U.S. President Joe Biden’s approach to Russia/Ukraine tensions has Vladimir Putin off-balance and at a disadvantage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (photo: Antonio Marín Segovia)

Determining what is really going on between Russia and the Ukraine isn’t easy lately, not that it ever has been. The unstable “peace” between the two regions has been simmering for years, making NATO and other world authorities nervous and jumpy.

Russian authorities, led by mercurial President Vladimir Putin, are always cagey about the matter. Ukraine is currently led by a political newcomer. In spite of the Ukrainian President Zelensky’s job performance thus far, which has been neither an embarrassment to his supporters nor a boon to his opposition, his lack of experience is certainly something Putin might try to exploit.

Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, only recently green-lighted, has given Putin a new strategic advantage. That Russian authorities are flexing the power of this new muscle is no surprise to observers of the current Russian administration.

U.S. President Joe Biden has done everything possible to let the air out the latest Ukraine/Russia crisis, even as the press has reported Russia troops amassing near the Ukrainian border. He has coordinated with other world leaders to put diplomatic pressure on Russia, delivering the kind of high-level, face-to-face statesmanship for which he is famous.

The Biden Administration has by turns ordered staff, military trainers, diplomats and other U.S. personnel to evacuate the Ukraine immediately.

The President has warned the Ukrainian government, in no uncertain terms, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning an imminent attack on the capital city of Kiev.

Biden expressly used the term “sacking”.

The Biden State Department made a shocking announcement during a press briefing this week.

Russia, according to U.S. intelligence, is planning a false flag operation near the Ukrainian border. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters to expect a staged attack against Russian interests implicating the Ukrainian military, complete with crisis actors, faked video and other forms of information warfare.

For his trouble, Price was accused by an AP reporter of sounding like far-right wing media personality Alex Jones.

That the Biden Administration has done all this in full view of the media is an angle many in the media commentariat seem to be largely missing.

While “Washington Has Lost Its Mind Over Ukraine” might make a more compelling headline, a closer examination of all this posturing reveals a master hand at work.

While the press ties itself in knots about “Whether the Baltic States are even defensible from a strategy standpoint” and “The Origin of America’s Security Obligations to the Ukraine,”- Yes, Russia is about to invade: No, Russia isn’t going to move on Ukraine, but only bluffing; No, Russia has been involved in a military conflict with Ukraine for years already- the Biden Administration hasn’t even blinked.

U.S. Says Russia Could Invade Ukraine at Any Time,” blares the Wall Street Journal: “White House urges Americans to leave Ukraine, but officials say they don’t know whether Putin has decided to invade or not.”

Another 3,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Poland as White House says Russia could invade Ukraine within the week,” agrees Stars and Stripes military publication.

From the questions being raised to the officials they quote, the genius of Biden’s reaction to Russia’s Ukraine overtures is revealed.

“All told, these 5,000 additional personnel comprise a highly mobile and flexible force, capable of multiple missions,” one official was quoted as saying. “They are being deployed to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO’s eastern flank, train with host-nation forces, and contribute to a wide range of contingencies.”

“Throughout their deployment, they will participate in a range of maritime activities in support of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and our NATO allies,” said another. “One of the unique values of naval forces is their mobility and ability to deploy for a range of contingencies and operations.”

“There is a very distinct possibility that Russia will choose to act militarily, and there is reason to believe that that could happen on a reasonably swift timeframe now. We can’t pinpoint the day, at this point, and we can’t pinpoint the hour,” Biden National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan himself told reporters this week.

The Biden Administration may not know the hour and the day of a planned invasion of the Ukraine by Russian military forces, but it is clear the White House knows much more than it is telling.

It is also clear that the Administration is maneuvering in such a way as to appear ready for anything.

President Joe Biden is a veteran politician, an elder statesman and an experienced leader. One of the things that has made him so successful over the years is something many great leaders share: The critical eye of a gambler.

Any good card player knows, you don’t play the hand you’re dealt; you play your opponent’s hand. Guessing what your opponent is holding, or better still, knowing what your opponent is holding, is in many ways more important than the cards in front of you.

Good gamblers also know, as do all great military leaders and battle commanders, that you must never pick the card your opponent wants you to pick. Never let your opponent choose the battlefield on which you will fight; better to control the circumstances yourself.

Most importantly in battle, if you ever find yourself doing what your opponent wants you to do, stop it.

Vladimir Putin, after a call with the American president today, is far from happy, which is all to the good. Putin is not going to use the Russian military to lash out in anger at Biden for some real or received slight or threat of sanctions.

Everything the Biden Administration is currently doing, it does in the interest of deterrence.

Deterrence must be the cornerstone of any U.S. presidential administration wishing to avoid war. President Biden has shown no inclination to war, and may well come in time to be known as the “Anti-War President.”

If so, he may finally be getting the credit he deserves.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)