Kudlow: Biden must make it plain that Putin is a criminal

Kudlow calls on Biden to lead

As we speak, President Joe Biden is on a plane to Brussels for an incredibly important NATO meeting and a G7 meeting to deal with the Russian war in Ukraine. For this incredibly important set of meetings, Joe Biden has to be an incredibly strong American President. He must lead. 

He must not be afraid to call out Vladimir Putin as a war criminal who is committing crimes against humanity and as such, should be tried by the International Criminal Court in Hague, Netherlands, regardless of the outcome of the Ukraine war. 

Reagan called the old communist Soviet Union the "evil empire." He said, "Tear down this wall." He said the only option was, "We win, they lose." 


Pres. Ronald W. Reagan (R) standing outside White House with Japan's Crown Prince Akihito.  (Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Communicating toughness and victory is something Joe Biden has never done, but it's never too late to start. I believe Bing West is right, in that the economic sanctions should never be lifted until Putin is gone as the Russian leader. 

I also think Biden should make it clear that the United States and its NATO allies want the Ukrainians to win this war. Biden has never said that. I don’t' think any of the NATO or G7 leaders have said that, but I will bet American voters want Ukraine to win the war and want Russia to lose the war. 

There is a growing feeling that the Biden administration's strategy is to pursue some kind of standoff or stalemate in the Ukraine, that the strategy is to contain Russia, not to defeat Russia. If Biden is truly the leader of the forces of democracy and freedom, he should make very clear to Putin that, "We win, you lose," and Biden and all of NATO should make a renewed push to accommodate President Zelenskyy's requests for as many weapons as he needs. Carte blanche on weaponry. Soviet MiGs, anti-aircraft, anti-tanks, anti-ships — all of it. 

Nobody wants troops on the ground, but remember, this business about offensive vs. defensive weapons actions is a lot of baloney. 

It was Putin who invaded Ukraine. It is Zelenskyy and the brave Ukrainians who are defending their country. Therefore, all forms of assistance to Ukraine are, by the very nature of this conflict, defensive. This idea that we will somehow make Putin angry is just utter wimpy, wussy nonsense. 

The guy's not angry, he's mad. He's a criminal. It is he who has escalated. It is the West who is defending. Arbitrary distinctions among weapons do not hold up in the face of rigorous logic or analysis. 


President Joe Biden speaks at Business Roundtable's CEO quarterly meeting, Monday, March 21, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky / AP Newsroom)

Biden should make it clear that the world will come down on Putin's head if he dares engage in chemical or biological weapons. No military responses should be taken off the table in the event Putin ever dared to go that route and on the economic front, the sanctions have to be toughened. It is time to put the screws to Russia's oil and gas sales. 

In a few moments, we'll talk with Sen. Pat Toomey who correctly points out that the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe purposely allow Russia to continue exporting oil and gas, between $5–7 billion worth in hard currency funds to finance Putin’s war machine each week.

In fact, we know that Europe has increased its imports of Russian energy as have India and China. Sen. Toomey calls for secondary sanctions on the entirety of Russia's banking sector. 

These penalties would prohibit foreign banks anywhere in the world from making payments to Russian banks, including oil and gas under the threat of U.S. sanctions. As Mr. Toomey puts it bluntly, "Do business with the U.S. or do business with Russia, but you can't do both." 

Also, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins suggests setting up an escrow account. So, if Europeans buy Russian energy and pay for it in euros or dollars or anything else, it won't go to Russia, it'll go to the special escrow account. 

Putin won't like that, but if he doesn't want to sell his energy on that basis, then he can go ahead and cap his oil and gas wells. Fine. That'll put them out of commission for years, because reopening a mine or well is a very difficult and expensive proposition. 


I also see news reports today that Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House are now proposing secondary sanctions on any American entities knowingly buying or selling Russian gold, which is estimated to be worth $132 billion. This would also stop banks in China and India. I'm sure my list of proposed actions at the NATO meeting is incomplete, but to me, the most important thing is for Joe Biden to truly act like the leader of the free world. He must make it plain that Putin is a criminal, that the Russian system of authoritarian, statist, virtually totalitarian society with its puny centrally controlled economy and its lack of freedom in speech or anything else for its citizenry is wrong. 

That's right, the Russian model is wrong. It should be consigned to the dust bin of history. Come on, Mr. Biden. "We win, you lose" — just say it! 

This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow's opening commentary on the March 23, 2022, edition of "Kudlow."