In his first TV interview of 2022 given to NBC News on 10 February, Joe Biden urged all Americans to leave Ukraine now via commercial flights because the U.S. military will not come in to evacuate them. Why not? To avoid any possible direct military engagement with the expected Russian invasion forces:
“That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another. It’s not like we’re dealing with a terrorist organization. We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It’s a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly.”
This seemingly unexceptional statement is surely the most important pronouncement from Biden relating to the crisis at the Ukraine-Russian border since his saying in early December 2021 that the United States will not send a single soldier to assist Ukraine in case they find themselves in military combat with Russia.
In a U.S. political world which long ago moved beyond facts to wallow in some inner fantasy, what we have here in Biden’s latest statement is the beginning of a realization of the facts on the ground, namely that Russia is not “a gasoline station masquerading as a country,” as the viscerally anti-Russian Senator John McCain famously said, nor is it a country with only out of date nuclear weapons in its armory, weapons that by their nature cannot be used without bringing on Judgment Day for us all.
In this regard, it appears that the psychological warfare being waged by Vladimir Putin against the United States and NATO is beginning to bear fruit. There is now an awareness of the danger posed by Russia’s conventional military forces, a danger big enough to warrant the extra measure of caution we see in President Biden’s remarks of yesterday.
Of course, the American administration’s analysis of the crisis remains simplistic, with the binary paths of diplomacy or war, invasion or no invasion. It is now more than likely that the Kremlin will not stage a full-scale invasion. Indeed, it may not have to fire a shot. Mr. Putin is engaged in psychological warfare and he is making slow but steady progress in applying ever greater pressure on Ukraine and through Ukraine on the USA and its NATO allies.
We have heard a great deal about the 100,000 Russian soldiers on the Russian border with Ukraine, northeast of Kharkiv. We learn daily about specialized fuel carrying units, blood banks and other detachments arriving in this territory and enabling an invasion should it occur. We also now hear about the joint Belarus-Russian military exercises which began yesterday just to the north of the Belarus border with Ukraine and within 100 km of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. That includes more than 30,000 Russian soldiers and a great deal of new military hardware which will likely remain behind after the exercises end on the 20th and the Russian troops go back to their home locations.
What is new today is detailed reporting on Russia’s growing naval detachments arriving for their own military exercises at sea just off the Ukrainian coast. Yes, they could facilitate a landing of troops and tanks should Russia wish to seize Odessa or other towns on the coast having large ethnic Russian populations. However, as an article by Amy Mackinnon in Foreign Policy magazine datelined 10 February explains, the Russian forces have now prohibited navigation, both commercial and military, during their own exercises, effectively establishing a naval blockade on Ukraine. If that blockade were to be maintained after the closing date of the exercises, it could effectively strangle Ukrainian foreign trade.
No one knows whether this is merely a show of strength for purposes of enhanced argument at any negotiations with Kiev over implementation of the Minsk Accords or if it will be used to damage the Ukrainian economy sufficiently to bring about a regime change in Kiev. In either case, Russia would not inflict a single casualty on its adversary by such PsyOps.
So far, so good. With some luck, both the Americans and the Russians will continue to show restraint in use of force and spare us a kinetic war that could spiral out of control in the sense meant by Joe Biden yesterday.
©Gilbert Doctorow, 2022
Post Script: 12 February 2022
I was delighted yeserday afternoon to be invited back onto TRT Turkish public television for an interview broadcast live devoted to the latest U.S. troop reinforcements in Eastern Europe and President Biden’s remark that no military evacuations are planned to get U.S. citizens out of Ukraine in case war breaks out.
4 thoughts on “Read all about it! No. U.S. military evacuation of Americans from Ukraine in case of war!”
I think there’s some internal politics going on with Biden, who while I agree is not at his top cognitive ability, is still “there” enough to resist neocon pushes for further military entanglements. I think he thinks (and I agree) that he was correct to pull the bandaid off in Afghanistan, and he doesn’t want to get into an even bigger fight against a competent opponent with all kinds of escalation options.
I also think this sort of comment by Biden hints that the Americans aren’t actually trying to start a war, they’re genuinely panicked that Russia will invade Ukraine and embarrass the USA. It’s all well and good that Russia has every right to put its own troops wherever it wants on its own territory, but if Putin did want to invade, the moves he is making would allow him to do so.
Me, I think this is all a big Russian bluff. The original troop movements back in November were just a repeat of the ones in Spring, with the Russian leadership getting exasperated at having to put up with Ukrainian provocations against the Donbas and even verbally against Crimea twice in one year. The November movements led to a self-sustaining panic in the west, which led to what I think were a mix of opportunistic and just exasperated ultimatums from the Russians. With the original meaning of “military-technical” just being putting some missiles in Kaliningrad and in Russian subs off of American territorial waters. The poor and ambiguous translation of the pretty clear Russian term into “military-technical” in English panicked the Americans even more, leading to sending weapons, threats, etc, which lead to further Russian naval and military exercises, leading us here today. Putin is nothing if not flexible, so he is rolling with these serial misunderstandings and escalations, thinking he might just bluff his way into getting his security guarantees. And if he doesn’t, well hypersonic missiles in Kaliningrad and in subs off of American territorial waters. Which will sweat no one.
Abandon hope all ye who enter Ukraine! Meanwhile, I’ve called my dentist and rescheduled my Wed. appointment for Monday.
But egads, it seems there IS room for hope, if ever on a thinner thread by the day! POLITICO has injected a glimmer of rational thought into its usual fare (an earth shattering event in itself) . Read it before it disappears.
Opinion | How to End the Ukraine Crisis in 4 Steps
Two former top policymakers — one Russian, one American — have a plan they think could work.
Just launched the article “What motivates Russia: the right to a sphere of influence” https://geopolitiekincontext.wordpress.com/2022/02/14/wat-rusland-motiveert-het-recht-op-een-invloedssfeer/ (use the translate box in the right upper corner).
Since the broken American promises of 1991, the Russians feel betrayed. The American ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality has created a deep sense of resentment. Russia demands its own sphere of influence. That is what the conflict is about, not Ukraine. The world stands at an important turning point: the unipolar era is over.
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