Biden’s Putin obsession batters global growth

An early conclusion to the Ukraine war may seem unjust. Yet that sacrifice is needed to prevent global turmoil, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat

Poll numbers are helping President Joe Biden to slowly comprehend the reality. Which is that it is his transformational $2 trillion Societal Stimulus package getting passed that ought to be the White House priority. Instead, this year he has been acting as Sir Joe, riding forth to avenge the electoral defeat of Lady Hillary in 2016. According to the Clintonistas (including those now masquerading as Bidenistas), the defeat of Hillary Clinton at the hands of Don Trump was due to the machinations of Vladimir Putin. Much of the election-related received wisdom in the ranks of the Democratic Party is clearly the content of nursery tales or morality fables rather than fact.

To seriously claim that the current occupant of the Kremlin has the capability to overturn a presidential election in the US implies that today’s Russia (at least under Putin) is way more powerful than the USSR was in its heyday. The Clinton fable that Russia stole the 2016 election created the momentum required for the next nursery tale, which was the Trumpian view that Biden somehow stole the 2020 election although it was Trump who was the President. There were indeed US presidential elections that were unusual in the causes of the final outcome, as for example the victory of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000, which was decided not by the voters or the electors but by that faithful associate of the Republican Party, the US Supreme Court.

Loser Al Gore accepted the verdict of the court with grace, while President Bush went on to rescue Al Qaeda and their ISI friends through the Kunduz airlift in Afghanistan. Not to mention rewarding Iran by ensuring that Iraq moved into Tehran’s sphere of influence in two years later, whereas the former regime had been virulently against Iran since the Khomeinist takeover in 1979. Joe Biden would have been able to defeat Trump in 2016, but his innate generosity of spirit towards the Clintons made the then Vice-President step aside and allow Hillary to be the Democratic nominee.

From the moment Hillary became her party’s candidate, Donald Trump had the edge, and he retained it by promising change, which was in a way delivered. Tossing aside the Lincoln dictum, the Trump White House was of, for and run by billionaires, no questions asked. As President Biden reminded voters some days ago, billionaires in the US each pay less than 10% of their incomes as federal taxes. What was Biden doing about such a scandalous state of affairs during his tenure as a Senator, or has done since heading the executive branch of the US? Biden soon lost interest in taxing billionaires fairly or in getting passed his Social Stimulus plan, focussing instead on getting bipartisan support for his mission of punishing Putin for what he believed was responsibility for the defeat of Hillary Clinton at the hands of Trump, the (in the restrained and measured language typical of her) “a puppet of Putin”.

President Biden was joined by Boris Johnson and other European leaders in what they advertised as a Righteous War against Putin-led Russia. Four months on, even cheerleaders of the war such as CNN and BBC are having difficulties in claiming that Saint Volodymyr and his no-longer-merry men are having the advantage over the Russian military. The US-UK-EU stream of economic sanctions against the Russian Federation have not prevented Ukraine from losing more territory to the Russians. Instead, they have created global supply and logistics difficulties that are pulling the world into a recession that will develop into a depression unless the war in Ukraine is swiftly brought to a close. Biden’s shift of focus from domestic priorities to the Russia-Ukraine war are on track to ensure the wipe-out of the Democratic Party in the November midterms. Such a catastrophe would thereby render President Biden not a lame duck but a legless duck during the balance of his Presidential term.

President Zelenskyy is undergoing the pain of watching his country slowly drown in a morass of blood and treasure as a consequence of his lack of understanding of the imperative of good relations with Moscow in creating stability in Ukraine. Being a maestro in comedy may not always be the best training for a grasp of the realities of realpolitik. Even as Ukraine sinks, Zelenskyy is calling out for and getting more weapons, so that a conflict. The effect of this would be to ensure a catastrophic global impact. What is needed is not to continue the war but Ukraine cutting its losses and ending hostilities with its much stronger foe.

Across both sides of the Atlantic, disregarding their own and their countries interests, the message is the same: the war must go on, no matter what the price, including to countries that have zero role in the escalating fiasco. Still fixated on vanquishing Putin rather than fending off the Republican challenge to the Democrats in the midterms so as to get passed his $2 trillion stimulus package, President Biden is leading the NATO charge against Russia. The 2020 election was won by Biden on his promise to focus on a domestic agenda designed to rectify several of the injustices that have long plagued US society. Getting passed by the US Congress his $2 trillion social justice stimulus is essential for the US President to achieve this.

That priority appears to have been forgotten in the White House obsession with Putin. The USSR-US Cold War 1.0 may have ended in 1991 but its ghosts still haunt much of the thinking in Washington. Wall Streeter and economist Larry Summers ignores the havoc the Ukraine war is causing and repeats that the need is to double down on prolonging the conflict. This despite the fact that the war is causing the very inflation that Summers incessantly warns about. Meanwhile, NSA Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are busying themselves in trying to win over Beijing.

Defense Secretary Llyod Austin in contrast talks about “standing up to China” in a way his own colleagues fail to do. Commander-in-Chief Biden is seeking a personal meeting with Xi Jinping in the belief that the latter will help the White House rein in Putin from prosecuting a war that is boosting the strategic interests of the PRC. What is obvious to those not in thrall to nursery tales and fables is that Biden needs to ensure that the war in Ukraine ends soonest, which is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking for over three months and counting. What is lost by Ukraine is lost, and the longer the war carries on, the more will be lost to Russia, the more will be the cost to the globe. An early conclusion to the war, by removal of the life support provided by NATO to Ukraine may seem unjust.

Yet that sacrifice is needed to prevent the world from going in for economic and societal turmoil that would be inevitable should the conflict continue. An end to the war and the attendant US-UK-EU sanctions would immediately send oil and gas prices down, damp down inflation and boost economic prospects as well as food security. In a choice between evils, such an option is the lesser evil. If done in time, its effects may even ensure that the US House and Senate after the 2022 midterms is such as to pass the legislation on the $ 2 trillion stimulus that is essential for stability in the US. Getting that passed after his party wins in the midterms ought to be President Biden’s obsession rather than his quixotic quest for securing the defeat of Russia in Ukraine, and the removal from the Kremlin of Vladimir Putin.

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