Biden Seeking Advice From Russia Hawks On How To Handle Ukraine Talks
A report in Axios detailed that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spent time early this week preparing for US engagement with Russia in Geneva by seeking the advice of well-known Russia hawks across Washington. This includes some former officials which served under the Trump administration, ironically enough.
Predictably their advice focused on confrontation with Russia by sending more arms and military supplies to Ukraine in order to prepare for potential conflict: “A group of Russia experts urged National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to send more arms to the Ukrainians when he spoke with them ahead of this week’s high-stakes diplomatic meetings with Russian officials, participants told Axios.”
One such hawk was a key National Security Council official under Obama and later ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul. McFaul, who typically opts for the most confrontational line on Russia, told Axios, “It’s always smart to engage with outsiders. There’s never a downside.”
“Jake is not afraid to interact with specialists, including those who may disagree with him,” the former ambassador added. Others who were consulted remain unnamed, but the report described a key aspect of the hawks’ advice as centered on “punishing” Putin for any aggressive actions:
By soliciting advice from the hawkish pockets in the foreign policy establishment, including those who served under former President Trump, the Biden administration is considering all options while weighing how to discourage Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine — and punish him if he does.
As expected, the hawkish officials lobbied for “more of everything” in terms of a muscular response to the alleged Russian troop build-up near Ukraine. The meeting with Sullivan, which happened via Zoom, was in part reportedly inspired of a group of diplomats, academics and former generals who previously penned a public letter urging Biden to quickly authorize more military assistance to Ukraine.
It’s believed these were some of the participants and positions pushed in the Zoom call, per Axios:
- “The most important thing that the West can do now is to enhance the deterrent strength of Ukraine’s armed forces by providing military assistance and equipment on an expedited basis,” they wrote.
- The letter, organized by John Herbst, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now the senior director for the Atlantic Council Eurasia Center, included McFaul; retired Gen. Wesley Clark; retired Gen. Philip Breedlove; former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott; Trump’s special representative to Ukraine, Kurt Volker; and Daniel Fried, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland.
Amb. McFaul has been a leading Russia hawk in the public sphere after serving as US ambassador to Russia…
And I want a “waterproof” “ironclad” “bulletproof” guarantee Russia will end its occupation of Ukrainian and Georgian territories, will never invade Ukraine or Georgia again and will stop its efforts to undermine democracy in Ukraine & Georgia. https://t.co/WbDdTvlLco
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) January 10, 2022
By all accounts, Monday’s Russia-NATO dialogue in Geneva didn’t go well, especially after Washington informed the Russian delegation that its key request of ‘no more NATO eastward expansion’ is “a non-starter”. However, the two sides are expected to continue engaging, possibly leading to some kind of minimal agreement toward avoiding open conflict to be penned on paper.
Tue, 01/11/2022 – 12:40
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