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The Ukrainian crisis: A catastrophic failure of leadership

Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 7, 2022. - Ukraine dismissed Moscow's offer to set up humanitarian corridors from several bombarded cities on Monday after it emerged some routes would lead refugees into Russia or Belarus. The Russian proposal of safe passage from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol and Sumy had come after terrified Ukrainian civilians came under fire in previous ceasefire attempts. |

I am sure your heart aches, as does mine, as we see the pictures and hear the accounts of the terrible suffering of the Ukrainian people as they languish under the savage and barbaric attacks being made upon them by the Russian invaders.

No informed observer is surprised that Russia is breaking all the rules of the Geneva Convention in their unrestrained bombardment of civilians producing medieval visions of death and starvation among the civilian population.

This is nothing new for the Russians. In Syria, the Russians bombed 54 hospitals (four in one day). The U.N. concluded these bombings were intentional. At least 18 hospitals in Ukraine have been bombed already, with more sure to come.

Now, the specter of biological and chemical weapons has risen to the fore, along with Putin’s threat to use tactical, low-yield nuclear weapons.

These gruesome prospects have come to the fore because Putin’s plans have gone seriously astray. Like all dictators, Putin could not comprehend how tenaciously and bravely free men and women will fight to defend their freedom. Consequently, Putin never expected the Ukrainians would defend their precious, hard-won freedoms so valiantly. I recognize the Spirit of 1776 when I see it, and the Ukrainians are proving that freedom is not just an American, but a universal, ideal of the human heart.

As Putin becomes more desperate, he will be more and more tempted to become even more savage in his escalations.

The Russians have floated the idea that the Ukrainians may use biological or chemical weapons. The accusation is typical of the Russians, accusing their adversaries of doing things they themselves are preparing to do. The Russians used chemical and biological agents in Syria. This time they are using the excuse that there are at least two Soviet-era biological and chemical weapons labs that the U.S. has been working to clean up and close since the 2005 erection of the “Cooperative Threat Reduction Agency.” Our intelligence community is well aware, however, that the Russians have well-developed biochemical, germ warfare capabilities and have no moral compunction about using them.

Putin has already unleashed his private hit squads (named the Wagner group, named after Hitler’s favorite composer, Richard Wagner) to assassinate President Zelensky and other political figures in Ukraine’s government. American intelligence has also discovered Russian plans to conduct public, firing-squad executions once they have secured Ukrainian cities.

The tragic thing is that this was all so preventable. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe that if President Trump were still president, Russia would not have invaded Ukraine. Putin feared Trump’s strength, whereas he holds Biden’s invertebrate weakness in disdain. The last straw was Biden’s ignominious surrender and withdrawal from Afghanistan. President Biden’s weakness ultimately did prove to be more temptation than Putin could withstand.

If we had reinforced Ukraine with the weapons we should have a year ago as Trump attempted to do (Trump’s last shipment in January 2021, was held up by the Biden Administration until last month), we would not be where we are today.

President Biden’s weakness is illustrated by his apparent fear of what Putin might do. As one Congressman put it, it appears that “Putin is living rent free in Biden’s head.” Putin has succeeded in bluffing N.A.T.O. and the U.S., with much hand-wringing about how Putin will react if we provide more assistance to Ukraine. He should be worrying about what we might do, not the other way around. Without that concern, deterrence has lost its credibility.

I believe too many commentators have missed a major point about this conflict. Russia is not concerned about Ukraine or N.A.T.O. being a threat to Russia. N.A.T.O. is a defensive alliance. I believe the big threat Ukraine posed, and poses, to Russia is freedom and democracy. As Ukraine has rapidly developed into a self-governing, freedom-loving country, it poses a mortal threat to Putin’s dictatorship.

The Russians and the Ukrainians are “kissing cousins” culturally, much like Canadians and Americans. Many Russians, looking at Ukraine’s flourishing democracy on their doorstep, have been asking themselves, “if they can do it, why can’t we?” And that is a mortal threat to everything Putin holds dear.

Much is at stake in the Ukraine. The “holiday for history” is over, and the West must deal with this crisis by keeping Ukraine free or face far more dire consequences in the future. I fervently wish I had more confidence in President Biden’s leadership.

His going hat-in-hand to the Venezuelan thugs, or the Iranian mullahs for oil is not comforting. Reportedly, the Iranians have sent out hit squads to assassinate former Trump administration officials like John Bolton and we are negotiating with Iran with Russia as the powerbroker in the talks? Unbelievable!

And oh, by the way, if President Biden had not canceled the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, it would have been completed by the end of this year and would be delivering approximately 900,000 barrels of oil a day to the ports and refineries on the Gulf Coast, making the U.S. a net exporter of oil, as it was, in the last year of the Trump administration.

American self-sufficiency in oil hamstrings the Russians in very important ways. That fact seems to have completely eluded the President and his administration.

I should have confidence in this team of “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod?” I pray for them, as God has commanded me to do, but I have no confidence in their wisdom or courage. The American people deserve better. Alas, there are only quadrennial “do-overs” in American presidential elections.

I confess that I fear for our country when I remember that the Old Testament teaches us that great political and moral leadership in a country are a sign of God’s blessing. Their absence are a sign of His judgment.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (Princeton, magna cum laude); D.Phil. (Oxford); Th.M (New Orleans Seminary). Dr. Land served as President of Southern Evangelical Seminary from July 2013 until July 2021. Upon his retirement, he was honored as President Emeritus and he continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor of Theology & Ethics. Dr. Land previously served as President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) where he was also honored as President Emeritus upon his retirement. Dr. Land has also served as an Executive Editor and columnist for The Christian Post since 2011.

Dr. Land explores many timely and critical topics in his daily radio feature, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” and in his weekly column for CP.

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