Last week, President Joe Biden announced that he was banning the import of Russian oil into the United States. Although initially reluctant to take this step, the administration has agreed with Congress that targeting Russia’s vital energy sector is the next step in our economic response to Russia’s criminal and deadly invasion of Ukraine. What this reveals is that Washington has come together to defend American values and American allies. Under Joe Biden, American leadership has resurfaced.
Over the past 20 years, Americans and others around the world have become increasingly skeptical of America’s ability to lead. The past two decades have seen the United States compile a long record of political failures on the national and international stages. From the disastrous war in Iraq to the most inept and deadly mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic imaginable, the US state has repeatedly failed in its duty to respond to the crises facing its citizens. Increasingly, countries around the world have turned to China with its brutal but seemingly effective authoritarian model.
President Biden has changed this narrative of futility. Since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, his diplomacy has been skilful and his leadership constant. A Western alliance that had fragmented over years of political discord and pressure from both without and within has united against the threat of Russian tyranny. America and other nations have imposed some of the most devastating sanctions on the Russian economy in decades. The first Russian bank literally became a penny stock.
In addition to its diplomatic and financial isolation, Russia has become a cultural pariah. Sports organizations have expelled Russian athletes from competition in protest against the criminal aggression of the Russian state. Russian billionaires are being hunted down and Russia’s very legitimacy in world affairs is now at rock bottom. This is not all because of American action – but the contrast our country has drawn between democracy and autocracy, with a unified Western alliance behind a heroic nation fighting for freedom against a far more powerful rogue, has resounded powerfully throughout the world.
Americans overlooked their partisan differences in an inspiring show of unity for the nation’s values. But we are still in the Trump era, and no account of American politics, unfortunately, could be complete without reference to what the de facto leader of the Republican Party does and says. Trump’s ramblings were uncharacteristically deranged, even for him; he went from calling Putin a “genius” for criminality to thinking about getting Russia to go to war with the Chinese. Here in North Carolina, Madison Cawthorn appeared on video calling Ukrainian President Zelensky a “thug.” With the contrast of most Americans supporting Ukraine and Europe, we can see that this malign right strain has totally diverged from American values.
The war in Ukraine is a lesson in the continuing need for American leadership positioned behind liberal values. America is very far from perfect, but it remains the only nation capable of coordinating an international response to the projections of tyranny in vital strategic theaters. Under the able leadership of President Joe Biden, the United States is fulfilling the role it must play in asserting its history and its ideals. Ukrainians are the heroes of this story, but Americans were the first to support the bravest freedom fighters we have seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall over 30 years ago.
Alexander H. Jones is a policy analyst at Carolina Forward. He lives in Chapel Hill. Do you have any comments? Contact him at [email protected]