On Jan. 19, as President Joe Biden held what was only his second solo press conference since occupying the Oval Office, calling mostly on members of the media who would toss him softball questions, it was hoped he would not embarrass himself or endanger the country by making an ill-advised comment. Alas, that was far too much to ask since the event lasted nearly two hours.
The inevitable ill-advised comment came in a moment that may never be forgotten, occurring as the conversation turned to a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia. What Biden said at this point brought back memories of what happened 32 years earlier when an American diplomat failed to provide absolute clarity in a discussion with a world leader feeling out U.S. intentions as he contemplated invading a neighbor.
It was July 25, 1990, when the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, was summoned by President Saddam Hussein to his office. There were indications Iraq was contemplating an invasion of Kuwait with which a border conflict existed. While the discussion covered a number of topics, it eventually touched on Kuwait. Purportedly, the message conveyed to Hussein by Glaspie about its border dispute was that, “[W]e have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” She also had earlier informed the Iraqi president that the U.S. State Department had “no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait.”
While the above exchange may not have been intended by Glaspie as such, it effectively gave Iraq the green light to invade. It was a classic example of one side failing to clearly state its position on an issue and the other side hearing what it wanted to hear. This would be the last high-level contact between the two countries as a week later, Hussein invaded Kuwait.
Glaspie failed to learn from an oversight made by another high-level U.S. official in history that may well have precipitated war. In January 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech discussing the U.S. defense perimeter in Asia, which he explained extended from Japan’s Ryukyu Islands to the Philippines, leaving out South Korea. We now know from secret documents acquired after the Soviet Union’s collapse that Josef Stalin viewed this as a green light the U.S. would not defend against an invasion into South Korea. Six months later, the North did just that.
During his recent press conference, when the subject of a Russian invasion of Ukraine arose, Biden stated, knowing that the eyes and ears of President Vladimir Putin were upon him,”I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades. And it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.”
Ironically, Biden’s message to Putin had a bit more clarity than did Glaspie’s message to Hussein. Glaspie had fuzzed up the U.S. position, suggesting Washington might not intervene in an Iraq invasion into Kuwait as the matter was purely an Arab-on-Arab issue and the U.S. had no defense agreement with Kuwait. Biden, on the other hand, drew a line in the sand over which Putin could step – i.e., that of allowing “a minor incursion” into Ukraine. Not only did this give Putin a green light to conduct such, it ignored the fact that the vehicle Putin has driven in the past to impose his will upon neighbors has been one of minor incursions. This was done in both the 2008 invasion of Georgia and the 2014 invasion of Crimea.
Biden’s comments also suggested there was some division among our European NATO partners on a unified response to any Russian aggression. This is true as Germany has stupidly blocked delivery of defensive weaponry, such as anti-drone jamming guns already paid for by Ukraine, fearing it might provoke military escalation.
Biden’s press conference comments triggered an immediate response.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted, “We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions … Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones.” This caused the White House to activate the overworked Biden gaffe team. The new message was Biden did not mean to suggest a smaller-scale Russian military incursion would meet with a weaker U.S. response, nor was he suggesting NATO disunity. Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to put some punch behind Biden’s gaffe, saying, “If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that’s a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our allies.” Obviously unimpressed with Psaki’s punch, Putin continues prepping his forces.
Zelensky’s concerns are warranted. In previous incursions, professional soldiers in Russian-style combat uniforms, sans identifying insignia but armed with Russian weapons, began appearing, manning roadblocks and seizing strategic points in neighboring territories. They were dubbed by the Ukrainians as “little green men.” Putin denied they were Russians, although he later congratulated his officers on their Crimean operation, acknowledging their true identity two months later.
Ukraine has seen these little green men land again, possibly preparing to conduct a false flag operation as an excuse to invade the country. Putin obviously denies this.
While Biden has yet to suggest a Russian invasion would meet with an “in kind” response from the U.S., he has attempted to instill the fear of God in Putin by threatening severe “high impact” U.S. sanctions against Russia. However, there is little a weak U.S. president – not only perceived as such by our enemies but also by nearly 4 in 10 Americans – can effectively do to pressure an autocratic ruler to play nice.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., perhaps playing off the little green men theme, made the observation, if aliens landed in America and requested to be taken to our leader, it would be “embarrassing” to have to take them to an incompetent Biden. Undoubtedly, those aliens would wonder how, in a society of 330 million people, Biden is the best we could come up with, especially as he even has trouble remembering whether it is he or Kamala Harris who is president.
Even more worrisome, however, based on the ill-advised message Biden has sent Putin opening the door for an invasion of the Ukraine, is what the unbridled leader of the Free World might utter to antagonize alien visitors, possibly triggering a war of the worlds as a result.
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