During President Biden’s trip to Europe, he gave a number of speeches and took questions from reporters. One of his responses that drew quite a bit of attention came when he said that the United States would “respond” if Vladimir Putin deployed chemical or nuclear weapons, which we covered here yesterday. Also, while addressing some of our troops, Biden said, “You’re going to see when you’re there, you’re going to see women, young people standing in the middle, in the front of a damn tank saying I’m not leaving“.
It was a stirring speech by all accounts but the reporters covering the event were a bit taken aback. Was the Commander in Cheif telling those troops that they were heading for Ukraine? Because that would be a radical change in the posture we’ve taken to date. As usual, when Joe Biden starts freestyling and goes off the script, his staff is forced to scramble to “clarify” what he meant. Reporter Andrew Feinberg quickly heard from Team Biden and was informed that there would be no American troops “going to see” Ukrainian women standing in front of Russian tanks.
UPDATE: A @WhiteHouse spokesperson tells me: "The President has been clear we are not sending U.S. troops to Ukraine and there is no change in that position."
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) March 25, 2022
There were also eyebrows raised about the aforementioned “we’re going to respond” comment, particularly because Biden said we would respond “in kind” at one point. Did the President just suggest that we were going to use chemical weapons against the Russians? They had to send poor Jake Sullivan out to clarify that, no, we’re not going to douse anyone in Ukraine with nerve gas. (Fox News)
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. has “no intention” of using chemical weapons, after President Biden said his administration would respond “in kind” if Russia uses such a weapon in Ukraine.
Sullivan was asked Friday what Biden meant by “in kind.”
Sullivan said that meant “we’ll respond accordingly” and that Russia would pay a “severe price.”
So I suppose that’s all been “clarified” now. We won’t be nuking or gassing anyone. As to whether troops will eventually go into Ukraine, even Sullivan hedged, saying that our contingency plans had been “communicated directly to the Russians,” but would say no more about it.
All of this is just so reminiscent of how the White House press briefings used to go in the brighter days before Vladimir Putin lost his mind. Joe Biden would, on rare occasions, give an interview or take questions and then his team would have to scurry to the lecterns to explain “what he really meant.” Of course, that frequently wound up being the exact opposite of what he actually said. It was almost amusing, but it’s a lot less funny when we might be teetering on the brink of nuclear war.
Of course, none of this may matter in the next day or so. As Allahpundit noted last night, the Russians seem to have given up on taking Kyiv and western Ukraine. They appear to be pivoting to simply seizing the Donbas and maybe Mariupol. And if they regroup, concentrating all of their forces in one area (assuming anyone remembers to bring extra gas this time) they might be able to pull it off.
I have serious questions about this turn of events. Of all the ways we could have foreseen as to how this all ends, letting the Russians simply take another huge chunk of eastern Ukraine was near the bottom of my list. But is that where we’re heading? Ukraine’s cities are in ruins. Thousands are dead. Millions have been displaced. The nation’s farming and infrastructure are trashed.
Are we so desperate for some resolution that involves Putin (mostly) pulling out of the country that we’re just going to take what we can get? Does everyone just shrug their shoulders, drop all of the sanctions, give the oligarchs their super-yachts back, and pretend none of this happened? If Putin isn’t made to pay some serious penalty for having invaded another country, he’s only going to do it again sooner or later. And other countries like China will probably assume they can get away with something similar themselves.
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