President Biden and America’s NATO allies, gravely concerned with the threat posed by a massive buildup of Russian troops along the country’s border with Ukraine, now know what Russia’s leaders want in exchange for reducing that threat.
Draft demands for Russian security treaties with the U.S. and NATO, first published today, include a written guarantee that Ukraine will not be offered membership in NATO and that NATO will no longer conduct military drills near Russia.
While there has been no formal response yet to the demands, U.S. and NATO leaders have indicated no such guarantees are likely, certainly with regard to Ukraine’s potential admission to the longtime military alliance of Western democracies. That would be a decision, Western leaders say, to be made solely by NATO and Ukraine, free from outside interference.
The demands come one week after Presidents Biden and Putin discussed Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture toward Ukraine in a video call. According to the White House, President Biden voiced strong objections to the troop buildup and threatened potentially debilitating economic sanctions if Russian invaded Ukraine.
"I’ve made it absolutely clear to President Putin," President Biden told reporters last weekend, "that if he moves on Ukraine, the economic consequences to his economy will be devastating."
“I don’t think it’s strong enough,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) in an interview Wednesday.
Oklahoma Senator Inhofe has been a harsh critic of his former Democratic colleague and now president. He thinks President Biden should have threatened Putin with more than just economic penalties.
“This isn’t going to go away by doing nothing,” said Inhofe, “and I think essentially we have a president whose tendency would be to do nothing...I think he should’ve backed it up with he’ll do what’s necessary to make sure they do the right thing -- at that point, it could go far beyond just economic sanctions."
Others in the delegation have a different view.
Congressman Kevin Hern thinks the Russian president is testing Biden, and believes, so far, Biden's tactic has been right: "to push out there that we’re going to meet you with huge economic impacts," Rep. Hern said in an interview this week.
Senator James Lankford says another important part of the U.S. and allied strategy needs to be showing Ukraine continued support, in terms of training.
"The Oklahoma National Guard is the one who went for a full year to be able to train Ukrainian soldiers to make them better equipped to be able to fight back against the Russians," Sen. Lankford noted in an interview Thursday.
Griffin Communications reported from Ukraine on that very training in 2017, and Lankford says that sort of deployment is enough.
"We don’t need to be sending troops over there and other things," Lankford stated, "but we do need to be standing alongside and continue to train and equip them and make them ready for what we hope never comes."