Adopt deterrence: US waning support for Ukraine, Israel and the Philippines is a threat to the free world

If the current administration allows terrorists and aggressors to win, what message does that send to all terrorists and aggressors?

By Con Coughlin, Gatestone Institute

Whether US President Joe Biden remains in office or not, his recent debate with former President Donald J. Trump has exposed the global catastrophe that US policies under the current administration have wrought.

The US neglect of vital security issues, from waning support for Ukraine and Israel to its refusal to acknowledge the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, is inflicting serious damage to America’s status as a global superpower.

Arguably the most damning examples of America’s increasingly faltering grip on key foreign policy issues were Biden’s recent decisions to slow-walk arms deliveries to Israel and failing to show sufficient solidarity for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a move that will be interpreted by hostile states such as Russia, China, and Iran as a sign of America’s waning influence, Biden opted not to attend a two-day conference held in Switzerland to discuss the war in Ukraine.

One of the principal aims of the conference, titled the “High-level Summit for Peace in Ukraine”, was to encourage a large number of countries to declare their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Biden’s decision to absent himself from the conference will be interpreted in Moscow and elsewhere to mean that Western support for Ukraine is on the wane.

As the summit’s final communiqué declared, its purpose was to “enhance a high-level dialogue on pathways towards a comprehensive, just and lasting peace for Ukraine.”

Given Biden’s constant declarations that his administration fully supports Ukrainian efforts to resist Russian aggression, the US president’s presence was deemed vital to ensure the summit achieved a positive outcome.

The importance of Biden’s personal participation at the summit was made clear by Zelensky beforehand when he made a personal appeal to the American president that any no-show on his part would send a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Washington was not serious about helping Ukraine to achieve victory.

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The Ukrainian leader said that Biden’s absence would not only “be applauded by Putin, personally applauded by Putin… it would be a standing ovation”.

With Biden keeping his distance, it was perhaps unsurprising that the summit, which was attended by delegations representing 92 nations across the globe, fell well short of giving Zelensky the unequivocal declaration of support he was seeking.

A number of countries, including Brazil, India and Saudi Arabia, declined to sign the original draft declaration over concerns that the communiqué might appear to blame Russia for provoking the conflict.

This meant only 80 of the countries attending the summit at the Swiss resort of Bürgenstock signed the final declaration.

The final statement declared support for the UN Charter and said “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty… can and will serve as a basis for achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

“We believe that reaching peace requires the involvement of and dialogue between all parties,” it added.

Even so, the final declaration was something of a compromise. While it made mention of the “ongoing war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”, it also focused on other issues, such as protecting civilians and securing grain corridors, rather than laying down next steps for peace.

In Biden’s absence, the summit unfortunately failed to produce the type of uncompromising demand Zelensky had sought, calling for Russia to withdraw its forces from all occupied Ukrainian territory — including Crimea — as the basic pre-condition for starting peace talks.

Zelensky has also called for the formation of an international tribunal to try Putin’s government for war crimes.

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Even more grievous has been America’s persistent refusal, in both the Obama and Biden administrations, to acknowledge the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program, as well as the wider threat Iran poses to the security of the Middle East, which has resulted in Iran now being in a position to enrich uranium to weapons-grade virtually on demand.

The latest estimate of the progress Iran has made on developing material for nuclear weapons, produced by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), concludes that Iran’s nuclear program has reached the point at which Iran might be able to enrich enough uranium for five nuclear weapons within three weeks.

America’s alarming non-confrontational policy towards the mullahs — even asking Europe not to censure Iran for its growing nuclear weapons program — has been a mainstay of both the Biden and Obama administrations.

Their encouragement of Iran to acquire nuclear bombs has led the mullahs and their proxies to expand their malign activities throughout the region.

Biden’s impotence has effectively invited Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia that controls most of Lebanon, to escalate its attacks against Israel with the aim of opening a new front on Israel’s northern border – in the same way as the US surrender of Afghanistan a terrorist group, the Taliban, along with assuring Russian President Vladimir Putin that a “minor incursion” would be acceptable, doubtless encouraged Russia to invade Ukraine.

The Biden administration’s refusal to confront Iran directly over its conduct has also resulted in Iran seeking to deepen its ties with the Al-Shabaab terrorist movement based in Somalia.

Establishing a foothold in Somalia or Sudan would enable Iran, which also backs Houthi rebels in Yemen, to cripple shipping passing through the vital Red Sea trade route as well as to be able to attack Israel from the south.

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Another area where Washington’s incompetent handling of key security issues is the Pacific, where apparent US aversion to upsetting the Communist dictatorship headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently led to an increase in aggressive Chinese military conduct towards the Philippines as part of Beijing’s efforts to expand its control over the South China Sea.

In the most recent incident, China’s Coast Guard seized two Filipino ships on a resupply mission to an outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands, severely wounding a number of navy personnel, according to Philippine officials.

The shoal is claimed by both Manila and Beijing, and has been the scene of several clashes in recent months, which many regional officials believe could have been avoided if the Biden administration had taken a more robust approach to acts of Chinese aggression.

Washington’s persistent dithering on China, as well as other vital issues of global security such as Ukraine, Iran, and failing wholly to back Israel fighting not only for its own existence but protecting freedom in the West from aggressive autocracies, will certainly lend encouragement to Putin and other dictatorial regimes in Beijing and Tehran that the US will not present a serious challenge to their efforts to expand their global influence.

If the current administration allows terrorists and aggressors to win, what message does that send to all terrorists and aggressors?

The only way for the US to reclaim its global stature as the leader of the free world, after having tried everything else, is finally to adopt deterrence: warn every US adversary that if it provokes Washington, the response to each of them and their regimes will be a cost they do not wish to contemplate.