Thunderous applause is expected Tuesday night when President Joe Biden will pay tribute to the outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainians resisting the Russian invasion.
But words like liberty and democracy, which Biden invoked on Thursday to praise these heroes, are not enough. Words have to be backed up by military might and energy dominance.
Putin’s predatory ambitions will not stop with Ukraine. He’s likely eyeing Latvia, Lithuania and other eastern European countries once under Soviet domination and now part of NATO.
To ensure that NATO holds together to meet this challenge, Biden should announce a 180-degree turn in American energy policy and a shift in military priorities from wokeness to combat readiness.
NATO’s survival seemed questionable until its second largest member, Germany, finally did a sudden about-face last week. Calling the invasion of Ukraine a “turning point,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany must halt its dependence on Russian energy, increase military spending and reassess economic entanglements with Russia.
Scholz’s bold moves were the first sign that the NATO alliance would survive. After all, Germany had made itself into an energy supplicant. It closed down its coal-fired power plants, banned fracking altogether, shut its nuclear power facilities and became 40% dependent on Russian natural gas to heat its homes.
When the Ukraine invasion began, Germany waffled, begging the U.S. not to include energy products in its economic sanctions against the Russians and sending a laughable 5,000 helmets to Ukraine.
But Scholz had his epiphany. Now it’s Biden’s turn.
Biden and the Democrats have spent the last year dismantling America’s energy independence by suspending new drilling on federal lands, shutting down the Keystone Pipeline and signaling policies that will deter investment in fossil fuel production, making us energy eunuchs.
The U.S. is producing much less oil than before the pandemic. Prices are soaring because demand exceeds supply. You’re paying it at the pump.
Months ago, Biden actually appealed to the Russians to ramp up their oil production. Music to Putin’s ears. More American dollars that can be turned into Russian bullets.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is the 3 a.m. wake-up call for the United States to become energy independent at home and the chief supplier of energy — mainly liquified natural gas — to Europe. Putin no doubt was chuckling at the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry implored countries to stop producing fossil fuel while Russia became an energy superpower.
Don’t count on NATO allies who cannot stand up to Putin if Russia can turn off their heat.
In Tuesday’s message, Biden should also demand military preparedness. Democrats have been pushing to reduce defense spending, and prior to the invasion, Biden wanted to flatline it. American ground forces get good ratings in a recent General Accountability Office report, but the Navy is in urgent need of maintenance and new ships.
It’s not just about money. Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley recently testified that under Biden, the military has expended nearly six million manhours addressing climate change, diversity and extremism. Meanwhile, the Air Force and Navy are cutting back on pilot training hours. According to the Air Force, hours have been reduced “below what is required to maintain high levels of proficiency.”
That’s good news to Putin: pilots knowing more about wokeness than wingspans.
Biden should also question whether doing business with predatory nations like Russia, and even China, is shooting ourselves in the foot. It naively enriches the economies and arsenals of countries that are out to bring us down.
Tuesday night, millions will be listening to Biden — in America, across Eastern Europe, where people fear Putin’s next moves, and even in China, where President Xi Jinping is sizing Biden up.
Until now, Putin and Xi, who signed a mutual cooperation agreement on Feb. 4, smelled blood in the water because of Biden’s weakness.
What they and the entire world need to hear from Biden is an aggressive course of action. Uplifting words about liberty and democracy will not be enough. Biden needs to call for energy independence and military readiness. Nothing less will do.
Photo by Matt Johnson, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).
Betsy McCaughey is a former lieutenant governor of New York and author of "The Next Pandemic," available at Amazon.com. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @Betsy_McCaughey. To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.