Much can still go wrong with the Ukraine war, but so far, President Joe Biden’s defense and national security teams have outperformed any administration since President George H.W. Bush, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell responded to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. With one significant caveat. Team Biden hasn’t learned one of the most important lessons of that earlier administration: The primary role for the US in foreign affairs is to maintain international rules and norms, not to lead a fight for global democracy.
The weaker the Russian position becomes, the more likely it could still resort to extreme measures.
In the 21st century, national-security crises are bewilderingly complex, with cyber, energy and financial factors interwoven with traditional military and intelligence operations. Teamwork, interagency coordination, and bureaucratic and subject-matter expertise become factors all their own, equal in importance to the overall geopolitical strategy. The Biden team may not have a figure like foreign-policy legends Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski, but the administration, led by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, has compensated with sheer execution.
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