As Biden warns of 'Armageddon,' more off-ramps explode
While President Biden claims that he's pondering an "off-ramp" for Russia, the bombings of the Kerch Strait bridge and Nord Stream pipelines show an escalating proxy war at every pass.
At a Manhattan fundraiser, President Joe Biden shared with Democratic donors that, from his vantage point, the world faces “the prospect of Armageddon” for the first time “since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Vladimir Putin “is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, because his military, you might say, is significantly underperforming,” Biden added.
The Commander-in-Chief’s comments inevitably stoked an already elevated global panic over a Ukraine proxy war that pits the world’s top nuclear powers on opposing sides. In US media, there was virtually no acknowledgement that Biden’s characterization of how Putin “talks” was false. Although Putin has made bellicose comments, he has never threatened the “use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons,” as Biden claimed.
Biden’s alarmism overshadowed what could be taken as encouraging news. For the first time, the US president suggested that his administration is as least pondering a diplomatic path that could bring the Ukraine conflict to an end.
“We’re trying to figure out: What is Putin’s off-ramp?,” Biden said. “Where does he get off? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself in a position that he does not — not only lose face, but lose significant power within Russia?”
Biden’s remarks offer a sharp contrast to his declaration in March that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.” On the other hand, there is no indication that US policy has undergone any significant change. If anything, the recent actions of the White House and its client government in Kiev are blowing up off-ramps at every pass.
“White House and military leaders are transitioning to a sustainable model Kyiv can depend on for an open-ended war with Russia,” the New York Times reports. That sustainable warfare will be “roughly modeled on U.S. train-and-assist efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two decades,” – a model that, while highly sustainable for weapons contractors, was the opposite for the nations subjected to it.
The “open-ended war with Russia” will be waged with a $12.3 billion package newly approved by Congress, bringing the total US commitment so far to more than $66 billion. With that most recent vote, the Times notes, “Congress has now committed more military aid to Ukraine than it has to any country in a single year since the Vietnam War, reflecting a remarkable bipartisan consensus in favor of pouring huge amounts of American resources into the fight.”
As the audacious truck-bombing of the Kerch Strait bridge shows, Ukraine is bringing the fight to Crimea, home to Russia’s most important naval base. In June, a Ukrainian commander identified the Kerch bridge as a “number one target,” and a Ukrainian official has now taken credit for Saturday’s successful operation. Days earlier, senior Pentagon official Laura Cooper signaled that the US has given Ukraine the green light to use US weaponry there. “We think they can reach the vast majority of targets, including Crimea,” Cooper said. “And just to be clear, Crimea is Ukraine.”
For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is explicitly rejecting any off-ramp for Putin. Zelensky greeted Russia’s annexation of four Ukrainian regions with an application for fast-tracked NATO membership. When that was swiftly rejected, Zelensky signed a decree ruling out peace talks with Moscow so long as Putin is in power. Not content with calling for regime change, Zelensky followed that up with his most direct plea for World War III to date, urging NATO to launch “preemptive strikes” inside Russia. (After an uproar, a spokesperson claimed that Zelensky meant preemptive sanctions.)
Meanwhile, the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines has ensured, for now, that NATO members have no off-ramp from the proxy war coalition – nor, it seems, from the economic crises that they face as a result.
When he greeted the Nord Stream sabotage as a “tremendous strategic opportunity,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged some pitfalls.
Cut off from their traditional cheap Russian gas supply, “European allies,” Blinken said, will now “prepare for a difficult winter ahead.” To address that difficulty, he vowed, “we’re determined to do everything we possibly can to make sure that the consequences of all of this are not borne by citizens in our countries or, for that matter, around the world.”
But the United States’ European allies are quickly learning that there are limits on what the US can “possibly” do for them.