Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
Cyber Monday Extended SALE: Up to 60% OFF InvestingPro+ CLAIM OFFER

Analysis-Putin's Ukraine assault confounds Biden strategy, puts leadership to the test

World Feb 24, 2022 09:32AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin arrive for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland June 16, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo 2/2

By Matt Spetalnick, Simon Lewis and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -He threatened to impose the harshest sanctions ever on Russia. He worked to galvanize U.S. allies into a united front. He supplied Ukraine with more weapons than any American president before him. And he beefed up U.S. forces on NATO's eastern flank as reassurance of his commitment.

     Despite U.S. President Joe Biden's efforts to head off a Russian attack against Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin was undeterred as his forces invaded on Thursday in a mass assault by land, air and sea. After weeks of fruitless diplomacy, Russian missiles rained down on Ukrainian cities and troops poured across the border from Russia and Belarus.

How Biden deals with the unfolding crisis, which Western officials fear could spiral into the bloodiest European conflict since World War Two, is expected to have profound implications for his political fortunes and U.S. relations with the world.

Biden vowed the United States and its allies would respond decisively to Russia's "unprovoked and unjustified attack."

    But his handling of the biggest international crisis of his presidency has been deemed something of a mixed bag so far.

Biden was always going to be limited because his administration made clear it would do whatever it could to help Ukraine defend itself but was not going to put troops on the ground.

His preference for diplomacy and sanctions reflects the scant appetite Americans have for intervention after the Afghanistan and Iraq quagmires.

Putin had the advantage of knowing Biden was not going to war against another nuclear power to protect a country that shared a long border with Russia -- and with which Washington had no defense agreement.


Biden focused instead on coordinating with NATO allies, especially those in the east worried about the spillover from Russia's buildup of 150,000 troops on Ukraine's borders.

Washington spearheaded an initial round of sanctions after Putin ordered troops into two separatist-controlled breakaway regions after recognizing them as independent on Feb. 21. It was a warning shot that failed to ward off Thursday's action.

In the prelude, Biden's messaging strategy was to issue dire predictions of an imminent invasion to show he knew what Putin was up to -- even if he couldn't stop him.

A key result has been to re-energize a Western military alliance that had fallen into disrepair under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who had questioned the value of NATO.

A senior European diplomat described Biden's consultations with allies as “exemplary,” a contrast to how many partners viewed last year’s chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Some analysts questioned, however, whether deploying a few thousand additional U.S. troops to Germany, Poland and Romania was sufficient, and suggested Biden could have done more to maintain a credible military option.

“One of the shortcomings is the deterrence package that we've developed is kind of asymmetrical in that it's mostly economic and we're facing a military threat,” said Ian Kelly, a former U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Georgia.

Kelly said Biden could have sought activation of the NATO Response Force and sent it into Poland and the Baltic states, with the message: "You have massed troops on your border. We're massing troops on our border; we'll withdraw when you withdraw."


    Analysts credit Biden with working with allies to prepare sanctions aimed at crippling the Russian economy and hitting Putin's inner circle. He persuaded Germany, long considered the weak link, to freeze approvals for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Next steps could include an attempt to sever Russia's links to the global financial system.

Some U.S. lawmakers contended it would have been more effective to slap sanctions on Russia earlier, but Biden officials insisted that would have diminished their impact now.

    U.S. officials have acknowledged that sanctions could spur higher oil prices, adding to Biden's challenge of fighting inflation.

It remains to be seen whether sanctions will get Putin to back down.

Biden's decision to declassify intelligence about what it alleged were Russian plots to fabricate pretexts for a Ukraine invasion was also praised for countering Putin’s misinformation.

Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank in Washington, said this "kept Putin in the hot seat.”

But the administration drew criticism for refusing to offer concrete evidence. Some commentators recalled intelligence claims used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion of a renewed nuclear program that proved not to exist.


    Biden was also hailed by Western governments for sticking to NATO’s “open door” for aspiring members. But some critics said Biden should have been more explicit about how far away Ukraine was from entry, given that one of Putin's chief demands was to eschew further expansion eastward of the security pact.

Biden's response could also have repercussions for U.S.-China relations. There is concern if Biden appears too soft on Moscow, China could take it as acquiescence to act against self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

As the crisis unfolded, Biden spoke regularly to world leaders, including Putin himself, taking a forceful stand with the former KGB officer, to whom Trump had shown deference.

Behind closed doors, a cross-government “Tiger Team” conducted tabletop exercises gaming out every possible scenario.

Putin's defiance could give Republicans a cudgel to use against Biden and his fellow Democrats in the November midterm congressional elections, which will decide the balance of power in Washington.

And Biden’s strategy leading up to the Russian attack will come under closer scrutiny as he charts the path forward.

Analysis-Putin's Ukraine assault confounds Biden strategy, puts leadership to the test

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (4)
Carrascal Eduardo
Edouard Feb 25, 2022 11:12AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Zelewsky just now is regreting "no one is coming to defend us"
gab nea
gab nea Feb 25, 2022 7:36AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
putin loves the new face of the GOP, I wonder why?
gab nea
gab nea Feb 25, 2022 7:35AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
thank God biden is our president, not the orange faced guy, the putin adorer.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Feb 24, 2022 10:07AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Republicans too busy owning the libs to stand with Biden against Russia. Putin knows we are divided, he funded US conservative causes deliberately for this purpose.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email