost of energy means that the historic inflation levels we’ve seen under the Biden administration will only continue to increase. Instability in Europe will also strain our economic relationships here at home, meaning less jobs for Americans. And how can we make the case for controlling our own southern border while we allow a free nation’s sovereign borders to be violated with impunity?  

When I was a young tank commander in the Army, I was stationed in Germany and tasked with patrolling the Iron Curtain, to be ready for Soviet invasion. The readiness and presence of NATO’s collective armed forces, coupled with tough diplomacy from President Ronald Reagan, deterred the threat of Soviet invasion and ultimately brought the Soviet Union to its knees. The invasion of Ukraine – both Crimea in 2014 on the Obama administration’s watch and now the Donbas under the Biden administration – should be a wake-up call for all of us.    

America has been weak and unclear with our adversaries when the world needed to be at its strongest and most clear. Our adversaries have noted the Biden administration’s failure to act with resolve in Afghanistan, in the face of Chinese aggression, and now in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.  


Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping and the ayatollahs in Iran will each see these failures of American leadership as a green light for them to execute their sinister designs to disrupt peace and make war. This will make the world far less safe for all people, including Americans.  

We need to establish strong U.S. leadership with urgency to avoid such a future.