Reporting today indicates that President Joe Biden will look into banning the importation of Russian oil to the United States. While initially resistant to taking this step, the administration has come into agreement with Congress that targeting Russia’s vital energy sector is the next phase in our economic response to the Russia’s criminal and murderous invasion of Ukraine. What this reveals is that Washington has united in defense of American values and American allies. Under Joe Biden, American leadership has reemerged.
For the past 20 years, Americans and others around the world have become increasingly skeptical about America’s capacity to lead. The last two decades saw the U.S. compile a long record of policy failures on the national and international scenes. From the disastrous Iraq War to the most feckless and lethal mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic one could imagine, the American state repeatedly came up short in its duty to respond to crises facing its citizens. Increasingly, countries around the world gravitated toward China with its brutal but seemingly effective authoritarian model.
President Biden has changed this narrative of futility. From the start of the Ukraine crisis, his diplomacy has been deft and his leadership steady. A Western alliance that had fragmented over years of policy discord and pressure both from without and from within was unified against the threat of Russian tyranny. America and other nations imposed some of the most devastating sanctions upon the Russian economy that have been seen in decades. The top Russian bank has literally become a penny stock.
In addition to diplomatic and financial isolation, Russia has become a cultural pariah. Sports organizations have expelled Russian athletes from competition in protest against the Russian state’s criminal aggression. Russian billionaires are being hounded and the very legitimacy of Russia in world affairs is now at an extremely low ebb. Not all of this is due to American action–but the contrast our country has set up between democracy and autocracy, with a Western alliance unified behind a heroic nation fighting for freedom against a far more powerful thug, has resounded powerfully throughout the world.
Americans have overlooked their partisan differences in an inspiring display of unity for the nation’s values. But we are still in the Trump era, and no account of American policy, sadly, could be complete without reference to what the de facto leader of the Republican Party is doing and saying. Trump’s ravings have been unusually deranged, even for him; he has gone from calling Putin’s criminality “genius” to musing about getting Russia to go to war with the Chinese. With the contrast of Americans supporting Ukraine and Europe, we can see that Trump truly does not represent American values.
The Ukrainian War is a lesson in the enduring need for American leadership positioned behind liberal values. America is very far from perfect, but it is still the only nation capable of coordinating an international response to projections of tyranny in vital strategic theaters. Under the capable leadership of President Joe Biden, the United States is fulfilling the role that it must play to vindicate its history and its ideals. Ukrainians are the heroes in this story, but Americans have been the prime movers in backing the most courageous freedom fighters we have seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall over 30 years ago.
Alexander Jones is an original contributor to PoliticsNC.