Biden Admin Jeffrey D. Sachs Ukraine

Biden’s Foreign Policy Is Sinking the Congressional Dems—and Ukraine

The proxy war between the U.S. and Russia is devastating Ukraine, ironically in the name of saving Ukraine.
The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Jeffrey D. Sachs / Common Dreams

President Joe Biden is undermining his party’s Congressional prospects through a deeply flawed foreign policy.  Biden believes that America’s global reputation is at stake in the Ukraine War and has consistently rejected a diplomatic off-ramp.  The Ukraine War, combined with the administration’s disruptions of economic relations with China, is aggravating the stagflation that will likely deliver one or both houses of Congress to the Republicans.  Far worse, Biden’s dismissal of diplomacy prolongs the destruction of Ukraine and threatens nuclear war.  

Biden inherited an economy beset by deep disruptions to global supply chains caused by the pandemic and by Trump’s erratic trade policies. Yet instead of trying to calm the waters and repair the disruptions, Biden escalated the U.S. conflicts with both Russia and China. 

Biden attacked Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for expressing doubts on another large financial package Ukraine, declaring: “They [House Republicans] said that if they win, they’re not likely to fund—to help—continue to fund Ukraine, the Ukrainian war against the Russians. These guys don’t get it. It’s a lot bigger than Ukraine—it’s Eastern Europe. It’s NATO. It’s real, serious, serious consequential outcomes. They have no sense of American foreign policy.”  Similarly, when a group of progressive congressional Democrats urged negotiations to end the Ukraine War, they were excoriated by Democrats following the White House line and forced to recant their call for diplomacy.

Biden believes that American credibility depends on NATO expanding to Ukraine, and if necessary, defeating Russia in the Ukraine war to accomplish that. Biden has repeatedly refused to engage in diplomacy with Russia on the NATO enlargement issue. This has been a grave mistake. It stoked a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia in which Ukraine is being devastated, ironically in the name of saving Ukraine. 

The whole issue of NATO enlargement is based on a U.S. lie dating back to the 1990s. The U.S. and Germany promised Gorbachev that NATO would move “not one inch eastward” if Gorbachev would disband the Soviet Warsaw Pact military alliance and accept German reunification.  Convenientl—and with typical cynicism—the U.S. reneged on the deal. 

In 2021, Biden could have headed off the Ukraine War without sacrificing any single vital interest of the U.S. or Ukraine.  U.S. security absolutely does not depend on NATO enlarging to Ukraine and Georgia. In fact, NATO enlargement deeper into the Black Sea region undermines US security by putting the U.S. into a direct confrontation with Russia (and a further violation of the promises made three decades earlier). Nor does Ukraine’s security depend on NATO enlargement, a point that President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged on numerous occasions. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the U.S. repeatedly since 2008 to keep NATO out of Ukraine, a region of vital security interests for Russia. Biden has equally resolutely insisted on NATO enlargement. Putin made one last diplomatic try at the end of 2021 to stop NATO enlargement. Biden completely rebuffed him. This was dangerous foreign policy.  

As much as many American politicians don’t want to hear it, Putin’s warning about NATO enlargement was both real and apt.  Russia doesn’t want a heavily armed NATO military on its border, just as the U.S. would not accept a Chinese-backed heavily armed Mexican military on the U.S.-Mexico border.  The last thing the U.S. and Europe need is a long war with Russia. Yet that’s just where Biden’s insistence on NATO enlargement to Ukraine has brought about.    

The U.S. and Ukraine should accept three absolutely reasonable terms to end the war: Ukraine’s military neutrality; Russia’s de facto hold on Crimea, home to its Black Sea naval fleet since 1783; and a negotiated autonomy for the ethnic-Russian regions, as was called for in the Minsk Agreements but which Ukraine failed to implement.    

Instead of this kind of sensible outcome, the Biden Administration has repeatedly told Ukraine to fight on. It poured cold water on the negotiations in March, when Ukrainians were contemplating a negotiated end to the war but instead walked away from the negotiating table. Ukraine is suffering grievously as a result, with its cities and infrastructure reduced to rubble, and tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers dying in the ensuing battles. For all of NATO’s vaunted weaponry, Russia has recently destroyed up to half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.   

In the meantime, the U.S.-led trade and financial sanctions against Russia have boomeranged. With the cutoff of Russian energy flows, Europe is in a deep economic crisis, with adverse spillovers to the U.S. economy.  The destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline further deepened Europe’s crisis.  According to Russia, this was done by UK operatives, but almost certainly with U.S. participation. Let us recall that in February, Biden said that if Russia invades Ukraine, “We will bring an end to it [Nord Stream].” “I promise you,” said Biden, “we will be able to do it.”

Biden’s flawed foreign policy has also brought about what generations of foreign policy strategists from Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski warned against: driving Russia and China into a firm embrace. He has done that by dramatically escalating the cold war with China at precisely the same time as he is pursuing the hot war with Russia.   

From the start of his Presidency, Biden starkly curtailed diplomatic contacts with China, stirred up new controversies regarding America’s long-standing One China policy, repeatedly called for greater arms sales to Taiwan, and implemented a global export ban on high-tech to China. Both parties have rallied to this destabilizing anti-China policy, but the cost is further destabilization of the world, and also the U.S. economy.   

In sum, Biden inherited a difficult economic hand—the pandemic, excess Fed liquidity created in 2020, large budget deficits in 2020, and pre-existing global tensions. Yet he has greatly exacerbated the economic and geopolitical crises rather than solved them. We need a change of foreign policy. After the elections, there will be an important time for reassessment. Americans and the world need economic recovery, diplomacy, and peace.


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Jeffrey D. Sachs
Jeffrey D. Sachs

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he directed The Earth Institute from 2002 until 2016. He is also President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and a commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development. He has been advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General, and currently serves as an SDG Advocate under Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Sachs is the author, most recently, of “A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism” (2020). Other books include: “Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair, and Sustainable” (2017) and The Age of Sustainable Development,” (2015) with Ban Ki-moon.

12 comments

  1. I would suggest it is purposeful because both parties want the same thing: to control us and the entire world.

    1. Which is exactly why the world has been turning to China and Russia (two of the three world nuclear superpowers) for protection from the US.

  2. Biden barely knows where he is and whose hair he is sniffing. It’s not fair to lay these policy failures at his feet, they belong to the coterie of advisors and other senior government figure who actually make the decisions.

  3. Sachs is wrong—americans always support nazis—ukraine is no different than other US misadventures; this is required for political figures in USA

  4. The Lunacy of the Oligarchs in the USA continues, as they inflict mayhem throughout the World, and cause the American people suffering and harm ,as their country sinks into anarchy .
    The citizens of the USA are in desperate need of leadership so as to restore trust in the Country & system.
    It seems the US is now headed to a version of TRUMP 2,and we know what that means.There must be someone in that Country who can” turn the ship around”.

  5. The liberal bourgeoisie are never going to get this figured out. The US had to move over 12,000 US forces thousands of miles from the US, to station them near Russia’s border, to be able to shriek that Russia is threatening the US. On Ukraine: Formerly part of the USSR, independent since 1991, whereupon US interests began pouring in. Check US role in the 2014 Ukraine coup and in installing (fascist) Zelensky in 2019. Google a map of US/NATO installations along Russia’s and China’s border, in gross violation of international law. This is Joe Biden’s war, and the US is going to pay one hell of a price for it.

  6. ukraine no longer exists—318000 newly mobilized Russian troops will denazify all ukraine by mid 2023—25% is now permanently Russia due to american rejection of Minsk….USA immoral influence now impotent: only the angloshere and some EU nations impose any sanctions on Russia…trade w Russia has increased nearly all nations in 2022—Russ reserve fund increased 32% 2022…more sanctions please…EU has ruined their economies—like USA in contraction….while Russia China, India etc thrive…..the bitter anglo personality has resulted in self harm

  7. The Western Occident and USA leadership(s) are smoking opium this time not the Chinese! What a pipe dream to believe in a dismantled Russian Federation. We’ve been reading about that same rubbish in articles about Texas and California succession movements.

    I’m in full agreement with Mr Sachs. Putin thinks ten moves ahead of Bzignew Brezinski’s Grand Chessboard scenario. Russians never wanted a military and economic behemoth sitting on their borders. It’s a bankster-Wall Street oligarchic group who continue to encourage a Russian-Chinese alliance. Does anyone believe, for one minute, that the Duma, apparatchiks and Putin overlooked the question of political and military entanglements? Entanglements that consist of a Chinese addiction to Russian oil, gas and eventually fresh water ?

    Putin must be wagging his head, watching the USA crawl to Israel, e.g., senators and representatives vigorously applauding with standing ovations during Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches. Apparently the Russians have learned more from U.S. history then it’s own citizenry…Everyone is aware of this quote by now; “beware of foreign entanglements”. A warning issued from George Washington in his last speech to the nation and ditto from the last speech of IKE, President Eisenhower, “beware of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex”. It is clear that Putin has no intention of making the same mistakes the USA made with it’s alliances with Israel.

    Russia, a 2.5 trillion dollar (annual) economy yet spends only 65 billion for all it’s military branches including land, sea, air and associated R & D.Isn’t that 65 billion figure what the USA just sent to the Ukraine? The Ukrainians are being stomped flat with very high tech weaponry serviced by an extraordinarily lean Russian budget. A war time expenditure that does not tally to even one twelfth of their total military annual budget.

    US Voter representation has been co-opted by corporate funding into congressional re-election coffers, the CIA infiltration of top organized union officialdom, the crucifixion of our sheepish throng protesting at the Capitol without brandishing a single nightstick, Molotov cocktail, facial riot gear, oven cleaner or bear spray among them. Our politicians have long since forgotten what real confrontation looks like; the Los Angeles days of rage in August 1965, the recent Portland and Seattle Riots, again forgot the street riots of our closest allies e.g., the June 1987 in Seoul immediately followed by the arrest of (authentic) Union Leaders. Our “Representatives” more likely never were made aware of those almost weekly NYC Ghetto and Harlem riots of the 1960’s. There are many many more May Day riots in Chicago and other places over the last seventy years.

    There are visible, outstanding voting irregularities, still pending in the courts.There are recent MSM announcements that future ballot counting may take days to tally during next years elections (how odd that Lula’s victory was announced in a single day) ..The match has been lit DC, and you are ankle deep in gasoline !

    Does anyone believe that Trump will back true campaign finance reform? strengthen the voices crying out for union representation at grocery chains, better pay and conditions for migrant farm workers? repeal the role our CIA has in dispatching field operatives who perform nefarious activities on behalf of transnational corporate interests? I’m suggesting the now rather obvious, Rockefeller intrusion into the CIA internal bureaucracy early 1960’s…. Even POTUS Truman realized his error in the creation of this invisible arm of small d, democracy..

    Does anyone believe that if re-elected, Trump can return our Intel agencies back to information gathering? that is, to uncover foreign threats and NOT engage in monitoring US citizens? Please name the reporter or investigative journalist who has broached the question as to why our corporate CEO’s can’t hire their own private “heavy mob” for making new inroads and exploitation(s) into third world markets? ditto, using our armed forces to “soften up” second and third world countries who happen to have commodities and labor costs that transnational corporations desire?

    Does anyone believe that Trump will get the chance to meet with Putin, smoke the peace pipe and iron out a new arms limitation treaty? When Senator Paul Wellstone said no to Cheney’s war, he and his family were killed in a plane crash. The debris burned hot, like some incendiary and weird sparkling confetti, obviously shot down under very mysterious circumstances and still remains unsolved- to this very day.

    ASIDE: Readers should familiarize themselves with what insurrection really looks like, e.g., when South Korean Union rank and file members hit the streets. It’s ferocious! the rioters wear the riot gear, they baton the police, their faces are filled with rage!…better wake up Belt Way fatsos, Nancy Pelosi’s gang, with their strong arm tactics against the un armed and vulnerable prole(s) has not passed without notice. You all have forgotten American Labor history, you do NOT represent us, you are for the most part compromised and are totally responsible for bringing a desperate choice like Trump into the Oval Office. This situation may repeat itself again!

    In summary, the Ruble has never been stronger, Russian exports of raw commodities have hit a new high. Their military have now been cleansed of incompetent generals and Putin shines like new penny when it comes to diplomatic savvy…. this adds up to another fiasco for the NATO/US image as the worlds policemen and protectors of freedom. But military defeat, shame, retreat, needless suffering and fiasco are unimportant to the MICS and Five Eyes. Their souls are centered on one god, profits. The making of money, the power it brings, the fear it can induce and political corruption it can buy.

  8. Thank you Jeffrey, a brilliant summary of this debacle! Hopefully, this spells the end of NATO and the hegemony of the west. Sadly it also means within short order our populaces will start to feel the suffering that we have inflicted so readily on the global south, war, disease, famine etc. as the chickens come home to roost. The only thing is there will be no one to bail out the west as it enters into freefall even the elites will not be immune to the suffering that is coming.

  9. I’m opposed to most of the misguided US military adventures I’ve lived through, but this Ukraine conflict looks different from my perspective. I have family from Ukraine and they, like other eastern Europeans, have a long and painful memory of Russian domination and cruelty. I read anti-American comments from many of my left leaning compatriots, and though, in other circumstances I could agree with them, this time I won’t. The United States is, and has been, the best hope for Ukrainians who want to have a modern society free from Russian domination. This is not Vietnam or Iraq. It’s more like when the French supported the Americans in our revolution. Until the Russians lose and Ukraine is secure, I support the Pentagon and the US government in backing Ukraine.

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