COMPASS: Biden contemplates sending American troops to Eastern Europe

January 24th, 2022

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill. The House and Senate are in recess this week.

While members are back in their states and districts, President Joe Biden is considering sending thousands of American troops to Eastern Europe in an attempt to deter Russian aggression – a policy he announced last week in his rambling, nearly two-hour press conference. The New York Times has more details.

“In a meeting on Saturday at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, senior Pentagon officials presented Mr. Biden with several options that would shift American military assets much closer to Mr. Putin’s doorstep, the administration officials said. The options include sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries, with the potential to increase that number tenfold if things deteriorate.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about internal deliberations.

Mr. Biden is expected to make a decision as early as this week, they said. He is weighing the buildup as Russia has escalated its menacing posture against Ukraine, including massing more than 100,000 troops and weaponry on the border and stationing Russian forces in Belarus. On Saturday, Britain accused Moscow of developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine.

“Even as we’re engaged in diplomacy, we are very much focused on building up defense, building up deterrence,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “NATO itself will continue to be reinforced in a significant way if Russia commits renewed acts of aggression. All of that is on the table.”

So far, none of the military options being considered include deploying additional American troops to Ukraine itself, and Mr. Biden has made clear that he is loath to enter another conflict following America’s painful exit from Afghanistan last summer after 20 years.”

According to a COSA/Trafalgar Group poll taken in January, fewer than one in six Americans want U.S. soldiers deployed to defend Ukraine if Russia should invade. 

The Biden administration is grasping for a military option after appearing to fail to deliver a diplomatic one. Keep in mind that after four years of flailing about “Russian collusion” between Trump and Putin, Biden gave Russia a huge gift in lifting sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. His administration also adamantly opposed recent efforts by Sen. Ted Cruz to re-apply those sanctions.

David Ignatius included this pointed observation in a dispatch from Ukraine, published in the Washington Post: 

“It falls to Biden to find a way to contain this bullying Russian leader without triggering an all-out war in the heart of Europe. The best advice I heard, echoed by the most thoughtful analysts in Kyiv and Warsaw, is that the United States and its allies must check the balance of intimidation — by taking action themselves rather than responding to Moscow. Impose severe sanctions on Russia now, rather than after it has rolled into Ukraine. If Putin persists in covert actions in the West, match him.”

All of this calls to mind former President Trump’s critiques of NATO for not pulling its weight against exactly this type of threat. Tom Rogan brought this to the fore with a provocative op-ed in the Wall Street Journal claiming Germany is no longer a credible ally against either Russia or China.

As former Trump State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus put it, “Trump may not have said it as nicely as people would like, but he was spot on regarding allies commitments to NATO.”

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