Did Putin’s transition from brinkmanship to war help the Biden administration?


Putin is a wise politician. During many periods leading up to the Ukrainian War, Putin used Western divisions to confuse the West and appeared to surpass President Joe Biden.

But has the trend now changed to Putin instead of Biden?

To understand what happened, we need to start by unraveling Putin’s concerns that led to the war.

At the heart of Putin’s thinking is concern about how Ukraine geographically points to the center of Russia like a dagger. This means that if Ukraine joins NATO, it will be very difficult to protect Russia.

As Putin continues to point out, missiles launched from Ukraine will take less than 10 minutes to attack Moscow. For Russia, this is a horrifying scenario with no military solution. In fact, Putin’s only solution is to have Ukraine (and NATO) declare Ukraine a neutral country.

The second concern is that Russia no longer has enough resource base or economy to allow it to catch up with either the United States or China in an arms race (due to the collapse of the Soviet empire).

Russia still owns huge weapons (including nuclear missiles) built during the Soviet era. However, this is a declining asset as Russia is steadily lagging behind in the US-China arms race.

So Russia may be strong today, but in 10 years it will be even lower in rank. As a result, Russia is motivated to act now, not later.

Third, Russia needs to prepare for the end of the Putin era. The transition from Putin to a new form of governance will inevitably undermine Russia during the transition.

Therefore, the Russian elite recognizes the value of fixing perceived weaknesses (such as Ukrainian daggers) early rather than later. Moscow can still rely on the Soviet-built arsenal, and it is simply better to fix the weaknesses now before Putin’s transition undermines Russia.

A rocket is launched from the missile system
The rocket will be launched from the missile system as part of a ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile test launched from the Plesetsk facility in northwestern Russia on December 9, 2020. (Russian Ministry of Defense news agency via AP)

In addition to these concerns, there is Putin’s delusions born of past American and NATO actions. Putin, for example, asked to join NATO when Clinton was president. He could only assume a “Russian expert” within the State Department, and intelligence agencies said no.

This failure to allow Russia to join Western Europe would have missed a great opportunity and created a lot of Russia’s suspicion and fear of NATO’s intentions. In fact, in many respects, some of the roots of today’s Ukrainian war are in the decision not to join Russia with NATO.

Putin’s delusion would have deepened when Washington’s bureaucracy witnessed how Trump could prevent Trump from trying to normalize relations between the United States and Russia.

Other events that would have exacerbated Putin’s paranoia are NATO’s treatment of Serbia and the role of the United States in agitating the Arab Spring and Yellow Revolution.

These horrors and paranoia prompted Putin to set the stage for the conflict in Ukraine as NATO was urged to create a neutral Ukraine that could not be used to attack Russia. Putin, who decided the conflict, tried to maximize the chances of success.

Not surprisingly, given that Biden looked weaker than his predecessor, he saw Biden’s presidency as a window of opportunity. Indeed, it seems unlikely that Putin had the opportunity to provoke a president like Trump.

In addition, Germany’s left-green government gave Putin yet another opportunity as this government’s opposition to the war virtually helped NATO.

The combination of weak Biden and weak Germany seemed to create ideal conditions for Putin. And since he also thought that China was on his team, Putin was destined to give him the perfect situation to maximize his chances of success. I did.

But that didn’t mean that war was inevitable. Putin may be allowed to believe that he can win with threats, brinkmanship, and good bargaining skills, given the weaknesses of Biden and Germany.

The problem is that in a brinkmanship situation, it is very easy for one or both to make a miscalculation. That happened. And we are at war.

Epoch Times Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin will chair a meeting with members of the Security Council via a conference call at the Novoogaryovo State Capitol on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia, on March 3, 2022. (Andrey Gorshkov / Sputnik / AFP via Getty Images)

Putin seemed to read the initial situation correctly. He also played the game very well in his early stages and always outperformed Biden’s team. Finally, Putin seemed to be able to give way without war.

But then one of the variables changed as mainstream and social media in the west became saturated with a commentary on how weak and ineffective Biden was. As expected, Biden was embarrassed. And it seems embarrassing enough to strengthen his team.

It also reminded Biden, perhaps, that if Putin gave way to Ukraine, this would encourage Beijing’s invasion of Taiwan. And if Taiwan were to be lost, Pax Americana would be really in trouble. Anyway, we suddenly saw Biden’s team improving their game.

Putin realized that he did not intend to overcome the brinkmanship alone, but it was too far to retreat to this stage. As Putin’s options narrowed, war became inevitable.

Putin is a seasoned politician, but this time he seems to have made a serious miscalculation. The problem is that war is a curious beast that can produce unexpected results.

Yes, Putin may have the power to occupy Ukraine. But he has now caused five major problems for himself.

First, he apparently awakened the patriotism of some Ukrainian nationalists.

Second, Putin’s actions did what seemed impossible a few weeks ago. He could actually unite Europeans and even convince the European Left and the Greens that international Pacificism was not always the solution.

Third, given the extent and depth of global hostility to Putin’s war, Beijing is now trying to move away from Putin.

Fourth, Putin is very likely now facing a protracted guerrilla war in Ukraine built against the backdrop of Ukraine’s patriotism and western weapons.

Fifth, the West has finally become serious enough to impose sanctions that could destroy Russia’s economy. The combination of sanctions and guerrilla warfare will have the ability to bleed and kill Russia. This was not the result Putin expected.

But Putin has changed beyond what Russia is currently facing. He also influenced the state of politics in the world. And the changes he made are the exact opposite of what he wanted.

The Ukrainian War strengthened Biden’s hand. As a result, in the state of Biden’s National Speech, I saw both him and Democrats in Parliament exude far more confidence than they had for months.

The war also strengthened the hands of globalists-multilateralists in support of the existing world order (which Putin wanted to destroy). And finally, it strengthened EU and European multilateralism. Putin handed gifts to virtually all of these players.

But of course, the game isn’t over. Let’s see what happens to Putin’s next move.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Eric Law


Eric Louw is a retired professor of political communication with a background spanning universities in South Africa and Australia. Prior to that, he was a former activist, journalist and media trainer at the African National Congress, working on the transition to the post-apartheid era in South Africa. Louw is an expert in affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment Policy. His PhD was in the study of Marxism and its postmodern development. He has authored nine books, including “The Rise and Fall of Apartheid and the Legacy” and “Media and the Political Process.”