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The Ukraine-Russia War and the Cementing of President Biden’s Worldview

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Peter Lyn René
March 25, 2022

On Thursday, February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine. The world was unified in its condemnation of the invasion, with the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) moving quickly to enact punishing economic sanctions against Russia. When Vice President Joe Biden was declared President-Elect on November 7, 2020, one of the most pressing issues facing the new president was revamping America’s worldview. Under President Donald Trump, the United States largely retreated from the world, preferring to look inward—“American First” foreign policy—rather than be as concerned with the world’s affairs as previous administrations. In Mr. Trump’s worldview, the United States had become a diluted power, referred to NATO as unfair to the United States and was open to an alternative organization focused on counterterrorism. He agreed that his ideas might best be summarized not as isolationist, but as “America First.”  President Biden has the distinction of coming into office as a “veteran diplomat,” having amassed a closer relationship with our allies and world leaders than his predecessors. At 79, his age proves to be an asset, as it brings the experience and the frame of reference needed to usher in a new worldview. With his decades in public life, disseminating President Biden’s worldview was not hard to ascertain; it made him the right man at the right time to overturn President Trump’s worldview. Swift and targeted sanctions were enacted for several reasons, two of which were: first, a world nuclear power invaded a sovereign nation; second, Europe, the origins of World Wars I and II, was engaged in a war for the first time in 77 years.

President Trump’s view of NATO was at the forefront of his worldview, and he felt that the organization was not paying its “fair share” and that it owed fees to the United States. That was not the case as the organization is not dues-based; instead, President Trump did not understand that members in 2002 agreed upon a non-binding target to collectively contribute 2% of Gross Domestic Product to military spending and share the burden of defense costs. It is a guide and not a mandate. President Trump’s insistence on dues owed, threats of withdrawing the United States from the organization and other public criticisms, damaged the relationship with NATO to a near breaking point. One of President Biden’s main objectives was to repair and reassure the United States’ commitment to NATO, restore other alliances through diplomacy and reestablish Washington’s leadership position on the global stage. His proclamation, “America is back, diplomacy is back,” foreshadowed how important reestablishing these old alliances would be for galvanizing support against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The events leading to World War II have many similarities and parallels to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  The “Policy of Appeasement” synonymously associated with Neville Chamberlain, prime minister of the United Kingdom from May 28, 1937 to May 10, 1940, resulted in ceding the Sudetenland to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, in which Prime Minister Chamberlain proclaimed, “We have secured peace for our time.”  The Munich Agreement signed on September 30, 1938, by Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy allowed Hitler to annex the Sudetenland—similar to Russia’s invasion in February and the annexation of Crimea on March 18, 2014—in western Czechoslovakia, which had a majority German population. The region was incorporated into Czechoslovakia when this new nation was created in 1918 at the end of World War I. With its large German population, the Sudetenland was a significant source of contention between Hitler’s Germany and Czechoslovakia. In March 1936, Hitler repudiated sections of the Treaty of Versailles and reclaimed the Rhineland—similar to Russia’s declaration of Donetsk and Luhansk of Ukraine as People’s Republics on February 21, 2022—strip of land inside Germany bordering on France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which was to be de-militarized and taken from Germany after World War I. Hitler moved to occupy the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and invaded Poland in September 1939. The invasion of Poland—similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022—in September 1939 started World War II in Europe. While these events were the catalyst for World War II, President Putin seemed to be swept up in sentiments of the old Soviet Union and notions of reuniting, by force, Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, into the new Russian Federation. President Biden’s Administration and NATO responded to Russia’s aggression with sanctions that avoided direct military actions.

The President does not belong to a particular school of thought regarding foreign policy. He is widely traveled and is well known to his fellow world leaders who come to office at a moment of nostalgia for the great strategists of United States foreign policy. Overturning President Trump’s worldview and establishing his own has united NATO and other allies against the Russian invasion, uniting the people of the United States who are in no mood to appease Vladimir Putin. “The world does not organize itself…For 70 years, the United States, under Democratic and Republican presidents, played a leading role in writing the rules, forging the agreements and animating the institutions that guide relations among nations and advance collective security and prosperity,” says President Biden.


Author: Peter Lyn René is an Adjunct Professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He has Bachelor’s in Political Science and a Master’s in Law and Public Policy. He is currently a candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy in Law and Public Policy degree, expected April 2022. He is the Chairman and CEO of The Caribbean American Heritage Foundation of Texas. He has an extensive background in international Non-Profit Policy, Administration and Management, Information Technology and Project Management. René is a Mediator and volunteers his time mediating cases for the Harris County Dispute Resolution Center. René serves on the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Department of State. He serves on the Executive Committee of the United Nations Council of Organizations. René can be contacted at [email protected]

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