By Labeling Putin a ‘War Criminal,’ Biden Personalizes the Conflict

Nevertheless it comes at a second when Washington’s largest concern is that Mr. Putin will escalate the warfare — and attain for weapons of mass destruction.

Simply hours earlier than Mr. Biden’s declaration, his nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, advised Nikolai P. Patrushev, Mr. Putin’s primary nationwide safety adviser, that “any doable Russian determination to make use of chemical or organic weapons in Ukraine” would lead to a good harsher Western response. A number of of Mr. Biden’s aides have been involved that if the Russian chief feels cornered or believes the US is making an attempt to foment opposition, the possibilities that he’ll attain for such weapons may very well be heightened.

So the talk underway in Washington now could be what, precisely, may set off Mr. Putin. Some consider he might lash out if dissent in Russia, already seen in avenue demonstrations, poses an actual risk. Others consider that his set off level is likely to be a extra direct entry into the warfare by NATO nations. They’re already offering antitank and antiaircraft weapons which have contributed to what the Pentagon now estimates is a Russian loss of life toll of a minimum of 7,000 troops.

One former intelligence official famous that it was Hillary Clinton’s help for anti-Putin avenue demonstrations in Russia that prompted him to order the hacking of the Democratic Nationwide Committee when Mrs. Clinton was working for president in 2016. Mr. Putin is a believer, the official mentioned, in retribution.

Mr. Putin would have good cause to suppose the Biden administration is trying ahead to his exit, although American officers select their phrases fastidiously to keep away from the implication that Washington’s coverage is to hurry the method. Mr. Blinken, chatting with reporters on Thursday, mentioned that “when all is alleged and finished, an impartial Ukraine might be there, and sooner or later Vladimir Putin is not going to.”

The final time an American president went head-to-head with a Russian or Soviet chief with a lot at stake was 60 years in the past, in the course of the Cuban missile disaster, extensively thought to be the closest the world got here to Armageddon. And but at that second, in October 1962, President Kennedy’s intuition was to keep away from personalizing the battle — and to assist his Soviet counterpart, Nikita S. Khrushchev, discover a method out of direct confrontation.

“I believe it’s the most pure comparability to this second,” mentioned Fredrik Logevall, a Harvard historian and Kennedy biographer.

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