MOWERS: Memo to Biden: Put America First – and Politics Last – to Beat Back Russia

A few short months ago, we watched the Biden administration’s chaotic and embarrassing withdrawal from Afghanistan with horror and disgust. I, like every American, was terrified for our fellow citizens left in the clutches of the ruthless Taliban, but also worried about the unknown consequences that this complete abdication of duty would have on the world stage.

We got our answer when Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine early Thursday.

Putin’s unprovoked assault and invasion of Ukraine is a threat to democracy everywhere. I stand with the Ukrainian people, and I will be praying for them as they fight for freedom. I’m also saddened because it didn’t have to be this way. Weakness emanating from Joe Biden’s Oval Office made this possible.

On day one of his administration, Biden began shutting down American domestic energy production, which doubled our reliance on Russian oil imports. Biden canceled construction of new American energy pipelines while waiving Trump-era sanctions on Russian energy pipelines like Nordstream 2. Biden hemmed and hawed for months on selling defensive systems to the Ukraine military, which would have deterred Russia at a critical moment. Worst of all, Biden blinked after talking tough about sanctions, and barely slapped Putin’s wrist in the months leading up to the invasion.

Weakness may have caused this invasion – but strength can end it. We need to return to a strong foreign policy that puts America First and simultaneously pushes Putin into submission.

When I served in President Donald Trump’s State Department, he had one simple rule for us: Always put America First. For the president – and for us – that wasn’t just an acknowledgment that past policies had often put the needs of other countries above our own, but it was also about tackling bad actors who want to harm us head-on. And despite the media’s spin, we worked in President Trump’s State Department to enact the toughest sanctions on Russia in American history.

The only thing a thug like Putin responds to is strength. Sending American troops into battle is totally unacceptable, which is why it is imperative for the Biden administration to take swift and decisive actions now including immediately sanctioning Putin and his cronies personally. He should issue an import/export ban on the country, and choke off Putin’s money supply, including shutting down any import of Russian oil—an economic lifeline for them. And we should work with Ukraine’s government to provide financial and military assistance, the way that should have been done months ago.

While this is not America’s fight to have on the ground, sending a strong and powerful rebuke to Putin is in every American’s interest and will put America First.

The good news for Biden? America First isn’t simply a phrase; it’s an ethos that commands respect from the world and instills fear in the world’s most brutal regimes. It is the most powerful diplomatic tool we have. Joe Biden just needs to find the strength to admit that it works.

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” To borrow from the Gipper, we may not be able to make Russia see the light, but for our – and the Ukrainian people’s – sake, utilizing America First principles will make them feel the heat.