With Vladimir Putin's seeming success in rolling over Crimea and pushing aside the Ukrainians, President Obama is talking tough. And, though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Poland, the Baltic States, Hungary and the Czech Republic are. They need some shoring up. So Mr. Obama has sent Vice President Joe Biden to reassure the Poles.
This makes sense to President Obama because Joe Biden sat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for nearly forty years. Sending Joe Biden to Warsaw will impress the Russians, the president believes. Now, they will surely know that Obama means business. The president famously said of his veep: "nobody messes with Joe."
Former Defense Secretary Bob Gates might not have suggested sending Biden to Poland. In his recently released memoir, Duty, the former Defense Sec. says "Joe Biden has been wrong on every foreign policy issue for thirty years."
Joe Biden supported his chief's decision early in this administration to cancel the missile defense agreement with Poland. The U.S. had promised to help Poland and the Czech Republic to defend themselves against Iran and, not incidentally, to enable these once captive nations to resist new pressures from Moscow. Now, Moscow is rising anew.
This is not the first time the Russians have had the chance to take Joe Biden's measure. Biden is an experienced Russia hand. He and ranking Republican Dick Lugar went to Moscow as members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as long ago as 1979.
Author Claire Berlinski told us four years ago in City Journal what kind of impression Joe Biden and Dick Lugar made on the Soviets at that time.
And what of [Vadim] Zagladin's description of his dealings with our own current vice president in 1979?
Unofficially, [Senator Joseph] Biden and [Senator Richard] Lugar said that, in the end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they do care for "human rights." . . .
As a result of the impressions they gained from Joe Biden and Dick Lugar, the Soviets knew they could dismiss U.S. talk of human rights so long as they dangled the carrot of "arms control" before the eager foreign policy establishments in Washington and Western Europe.
Because of these impressions of Western "flexibility," the Kremlin bosses knew they could toss thousands of dissidents into the GuLAG with impunity. And they also knew they could slow-walk arms control talks with the U.S., tossing out scraps here and there.
It would take another decade before a U.S. President could sign the largest arms reduction treaty in history. That's because Ronald Reagan believed in "peace through strength." Reagan's INF agreement of 1987 came only after years of patient re-building of American military might and his determination to "trust, but verify."
Vice President Biden benefits from a credulous media that isn't terribly interested in the past. Especially, they give a pass to the past record of liberals. Sec. of State John Kerry, for example, has never been called to account for his dealings with North Vietnamese Communist officials in Paris in 1971. He went there as an anti-war leader.
What did young John Kerry tell the enemies of his country? What did they tell him? Did he keep any written records of this extraordinary and possibly illegal encounter? Depending on what he told the North Vietnamese, his meetings may have been illegal. That's because the Logan Act of 1798 forbids U.S. private citizens from negotiating with foreign powers. The Senate confirmed Kerry as Sec. of State by a vote of 94-3, with not even the strongest conservatives demanding his contemporaneous notes from his Paris interlude.
Kerry, likewise, never had to account for his activities in the Nuclear Freeze movement. Documents from the Soviet archives show that the Freeze movement was funded in large part by the KGB. Did Kerry know this at the time? Did he later learn about this? Did he say anything about KGB penetration of the movement of which he was a leading member? How might all this affect his role as America's top diplomat?
So it is Joe Biden and not John Kerry they send to Poland to show we are serious. And Claire Berlinski is right in saying that Biden's record is surely known to the leaders in the Kremlin.
In other words, [Biden and Lugar] directly admitted [to the Russians] that what is happening is a kind of a show that they absolutely do not care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.
Remarkably, the world has shown little interest in the unread Soviet archives. That paragraph about Biden is a good example. Stroilov and Bukovsky coauthored a piece about it for the online magazine FrontPage on October 10, 2008; it passed without remark. Americans considered the episode so uninteresting that even Biden's political opponents didn't try to turn it into political capital. Imagine, if you can, what it must feel like to have spent the prime of your life in a Soviet psychiatric hospital, to know that Joe Biden is now vice president of the United States, and to know that no one gives a damn.
When President Obama staged a White House signing ceremony for the massive health care act, Joe Biden chose that august occasion to tell his chief: "This is a big [bleep]ing deal." Is that what he will say to reassure the Poles?