If you were asked to pick the political decision that has done the most to further Mr Putin’s strategic position, to make it easiest for him to launch an invasion of the Ukraine and put Western interests up against it, I think you’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything better than ‘stopping domestic gas and oil production, especially fracking’. When Donald Trump left office the US was energy self-sufficient. It was exporting oil and gas. This was keeping prices low and affecting for the worse the oil kleptocracies around the world. Joe Biden came in and effectively cancelled the Keystone pipeline by revoking a cross-border presidential permit. He ended various fracking licences. He reversed course on Mr Trump’s widespread permissions to explore for gas and oil on federal land. All up he ensured that the US went from energy self-sufficiency back to big time importer. Why? Woke ideology.
Who was the biggest winner of all that? Maybe the Saudis. But probably even more so the Russians, now the world’s third-biggest oil producing country. In fact the US now imports Russian oil. As strategic decisions go this one by Biden was one of the stupidest of all time; it dealt in form over substance since basically the same amount of oil and gas would be burned in the US, it would just be extracted elsewhere, in unpleasant regimes out of sight. The science writer Matt Ridley warned how stupid it was and how much it would benefit Mr Putin. But Joe and the radical Left of the Democratic party to whom he seems to be in thrall thought it was better not to dirty their own hands with American gas and oil. Presumably they figured it was alright if they extract the stuff somewhere outside the US because, well, someone else did it, not us. If that type of thinking isn’t the most superficial, steeped in virtue-signalling thinking going, what is?
Of course there’s plenty of that sort of ‘form over substance’ thinking here in Australia. Say, mining coal but not burning it here. Or take this other example, the cross-party acceptance that it’s OK to send Australian uranium abroad but not to use it for nuclear power at home. Since arriving here seventeen years ago I’ve been baffled by that one. My bafflement goes up a few orders of magnitude when this ‘not in my patch’ attitude comes from those (unlike me, I hasten to add) who think the planet is on course to fry and dry itself in the next few years. Given their first principles you might be tempted to think nuclear power was a no-brainer for them. Resist that temptation. I grew up in Toronto which back in the late 1960s had a big nuclear power plant just outside the city. It’s still there, still producing masses more electricity than your Don Quixote windmills and Chinese-made solar panels. Indeed, you can see that nuclear power plant as you drive on highway 401 east out of Toronto, a city larger than Sydney. That said, I suppose the idea of nuclear energy might be really, super scary to those who allowed themselves to become terrified out of their wits by a virus with an infection fatality rate of well under 0.3 per cent across the board (and for the fit and young, a chance of death down there with being hit by lightning). How are we going to fight wars involving real risks of death when we’ve made a zero-risk precautionary principle our society’s guiding light? Seriously, we’re screwed if we keep this up. Life involves risks and a well-lived life does not cower in the closet waiting for Big Government to make zero-risk everything the sine qua non of being a citizen. Down that path lies pathetic servitude.
Still, that sort of ‘form over substance’ decision-making seems to be the Joe Biden way. Last week’s poll by Harvard-Harris found that 62 per cent of Americans believed Putin would not have invaded the Ukraine had Donald Trump been President. Even 38 per cent of Democrats believed that. Mr Putin had four years to invade if he thought (and as the totally bogus and every day more illegal-looking Russian collusion allegations, pushed by the Hillary Clinton people and deep state types, tried to suggest) that Trump was a patsy in the Russians’ back pocket. In fact, the last time Putin invaded (Crimea) was when Obama was President.
Let’s be honest. The woke, quota-driven, obsessed-with-race policies of Team Biden have been disastrous. Joe Biden right now is on course to be the worst President anyone can name. Inflation is at 7.5 per cent per annum, the highest in almost half a century. Biden only won the last election because of Covid and his claim he’d handle it better (together with the über-loose voting rules brought in by state courts and governors to cater for those who might not want to go to the voting booth, which was fortuitous you might say for Joe).
Yet Biden’s year in office has a worse death rate from Covid than Trump’s year – and for most of the latter’s time there was no vaccine. Biden implemented the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the most incompetent way ever, leaving billions in military hardware behind and a fair few Americans too. Serious crime is way, way up. Sure, that’s largely a state matter but Biden genuflected at the altar of Black Lives Matter who want to defund the police and eliminate the nuclear family. Defunding the police, as one might suppose, has been a disaster. And I mean for poor blacks more than anyone it’s been disastrous.
Which takes us to the Ukraine. Team Biden said sanctions were a deterrent, then that they weren’t. He looked and was weak. And you know what? Three years of the Democrats’ Russian collusion scam made it near on impossible for former President Trump, and then Biden, to deal with the Russian leader. Putin’s invasion was brutal, stupid and counter-productive. But the Russians have some legitimate gripes in my view. After the Cold War, Americans promised Gorbachev they would not expand Nato if he’d let the Wall come down. They did anyway. President Obama helped bring down a democratically elected pro-Russia government in the Ukraine a decade ago. And from Putin’s point of view it’s hard to see why the Americans, without the sanction of international law, can bomb Serbia relentlessly to let part of the country (Kosovo) break away but Russia can’t act militarily to let part of the Ukraine break away.
None of this comes close to warranting what Putin did. And he may well lose simply because the Ukrainians are being such tenacious fighters. (Would we fight like them?) I’m with the Ukrainians. But hypocrisy matters in the game of international affairs. So does weakness.
And so does a woke, virtue-signalling incompetent. Joe Biden, the man whose first instinct when war broke out was to offer the Ukrainian leader a flight to safety.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.
You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10