Reviews | Biden is once again leading the charges against Russia. Good.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe released a report on Wednesday documenting atrocities committed by Russia. They include, as summarized by The Post, “the widespread targeting of hospitals, schools, residential buildings and water facilities in its military operations, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries”. While the question of whether such actions amounted to genocide fell outside the purview of the OSCE, the report confirms that the massacre of civilians in a hospital and theater in Mariupol was part of an ongoing pattern of “violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian forces in their conduct of hostilities.
Reporters at the White House press conference on Wednesday appeared upset by Biden’s remarks about the genocide. Didn’t National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan say last week that there wasn’t enough evidence to make that decision, they asked? How can the president contradict American policy? Did anyone know he was going to make this statement? It’s almost like they forgot that Biden is the commander in chief and sets American politics. (Ironically, French President Emmanuel Macron was rebuffed when he tried the legal approach by arguing“I would be careful with such terms today because these two peoples [Russians and Ukrainians] are brothers. Yeah.)
Moreover, “genocide” unmistakably describes Russia’s intentions. The Post reports: “On state television, a [Russian] The military analyst doubled down on Russia’s need to win and called for concentration camps for Ukrainians opposed to the invasion. The report continues: “Russia’s astonishing evolution towards genocidal discourse has been swift and transparent. Moscow officials have amped up warnings that Russia is fighting for its survival. Maybe the American president, with the best intelligence community in the world, knows what he’s talking about.
A few aspects of this episode are worth highlighting. First, Biden did not speak in turn. It is his in turn – in fact, its right and its obligation – to define foreign policy. He expressed his appropriate moral outrage at the atrocities perpetrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin based on ample factual evidence, even beyond the gruesome images coming out of Ukraine. As White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki Explainsince the beginning of the Russian invasion, “we have also seen (…) the rhetoric of the Kremlin and the Russian media denying the national identity of the Ukrainian people”.
Second, the fact that so many outlets are insisting that Biden made a “blunder” in his genocide remark illustrates the determination of White House reporters to reduce everything – even war crimes – to a small account. Politics. Journalists also tend to argue that the administration has contradicted itself when new facts emerge in the conflict, forcing officials to recalibrate their policies. For example, giving Ukraine weapons systems now does not necessarily mean the United States should have given them at an earlier stage of the conflict. Similarly, the rhetoric of the US government should evolve as evidence of Russia’s atrocious conduct emerges. This is how officials should react in a fluid situation.
Finally, it’s worth noting that no one in the White House has attempted to backtrack on Biden’s statements on the genocide, as staffers did after he said last month that Putin “can’t stay at home.” able”. It seems White House aides have learned that Biden’s statements are morally sound and should not be undermined. This is a good thing. Indeed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seemed to grasp what many American media do not understand, describing in a tweet, Biden’s willingness to use the term genocide as the “true words of a true leader.” He added: “We are grateful for the American assistance provided so far and we urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities.”
Biden is not Ronald Reagan in terms of rhetoric. But the adage that “let Reagan be Reagan” — a pushback against aides trying to massage his rhetoric — applies to Biden as well. Biden will make real gaffes, as all presidents do. But in the case of Ukraine, an existential battle of good versus evil and democracy versus barbarism, he always got it right. Let Biden be Biden.