Rep. Gallagher Rips Biden’s Failed ‘Hashtag Diplomacy,’ Urges ‘Mother-of-All-Sanctions’ on ‘Predator’ Putin Over Ukraine


    In a video posted on Thursday, Wisconsin Republican Mike Gallagher addressed the different aspects of President Biden’s speech at the White House earlier in the day following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, beginning with what he viewed as its positive parts.

    “First, let’s start with the good,” he said. “The president called out what Russia is doing on the ground, making clear that this is not a minor incursion.”

    “I also liked that he talked about the idea of fortifying NATO’s eastern front, and pushing NATO to harden its defenses also makes sense to me,” he added. “And I appreciate the reinforced commitment to Article Five.”

    The rest of the president’s speech, according to Gallagher, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was not as good.

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    Weak Sanctions

    “Moving on to the bad,” he said, “the Biden administration’s approach thus far has been the idea that using sanctions and hashtag diplomacy will deter Putin.”

    “The problem is that this approach has obviously failed,” he added.

    Calling the current crisis “perhaps the most fair and best test of that idea and this idea of gradual deterrence via the threat of sanctions,” Gallagher questioned, “what gives us any hope that more sanctions now will succeed?”

    “Especially since the president concedes it might take months, if not longer, for them to have any effect, and since Biden seems unwilling to kick the Russians off the SWIFT system, or to really target Russia’s energy sector,” he added.

    Noting President Biden’s claim that “our sanctions are tougher than SWIFT” while acknowledging Europeans “don’t want to take the step of kicking them off” the international communication network, Gallagher argued that it “doesn’t add up.”

    “It doesn’t make sense,” he said, “and respectfully, either the president is misinformed or he’s not telling the truth.”

    He also explained why President Biden’s promise that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be a “pariah” on the world stage was an ineffective threat.

    “Do you think Putin cares about that?” he asked. “Do you think Putin cares about not getting invited to Davos or not being able to hang out with Prince Harry at COP 26?”

    “Also, he won’t be a pariah because the authoritarians, his fellow authoritarians like Xi, are working more closely with him,” he added.

    Tougher Actions

    Expressing confusion over how such “modestly tougher sanctions help Ukrainians on the ground, who right now are fighting for their lives,” he suggested taking action that would prove “painful” on the ground for the Russian president.

    “We need to ask: what are we doing on the ground in Ukraine to make this painful for Putin, to turn this into his Afghanistan, into a total quagmire for the Russians?” he said.

    But the “biggest lesson” to be learned and that the current administration “seems unwilling to learn,” Gallagher claimed, is on the nature of effective deterrence.

    “Deterrence does not just happen with slap-on-the-wrist sanctions or Twitter hashtags from the White House,” he said.

    “Deterrence happens because of hard power, and I think our liberal political class just doesn’t understand that predators like Putin and [Chinese President] Xi are willing to write their names into the history books with the blood of innocent people,” he added.

    Until that “uncomfortable reality” is fully comprehended and “hard power” is used to prevent it, Gallagher argued, “our enemies will advance, the free world will retreat, and more innocent people will die.”

    American Power

    Regarding President Biden’s claim of “principles” upholding global peace, Gallagher disagreed.

    “Principles don’t uphold the global peace,” he said. “American power, hard power, upholds those principles, and by extension, the global peace.”

    “Put differently, freedom won’t prevail unless we actually are willing to fight for it,” he added. “And thus far, we have not shown that we are willing to fight for it.”

    Gallagher proposed President Biden call an “emergency session” of Congress.

    “Call us into session this weekend,” he said. “He has a State of the Union on Tuesday, why not bring us into town early and put the ball in our court to pass legislation to expedite arms to the Ukrainians — Javelins, stingers, mines (since they’re invading from the North in Belarus) — to really turn this into a quagmire for Putin?” he added.

    He also suggested considering fortifying NATO’s eastern front “with intermediate-range ballistic missiles” or building the Navy “to reestablish control of the Mediterranean where Russia has dangerous influence.”

    “Force us in that emergency session to pass a defense budget,” he said.

    “The Pentagon is still operating under a continuing resolution, which is devastating for the United States military,” he continued. “At a time when we need to be projecting military strength, our budgetary dysfunction is doing the opposite: it’s projecting weakness.”

    On the economic front, Gallagher called to pass a “mother-of-all-sanctions” bill.

    “Go after the Russian energy sector, kick them off SWIFT — even some Democrats are calling for that,” he said.

    More devastating to President Putin than sanctions is “to end this administration’s war on American energy and unleash the true power of American energy,” the congressman claimed.

    “Activating the strategic petroleum reserves is not going to do anything,” he said. “We’ve got to have a broader approach, starting with reactivating Keystone, and really turbocharging American energy production.”

    “Over the long term, that would undermine Putin’s position,” he added.

    Calling for a “bipartisan show of American strength” and saying that many in Congress wish to work together on this, Gallagher concluded by reiterating the need to project strength.

    “But these half measures — doubling down on the failed approach that hasn’t worked thus far — causes a lot of doubt,” he said. “And again, I think these project further weakness at a time when we need to learn the right lessons from our failure so that we are not doomed to repeat it.”

    Rep. Gallagher’s remarks come as Russia has initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow launching military attacks on its neighbor, killing 137 people in 24 hours and seizing the Chernobyl nuclear power plant before the end of the day.

    Overnight, the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv (Kiev) was hit by rocket strikes, with reports of fighting in its suburbs claimed on Friday morning.

    Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein

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