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OPINION: Blinken announces new sanctions against Russia, where will this end?

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The Biden administration marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine by announcing hard hitting sanctions against Russian oligarchs, government officials and entities on Friday. These sanctions are being touted as a major tool in the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to bring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war to an end.

However, if Putin is as determined as U.S. intelligence officials contend, will these sanctions against Russia’s defense and technology industries squeeze Moscow into backing off of its war effort? Or will it drag the west into a far more dangerous war.

I guess only time will tell, but one thing is certain, Biden’s failed foreign policy is what has led us to this point. I spent seven years of my life traveling to and from the war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. I watched as failed foreign policy actions instituted by politicians – far from the ground war –  in Washington D.C. led to wasted taxpayer dollars and more importantly, the death of our troops overseas. I watched those failures continue from the Bush administration onto the Biden Administration’s chaotic and failed Afghanistan withdrawal.  For those of us old enough to remember what happened after September 11, 2001, our fight against al-Qaeda was supposed to be swift, strategic and short. The U.S. was intent on wiping out the terrorist organization that brought our nation to its knees, even if for a short time.

The CIA and U.S. Special Forces targeted al-Qaeda and the Taliban valiantly. But failed foreign policy and war time mission creep set in. Instead of a short war, it turned into America’s longest war. Year after year, I watched our military leadership brief Congress on how we were winning the war.  I often wondered while sitting on the front lines of the battlefield with our troops if any American believed what they were hearing. I know I didn’t and neither did our troops.

For the most part, our troops weren’t allowed to do their jobs. Their hands were tied behind their backs with ridiculous rules of engagement and the goals of the war kept shifting based on what D.C. lawmakers and White House officials deemed appropriate.

It is the same mess I’m witnessing with Ukraine.

Why was Putin so aggressive? Why did Putin believe he could invade? It was America’s  blunder in Afghanistan, I believe, under the Biden administration, that gave Putin the green light.

Biden’s decision to withdraw so hastily made the U.S. vulnerable on the world stage and the biggest target of our adversaries. Our adversaries smelled weakness and have taken full advantage of it, to our nation’s detriment.

Like many war correspondents, I questioned everything while I was overseas. In fact, I still do.

Let’s take Blinken’s sanctions against Russia, for example.

Blinken noted in his speech that the sanctions against Russia will target “over 60 individuals and entities complicit in the administration of Russia’s government-wide operations and policies of aggression toward Ukraine and in the illegitimate administration of occupied Ukrainian territories for the benefit of the Russian Federation. These targets include government ministers, governors, and high-level officials in Russia, as well as six individuals and three entities operating in parts of Ukraine occupied by Russia, facilitating grain theft, and governing on behalf of Russia.” He is also targeting Russian oil production that is circumventing current U.S. sanctions.

He says the sanctions will also target technology entities inside China. This will be necessary in an effort to hold Putin accountable, he said.  But this, in and of itself, isn’t just pulling us into a deeper conflict with Russia but with Beijing as well.

Are we prepared for this? Will we be prepared if China invades Taiwan? How will we respond? These are all possibilities and all questions we should be asking because instead of de-escalating the war in Biden’s recent visit to Ukraine, he went on the offensive.

Moreover, the Biden administration has an abysmal track record of holding Beijing accountable. Just take COVID-19 as one example, the White House failed miserably at investigating the origins of the outbreak, which is believed to have occurred in the Wuhan laboratory. In the end China has never had to answer for their actions in lying to the world and leading to the death of millions of people.

From the moment Biden entered office, his administration’s poor foreign policy decisions have resulted in an extremely dangerous global domino effects that have empowered our adversaries and put our allies in jeopardy.  I believe it is the reason Putin seized the moment to invade Ukraine.

But not all is lost, at least not yet.

For one, Putin wasn’t planning on the fortitude of the Ukrainian people or for that matter, the more than $103 billion U.S. tax dollars in equipment and resources that continue to flow into the region. Those resources, including lethal aid, continue to hold Putin back.

These actions are a blessing for the Ukrainians, but America is taking a gamble that this proxy war could escalate. This is the dangerous unknown, a chance that the war will reach a point of no return for the American people.

How far will Putin go to win this war in the end and how far are we prepared to go to stop it? If he is truly as maniacal as the U.S. intelligence assessments suggest he is, should we be prepared for the fact that he is willing to use a tactical nuclear weapon before being defeated?

The answer is yes, but the White House has yet to address this with the American people.

Secretary Blinken made clear in his statement Friday that “President Putin started this illegal war, and he has the power to end it.” Maybe so, but the administration has already made it clear that they will not give Putin any room to save face and his narcissistic personality might not let him be the better man.

So everything from stringent sanctions to supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine is a gamble.

Yes, Ukraine should be lauded for fighting for its own sovereignty and freedom from Russia. And yes, we did make a commitment to Ukraine in the 1994 Trilateral Statement that said if it disarmed its nuclear infrastructure we would help defend the nation against aggressors.

I believe we should stand by those commitments but we also need to put Americans and our nation first. Our leaders need to take responsibility for their own failings.

There should be no doubt, as well, that U.S. citizens shouldn’t be the only ones supporting the effort in Ukraine. The billions in U.S. tax dollars shouldn’t be given without condition and full accountability.

We should expect Russia to react aggressively toward these sanctions but it is how the U.S. will respond that will determine our future, particularly if those charged with these major decisions have prepared for the worst.

You can follow Sara A. Carter on Twitter @SaraCarterDC

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EXCLUSIVE: Former Trump appointee explains an ‘America First Strategy’ in the ME

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Photo: Israeli Government

The author interviewed Ellie Cohanim, one of the authors of the new book: “An America First Approach to US National Security.” Ellie is the former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism under the Trump administration. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum focusing on Iran, Israel, and global antisemitism, and is a national security contributor for the Christian Broadcasting Network. In 2021, Ellie launched and hosted for Jewish News Syndicate 30 plus episodes of the show “Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim.” Ellie spent 15 years in media and NGO management before serving in the public sector. How would you define an “America First” strategy in the Middle East?

Cohanim: An America First strategy in the Middle East would seek to advance American national security interests in that region, while maintaining our status as THE global superpower. To do that, the US would ensure that our principal allies in the region, countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel, are economically and militarily strong, and that our adversaries in the region are deterred.

Postal: How has the United States’ standing in the Middle East differed between the Trump and Biden administrations?

Cohanim: Under President Trump, for four years we had peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region. Under President Biden, in just three tumultuous years there has been war in the region, which holds the potential for becoming a regional conflict and even a nuclear confrontation. Meanwhile, the US’ status in the region and the world has diminished due to Biden’s disastrous mishandling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, his emboldening of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and his weak response to Iranian attacks on our personnel and assets in the region. 

 

Postal: Do you think the United States and Israel are/were in a stronger position to deter Iran’s nuclear and territorial ambitions in Biden or Trump’s administration?

Cohanim: America’s position of strength has not changed under either administration vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic of Iran. What has changed is our Iran policy. Under President Trump’s administration, the US contained and constrained Tehran. Trump applied a “Maximum Pressure” sanctions campaign which left the Iranian Regime with only $4 billion in accessible foreign currency reserves by the end of his term, giving the Iranians less cash and less ability to fund their terror proxies and their nuclear program, and Trump eliminated Qassem Soleimani. While all President Biden needed to do was to continue implementing such successful policies, his administration instead did the exact opposite.  Under the Biden administration, Israel, our leading ally in the region, was attacked for the first time directly from Iranian soil. This was an unprecedented escalatory attack by the Iranian regime, and could only happen under the Biden administration.

Postal: In your chapter of the book, you discuss the weakening of US relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia under the Biden administration. How has the Biden administration affected the likelihood of future normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and deals between Israel and other Muslim countries (i.e., new Abraham Accords)?

Cohanim: The good news is that the Abraham Accords have withstood the test of multiple Hamas provocations against Israel, and now the current war. Despite numerous claims from the Biden administration regarding “successful” efforts to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, I do not think that the Biden administration will be able to clinch such a deal. In the Middle East, people have a long memory. Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has not forgotten President Biden’s snub when he first came into office, and Biden’s incredibly poorly advised behavior towards the Crown Prince when he made his first visit to the Kingdom as president. The last thing the Crown Prince wants is to hand Biden his first foreign policy success with a Rose Garden peace deal ceremony. So, I do not believe President Biden can broker Saudi/Israeli normalization.

However, I am also convinced that it is a matter of “when” and not “if” such a peace deal will happen between those two countries, as it serves both of their interests to make such a deal. The Saudis understand better than anyone that it is the Islamic Republic of Iran that threatens the Kingdom’s security and stability, not Israel.

Postal: What do you think of the Biden administration’s latest statements withholding arms to Israel?

Cohanim: President Biden will go down in history for his abject moral failure in not standing by Israel while she fights a five-front war. Biden has shown his despicable personality for trying to keep his anti-Israel arms embargo concealed until he could first deliver a speech on the Holocaust. Biden’s behavior is despicable on so many levels.

Ultimately, Biden is betraying the American people. He came into office presenting himself as a “centrist Democrat,” but has proven repeatedly to be beholden to the radical, extremist, pro-Hamas wing of his party.

Postal: How does the Biden administration’s support of a Palestinian state differ from the Trump administration’s support of a Palestinian state under its Peace to Prosperity framework?

Cohanim: The Biden administration stated that they will “unilaterally recognize” a Palestinian state. What the borders of that state are and who would lead it, nobody knows. 

The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” was a detailed plan that was premised on the realities on the ground in Israel. The plan required that the Palestinians reach benchmarks proving a real desire to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors. It included over $50 billion in investment in the region, which would have been a road to prosperity for all. Perhaps most significantly, the Palestinian state envisioned under the Trump plan would have been demilitarized, the wisdom of which could not be more clear following the October 7 massacre and attack.

The author would like to thank Ellie Cohanim for participating in this interview.

 

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