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Putin banked on Obama's appeasement to continue under Biden, sparking Russo-Ukranian war: expert


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President Biden’s bluster on Russia in the lead-up to the country’s invasion of Ukraine gave way to policies that appeased Russian President Vladimir Putin and largely follow that of Obama administration policies, experts say. 

“[Biden’s] Russian experts are the same people as the Obama Russian experts. They were the people that said the Russian reset is going to be great,” James Carafano, vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News Digital.

The Obama administration heralded a “reset” with Russia at the start of his first term, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with a red button reading, “reset,” and Obama announced the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia in 2010 – intended to cut the number of nuclear weapons held by the U.S. and Russia. 

Then-Vice President Biden said Russia joining the World Trade Organization was “the most important item on our agenda.” 

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But the attempt to improve relations with the nation deteriorated by 2014, as Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. 

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington on March 23, 2010. 

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the East Room of the White House in Washington on March 23, 2010. 
(SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

When the Obama administration famously backed off its “red line” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons on his own people, they accepted a deal with Russia to remove them instead. The agreement came as Obama continued setting his sights on a nuclear deal with Iran, and reportedly feared any military action in Syria could have jeopardized it. 

The administration celebrated its diplomatic solution. But in 2017 an apparent sarin gas attack was launched and former Obama administration officials came under fire for previous claims that the agreement successfully purged Assad’s entire chemical weapons stockpile. 

Carafano told Fox News Digital that Biden tapping the same Russia experts as Obama’s is similar to “a guy that told you to get on AOL.” But, “AOL vaporizes, and then you turn right around and hire that guy to advise you on your next big merger and acquisition.”

“What do you think’s gonna happen?” he asked rhetorically. 

President Obama’s policies stand in stark contrast to President Trump’s, who, unlike President Biden, spoke favorably about Putin but came down much harder on his regime in the policy arena, according to critics. 

In 2018, the Trump administration revealed the U.S. military killed hundreds of pro-Assad Russian mercenaries in Syria in airstrikes. The administration also pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal that year. Later, Trump also unilaterally pulled out of the three-decade-old Open Skies Treaty with Russia in 2020. 

“Yet the fact is that Trump’s foreign policy, in action, was more successful. Biden’s policy appeasement, on the other hand, has been a 15-year project. It’s no surprise that Putin thinks this is the time to strike,” National Review’s David Harsanyi wrote just days ahead of the invasion last month. 

President Trump shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017.  

President Trump shakes hands with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during their bilateral meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany July 7, 2017.  
(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Carafano argued that Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine was one he made in 2014, but was put on ice during the Trump administration. 

“I think he made this decision in 2014 … he decided that Obama was leaving Europe, that the Europeans were weak and divided and woke, and that he was pushing on an open door. And he just stopped for four years when Donald Trump was there because they didn’t know how to deal with Trump.”

“The day Trump left, all the Obama people came back and Putin went right back to doing what he’s doing,” Carafano said. 

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President Biden gives remarks at a Black History Month celebration event in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. 

President Biden gives remarks at a Black History Month celebration event in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 28, 2022 in Washington, D.C. 
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Twelve years after the Democrats called for a reset with Russia, Biden’s State Department announced last year it wanted to test “whether we can achieve a relationship with Moscow that is more stable and predictable.”

Biden barked at Russia ahead of his election that Putin knew his days of “tyranny and trying to intimidate the United States and those in Eastern Europe are over” once he took the White House. 

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But Biden’s bark was much tougher than his bite when dealing with Moscow, which critics and lawmakers had long warned would lead to an invasion. 

“Within days of taking office, President Joe  Biden’s campaign-trail veneer of tough-talking Russia hawk melted away to reveal a weak-kneed appeaser unwilling to constrain the Russian bear,” Sen. Tom Cotton wrote in January. 

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At the start of his administration, Biden proposed extending the START treaty to Russia after the Trump administration waited to begin talks and made a list of demands that Russia would not meet. Russia welcomed the proposal, while Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said not renewing the treaty would “weaken America’s understanding of Russia’s long-range nuclear forces.”

Sen. Cotton, R-Ark., slammed the move as appeasing Russia “with nothing in return.”

“Instead of satisfying Putin, this concession only whetted his appetite,” Cotton wrote in January. 

Last year, Biden waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that would run from Russia to Germany without crossing through Ukraine. Trump vehemently opposed the pipeline, with his administration fearing it would allow Russia to further tighten its grip on Europe’s reliance on Russia for oil. 

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To Sen. Cotton, it was “yet another unbelievable victory for the Russian dictator,” which would ease Russia’s reliance on Ukraine to move the natural gas and ultimately “allow Russia to attack Ukraine without having to worry about losing revenue from gas sales to Europe.”

Russia began amassing troops along its border with Ukraine last year. The Biden administration hit back that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, “Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”

Sanctions on the pipeline didn’t come until the day before the invasion, on Feb. 23. 

President Biden during a signing ceremony at the White House on Nov. 18, 2021 and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a congress of the United Russia party in Moscow, on Dec. 4, 2021.

President Biden during a signing ceremony at the White House on Nov. 18, 2021 and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a congress of the United Russia party in Moscow, on Dec. 4, 2021.
(Photos by MANDEL NGAN, MIKHAIL METZEL / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images)

The Biden White House also reportedly stalled on sending a military aid package last year to Ukraine – allegedly including short-range air defense systems, small arms and more anti-tank weapons – as tensions flared between Russia and Ukraine. The proposal was reportedly stalled after Russia said it would lower the number of troops assembled at the Ukraine border leading to a summit between Biden and Putin in June, Politico reported last year. 

BIDEN GAVE PUTIN LIST OF 16 CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE ENTITIES ‘OFF LIMITS’ TO CYBERATTACKS

A report surfaced just this month that the Biden administration allegedly axed another plan last year to send additional operations personnel to Ukraine to train them on guerrilla tactics and unconventional warfare methods. 

White House officials were reportedly concerned that the deployment of additional personnel would hamper diplomacy efforts and escalate the situation, Politico reported. The plan was ultimately stopped, though the White House told Fox News Digital that “no such plans were ever presented to the White House or the NSC.”

A cyber ransomware attack carried out by a Russian hacker last year on a major U.S. pipeline network caused mayhem in the country, briefly interrupting gas deliveries. Among Biden’s responses was giving Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure entities that are “off limits” to a Russian cyberattack. 

War has continued raging in Ukraine for nearly a month, and critics have said the Biden administration’s response has cost Ukrainian lives. 

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“The Biden administration certainly needs to step up,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News last week. “Although they have been publicly making statements of commitments to give Ukraine the tools and weapons to defend themselves, they’ve been very slow to do so.”

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