Hope President Biden doesn’t look like Russian President Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich Putin Jill Biden and Kate Middleton will meet this week with Russia preparing to give Iran an advanced satellite system that will boost military espionage capabilities Trump asks Biden to send Putin his “sincere greetings” MORE in the eyes to peer into his soul when the two meet in Geneva next week. This strategy was used by President George W. Bush, and it failed. Putin is a former KBG agent, trained to project whatever he thinks is effective in getting what he wants from statesmen like Biden. He’s a killer. Biden himself said so, and he should be treated as such.
But over the past year, Biden has treated Putin with children’s gloves. Now is the time to take off those gloves and tell Putin what he really wants, without mince words: to end Russian interference in America’s elections, economy and society through cyber attacks.
This can be a tall order for Biden, who is inherently diplomatic and conciliatory. But it’s time for him not only to tell Putin what he wants, but also to spell out the cost of non-compliance, beyond what he described in a recent Washington Post editorial.
Russia intervened in the presidential elections of 2016 and 2020. It entered the digital systems of almost 18,000 government and private sector companies, including those of the armed forces of the Senate, the Pentagon, the Ministry of Energy. and many Fortune 500 companies such as Microsoft.
These attacks constitute a general assault on the economic, public and governmental institutions of the United States and their society. The Biden administration’s response included:
- Ban on U.S. financial institutions from primary market transactions for new ruble and non-ruble-dominant bonds issued after June 14, 2021.
- Expulsion of 10 diplomats, suspected spies, from Russian diplomatic mission in the United States
- Sanction 32 individuals and entities, some of whom have infiltrated up to 18,000 US companies and institutions.
- Sanction eight individuals and institutions associated with Russia’s continued presence in Crimea, in cooperation with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
Clearly, the Biden administration’s response did not stop Putin. On the contrary: it caused more invasions, such as the ransomware attacks on meat processor JBS and Colonial Pipeline, which disrupted gasoline supplies throughout the Southeastern United States.
For a president who has been tall and bold in domestic politics, Biden’s approach to Russia has so far been small and timid. To be sure, Biden and his administration have been busy dealing with the important domestic issues of the pandemic, reviving the U.S. economy, and finding a viable solution to the country’s immigration woes. But these problems are paltry when compared to Russia’s cybersecurity threat to the very essence of American democracy.
Now is not the time to play nice with Putin. The gentle demeanor and sanctions of the past have not stopped Russia’s cyberspace attacks on the United States. It’s time for Biden to raise the stake.
A Biden success in Geneva would not only be good for the United States; it would improve our position among our allies, especially among the Baltic states, who fear that Russia will interfere with their independence as it has done with Ukraine.
Biden must not pass up this opportunity to defend the United States. He must hold on.
Avraham Shama is the former Dean of the College of Business at the University of Texas, The Pan-American. He is a professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico. He has published a book and numerous articles on Russia. His new book, “The Dawn of Cyberwars”, is forthcoming.