This is Joe Biden’s finest moment

President Biden is widely criticized for a ad libbed line at the end of a speech he gave in Poland. “For the love of God, this man can’t stay in power,” Biden said at the end of a lengthy speech on the stakes of the war in Ukraine. But despite the criticism — and the White House quickly walked back the remark and insisted it was off-script — President Biden is right: an autocratic ruler cannot be tolerated in a country with nuclear warheads.

That’s not the only thing Biden has been right about in the past four weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, despite plummeting polls and criticism from both sides of the political aisle. In fact, this is Joe Biden’s finest hour; the current crisis has brought out the best in Joe Biden and his team. This is the man we hoped would replace the disarray of the Trump era.

US President Joe Biden speaks to media representatives during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 24, 2022.
Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images

That doesn’t mean he didn’t ask us. Many of us were deeply dismayed by the way the pullout from Afghanistan unfolded and by the White House’s lack of preparation. But now, in the midst of the world’s most dangerous time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, Joe Biden has, to steal the title of Lou Cannon’s book on Reagan, the role of a lifetime. And he plays like few others could have.

Biden was elected to the United States Senate in 1972 at the age of 30, and he served there until becoming Vice President in 2009. As he returned home to Delaware every night, he was very much a creature of Washington when he was elected president, unlike all his recent predecessors except George HW Bush. The president has filled his administration with other Washington careerists, people he knows and trusts, who have told us they are the pros and unlike the amateur hour we’ve been through over the previous four years, they knew what they were doing.

Until recently, this was an extremely debatable proposition. But over the past four weeks, we have seen a level of professionalism and leadership that only comes from decades of experience.

The Biden team acted quickly on the Ukraine crisis in a number of important areas and arenas. Perhaps most importantly, even before the invasion, the Biden administration took the bold step of sharing information about Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine with the world, which prepared the West for the front lines. united that he displayed by massively sanctioning Russia. These sanctions were also the result of careful planning by the Biden administration, which crafted a set of sanctions and people to be sanctioned that went to the heart of the power structure in Russia.

Then they brought together a large group of countries to support the effort and were able to galvanize not only NATO countries, but the whole EU. When the EU really acts decisively, the effect is like a solar eclipse. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it’s a sight to behold. Biden succeeded in convincing Germany to stop the second gas pipeline from Russia.

When Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin about his plans to invade Ukraine, many doubted him and feared it would unnecessarily enrage Putin and make the situation worse. But it turned out that Biden was right; Biden, who has been dealing with international issues for more than 40 years, had the good instincts to publicly accuse Putin of preparing to do what Putin set out to do. Biden rejected appeasement knowing where it leads.

Just as President Biden rejected military advice to stay in Afghanistan because he knew it was high time to leave and he saw that his predecessors were unwilling to ignore the Pentagon at this topic, he knew Putin needed to be confronted. And he knew that if the United States didn’t lead the way, it wouldn’t happen.

Biden’s actions mostly reminded me of the elder Bush in 1990 in Iraq and Kuwait. Both Bush and Biden had been vice presidents and had long careers in government, and both had trusted advisers but trusted their own instincts even when they weren’t always right.

Like Bush, the president ignored the skeptics and posturing of his political opposition. Like Bush, Biden and his team created a global coalition to respond to an invasion.

Unlike Bush, however, President Biden is facing a country with 6,000 nuclear warheads and leading a country that has just emerged from a 20-year military commitment.

And President Biden isn’t just responding to criticism from opponents; he also resists the urge to escalate the conflict at every turn. Despite pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Biden has refused to order a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which could lead to nuclear war, and his administration has rejected a Polish plan to send fighter jets in Ukraine. The president is toeing the line – the line of democracy versus autocracy – without giving Putin an excuse to use his nuclear warheads.

Almost single-handedly and against criticism from all sides, Biden is preserving NATO, regaining America’s position as the leader of the West, and demonstrating the unwavering resolve needed in this type of crisis.

By calling Putin a war criminal, as in his improvised line in Poland, the president is indeed inviting regime change in Russia. And yet, to date, American intelligence services have been on the spot. As we navigate the next two incredibly dangerous weeks, it’s comforting to have a leader who knows where to go and how to get there.

In a career of great moments, this is perhaps President Biden’s finest.

Ambassador Allan Katz was President Obama’s ambassador to Portugal. He is the founder of American Public Square.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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