President Joe Biden’s face-off with Russian leader Vladimir Putin over Ukraine has deeply unsettled progressive lawmakers and other advocates of a restrained U.S. foreign policy, leaving them struggling to mount a coherent response.
These so-called restrainers had hoped that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan marked the start of a new, more judicious phase of American power projection abroad. Less than six months later, many fear that — despite Biden’s pledge not to put American troops in the line of fire — the United States is bluffing its way into a war with Russia.
The crisis also has exposed how restrainers remain a relatively weak force in Washington, including in Congress, despite the voices of progressives skeptical of military intervention who had hoped for a more sympathetic ear from the Biden team.
Richard Fontaine, chief executive officer of the bipartisan Center for a New American Security, said the Biden administration is dealing with “the world as it is.”
“I’m sure no one would have preferred to have a crisis with Russia over Ukraine,” said Fontaine, who previously advised the hawkish late GOP Sen. John McCain. “But you could either do nothing or you could do something. And if you’re going to do something, then it’s going to be a mixture of deterrence and possible accommodation to reasonable Russian concerns.”
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