Coons: Yeah, never mind about sending US troops into Ukraine

The only thing surprising about this walkback from Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) is that it took more than a couple of hours to take place. On Sunday, Coons declared that the time had come to deploy US troops to Ukraine. To paraphrase Kamala Harris, in the passage of the time between Sunday and yesterday was the time to reconsider what time it really is.

And it’s not time for a land war in eastern Europe, at least not for the US:

In an interview with France 24 English on Tuesday, Coons clarified his previous comments while doubling down on his stance: “When I said that Putin will only stop when we stop him, I meant we the West, we the nations that have come to Ukraine’s aid … I am not calling for U.S. troops to be sent into Ukraine, but I am calling for the West to be clear-eyed about how hard and how long this conflict might be.”

Why this matters: Coons had been the first Democrat to break away from the Biden administration on the troops question. Biden has been adamant about not sending troops to the war-torn country, despite openly labeling the atrocities happening in Ukraine “a genocide.”

The president isn’t alone in that stance either — a bipartisan group of at least 40 lawmakers wrote a letter to Biden back in February, urging the president to hold back on sending troops before consulting with Congress, citing Article 1 of the Constitution. Read that letter here.

That’s quite a change in 48 hours from this:

MARGARET BRENNAN: In some public remarks this week, you said the country needs to talk about when it might be willing to send troops to Ukraine. You said, if the answer is never, then we are inviting another level of escalation and brutality by Putin.

CHRIS COONS: Margaret —

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you arguing that President Biden was wrong when he said he would not send troops to Ukraine? Are you asking him to set a red line?

CHRIS COONS: Margaret, I think those of us in Congress who have a critical role in setting foreign policy and in advising the president in terms of his decisions at commander in chief, need to look clearly at the level of brutality. This is a moment of enormous challenge for all of us. And I deeply respect President Biden’s leadership in pulling together the west in imposing crushing sanctions on Russia and in bringing to this fight countries that had stayed on the sidelines before.

I think President Biden’s leadership has been steady and constructive, but this is a critical moment. If Vladimir Putin, who has shown us how brutal he can be, is allowed to just continue to massacre civilians, to commit war crimes throughout Ukraine without NATO, without the west coming more forcefully to his aid, I deeply worry that what’s going to happen next is that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria.

The American people cannot turn away from this tragedy in Ukraine. I think the history of the 21st century turns on how fiercely we defend freedom in Ukraine, and that Putin will only stop when we stop him.

At the time, the White House coughed politely and distanced itself from their Senate ally from Joe Biden’s home state. As they should have, because even if one wants to escalate militarily, one of the dumbest ways of doing so would be to commit ground troops to a front with very long lines of communication. It would immediately escalate this into a full-fledged Russia-NATO war which our allies are not exactly keen to logistically support, and may not even really be necessary. Ukrainians are holding up against Russia’s army, but they need materiel more than bodies. They just need the West to stop thinking incrementally on that weapons supply and to fully commit to supplying the most effective weapons in the greatest numbers possible.

If there is a need to intervene militarily — and there might be if Vladimir Putin keeps threatening to use tactical nuclear weapons — there are smarter ways to go about it. I’ll discuss those in a post later this afternoon.