Biden's Chamberlainesque approach to Ukraine

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Assuming mentally discombobulated President Joe Biden, 79, still has the wherewithal to be able to shave on his own in the morning, one wonders, looking into the mirror, whether he sees an image of England’s “Peace in Our Time” Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain gazing back at him. Biden’s most recent comments concerning Ukraine suggest he embraces a Chamberlainesque approach.

For those who suffered a liberal American education that put little emphasis on world history, Chamberlain was the British leader who, in 1939, negotiated the Munich Pact with Germany’s Adolf Hitler in hopes of preventing a world war. Chamberlain returned home, telling the world he had secured “peace in our time.” However, Hitler later breached the pact and World War II was underway.

Hitler was able to play a naive Chamberlain for a fool, ultimately paving the way for the Nazi leader’s war machine to advance through Europe and beyond. So determined was Chamberlain to obtain peace at any price, he ceded territory to Germany not Britain’s to cede – Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland. Due to that territory’s heavy German population, Hitler sought to make it part of an expansionist-oriented Third Reich. And, by sacrificing Sudetenland, Chamberlain sought to limit Hitler’s dream for an even larger Third Reich, hoping the dictator would settle for a Third Reich “lite.”

Today, we hear the echoes of Hitler’s demand to Chamberlain to cede the Sudetenland as Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks territory in Ukraine heavily populated by Russians, and area he argues is inseparable from Russia. With Russian-supported separatist rebels active in two Ukrainian eastern territories, Putin sought to justify his invasion by declaring Ukraine’s statehood a fiction, claiming Russians and Ukrainians there are “one people.”

Interestingly, Henry Kissinger, secretary of state under President Richard Nixon in 1973, recently suggested how Ukraine might end the war. At age 99, while Kissinger may still be a little sharper than Biden, his recommended Ukrainian peace solution suggests, if so, it is not by much.

Kissinger recommended that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cede territory to the Russians. This comes from a German-born Kissinger who, although only 16 at the time of the Munich Pact, should know better than anyone the consequences of ceding territory to a dictatorial madman. Any such peace will only be temporary.

If recognizing the Munich Pact’s failure in bringing about a lasting peace is insufficient to query Kissinger’s judgment about his Ukrainian peace solution, there are other considerations that should. Touted as a great statesman, the ultimate results of Kissinger’s two best-known foreign affairs accomplishments suggest otherwise.

The first is the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, enabling the U.S. to withdraw from the Vietnam War under the guise of “peace with honor.” The agreement supposedly preserved both the North’s and South’s territorial integrity, based on assurances to the latter we would return militarily should the former violate the agreement. Within two years, following the North’s invasion, the South fell as America stayed on the sidelines. In a controversial decision, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 as a co-architect of the Accords that led to the South’s fall.

Kissinger’s second accomplishment was opening up Communist China. In 1971, while serving as Nixon’s national security adviser, Kissinger made a secret trip to Beijing to negotiate a visit there the next year by the president. That opened the door to a rapprochement between the two. However, half a century later, that rapprochement, aided by Kissinger as a consultant even after leaving the government, has transitioned China from a lower level to a much higher level threat. With Beijing beating war drums that it will defend its right to bring Taiwan back into its fold, confrontation between China and the U.S. is more serious than ever before.

Unfortunately, however, and despite Zelensky’s refusal to cede territory to Russia, Biden now seems to be taking Kissinger’s suggestion to heart as he recently hinted.

While Biden had first insinuated surrender as an option as early as April, he seems to be applying more pressure on Zelensky now. Communicating clearly has never been a Biden strong suit and, unsurprisingly, his message to Zelensky was sent in that vein:

“From the beginning, I’ve said and I’ve been – not everyone’s agreed with me – nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine. It’s their territory. I’m not going to tell them what they should and shouldn’t do. But it appears to me that at some point along the line, there’s going to have to be a negotiated settlement here. And what that entails, I don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows at the time. …”

Meanwhile, unable to score what he thought would be a quick victory, Putin now seeks to create world chaos by blocking ports in Ukraine – a country known as the world’s “breadbasket” for growing enough food to feed 400 million people. Biden needs to work with the world community quickly to shut this nightmare down before it has a baby formula shortage impact of global proportions.

Biden and Kissinger boast a combined 178 years of foreign policy “wisdom.” At age 44, Zelensky – originally an entertainer before becoming a political novice who ran for and won the presidency in 2019 – would be wise to ignore them, relying instead on his own political savvy on how to best deal with the Russians.

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