“Bold, brave, brilliant” are words I use to characterize President Joe Biden’s 10-hour train foray to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Zelensky and his subsequent travel to Warsaw to demonstrate America’s commitment to a free, independent democracy.
Why bold? President Biden’s initiative in the face of Russian President Putin’s continued doubling down on escalating the war cannot be met with weak American resolve. His initiative, although shrouded in secrecy and launched in the midnight skies, must have left President Putin and his minions reeling with surprise and surely cast doubt on the wisdom of his “special military operation.” Bravo!
Why brave? President Biden is the first president since Abraham Lincoln to dare visit an active war zone. He knew, as did his advisors, that the trip would put him at risk personally. He chose to put himself in harm’s way, a choice that can only be described as bold and courageous. Bravo!
Why brilliant? Some commentators assert that the President’s words rank with those echoed by John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” and President Ronald Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
His moments in Kyiv and Warsaw surely did more than poke a finger in President Putin’s eye. His message was clearly and unequivocally interpreted by ordinary Ukrainians, Poles, and freedom fighters to carry on with vigor and determination. One only needs to remember the beaming expressions on the faces of President Zelensky’s supporters and high-ranking officials as President Biden greeted them with a handshake and the message to stay the course.
The brilliance also lit up the sky with Western allies, especially NATO countries threatened by the Russian bear. And, of course, President Biden’s brilliant maneuver muted much U.S. domestic criticism, except that coming from the mouths of some Republican radicals who loudly complained that “President Biden cared more about the Ukrainian border than the U.S. southern border.”
The Kyiv moment was followed by a second brilliant moment in Poland when President Biden delivered a stinging rebut to Putin’s adventurism in his speech in Warsaw. While Putin was denying responsibility for the war in Ukraine and lashing out at the West for starting the Ukrainian war, President Biden was speaking to ordinary Polish assembled at the Royal Castle Gardens where he said “Ukraine, Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never.” He concluded his speech by thanking Poland for taking more than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for what you’re doing,” he said.
The Kyiv and Warsaw moments were followed by yet another brilliant moment when he met with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine Allies, a group of countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lativa, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) in which most are strong supporters of military aid to Ukraine. He reaffirmed support for their security.
Characterizing President Biden’s moments in Ukraine and Poland surely deserve the words “bold, brave, brilliant”. He has demonstrated the international leadership and resolve that only a seasoned statesman can. America’s future deserves an experienced leader who is bold, brave, and brilliant. As the famous Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu once said, “He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight”, an apt description of President Biden’s policy of incrementalism in dealing with President Putin’s unending military escalation. Bravo!
Donald C. Menzel, Ph.D. is a past president of the American Society for Public Administration, author and international speaker on ethics reform. Before his move to Colorado, Don organized OLLI-USF’s China Special Interest Group. He also served as an OLLI-USF faculty member for over 10 years. Don and Kay have recently moved back to Florida.
[Our carefully constructed OLLI Connects schedule delayed the publication of Don’s previous piece on the Supreme Court. Rather than let that happen to this–also timely–piece, we decided to give it our Thursday “special edition” treatment. — Editors]