Naomi Lim of the Washington Examiner explains how Russia’s latest bellicose stance tests a Biden campaign pledge.

President Joe Biden has said he is leading an epic battle between democracy and autocracy. His response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to solidify his forces in Ukraine will test whether this goes beyond mere rhetoric.

Biden’s campaign, applicable to democracy at home and abroad, only underscores critics’ complaints about his handling of Putin recognizing two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in Ukraine and readying “peacekeepers” to defend them.

Since his inauguration, Biden has fallen short of his more aspirational foreign policies, such as his “democracy vs. autocracy” and “America is Back” messages, according to former Trump administration national security aide Amanda Rothschild. The world does not have renewed sense of confidence in the United States, which Biden contends was missing under her old boss, Rothschild argues.

“The Biden administration has often concentrated on placating Berlin and Brussels at the expense of our eastern flank allies and partners,” she told the Washington Examiner.

Chief among Rothschild’s complaints is Biden last year weakening the congressionally mandated Nord Stream 2 pipeline sanctions, endorsed by Republicans like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. The underwater project, if completed, would have funneled natural gas between Russia and Germany, bypassing Ukraine and denying it valuable transit revenue. But Biden agreed to waive some of the measures as a gesture to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leery of the U.S. after former President Donald Trump, in exchange for Ukraine assistance.

“These actions would have improved U.S. security and the security of our European friends — not just in word, but in deed — and helped establish strong deterrence against Russian aggression,” Rothschild said.

Another instance is Biden and White House staffers dancing around the word “invasion” before and after Putin’s speech Monday undermining Ukraine’s statehood. Deputy national security adviser Jon Finer clarified the administration’s stance Tuesday morning by describing the situation as an invasion: “That is what is underway.”