by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Presidential gaffes are tolerable and even amusing when they relate to matters of domestic politics or culture. When a president speaks on matters of war and peace, however, there is little room for confusion. President Joe Biden lacks due appreciation for this concern.
In just a few days, Biden has made three serious, avoidable, and utterly pointless slips of the tongue in relation to the Ukraine crisis, all of which are causing substantive problems.
Last Thursday, Biden pledged that Russia’s use of chemical weapons against Ukraine would result in a U.S. response “in kind.” Deterring Russia’s weapons of mass destruction escalation is critical. But Biden’s words indicated that he would regard Russia’s use of chemical weapons as grounds for U.S. military intervention in the Russia-Ukraine war. Biden’s assertion, on its face, also suggested that the United States would retaliate not just against President Vladimir Putin’s military forces but rather in kind — against Russia’s civilian population and perhaps even with outlawed chemical weapons. While the U.S. has no chemical weapons, Biden’s comment helped fuel baseless Russian conspiracy theories that the U.S. has secretly developed chemical weapons in Ukraine.
Administration officials scrambled after this to clarify that Biden had not meant what he said. But this was not even his worst slip of the tongue.
The very next day, Biden told troops with the 82nd Airborne Division that they would soon be heading into Ukraine. Describing the courage of Ukrainian civilians, the commander in chief told U.S. soldiers, “You’re going to see when you’re there.”
This inadvertent declaration of war forced another round of White House backpedaling.
Then came Biden’s worst comment. Capping off a keynote address to a crowd in Warsaw, Poland, Biden announced a U.S. regime change policy toward Russia.