Kudlow: When Putin barks about acts of war, the US should bark right back

Kudlow felt Zelenskyy was prodding Biden to be a tougher leader

At the conclusion of his stirring speech to the Congress this morning, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy exhorted President Biden to be the leader of the world, and then he went on to say "being the leader of the world, means to be the leader of peace." 

Mr. Zelenskyy basically applauded President Biden's actions regarding military and economic assistance, but I think with those last words he was prodding Biden to be a stronger leader, a tougher leader, a peace through strength leader. 

Earlier this week, I urged Mr. Biden to stand up to Putin, to be much tougher with Putin in both actions and rhetoric. When Putin barks about acts of war, the U.S. should bark right back rather than cower by finding the nearest desk and crawling underneath it. 


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gestures during a joint press conference with French President following their meeting in Kyiv on February 8, 2022.  (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Putin is a war criminal. He is a global pariah. He has made an enormous mistake in Ukraine. 

Tragically, the Ukrainians are bearing almost insufferable cost, but Putin and Putin's Russia will be the biggest loser. He has a puny economy. His currency has collapsed. His stock market is closed. He's running out of war-time supplies. He's defaulting on his sovereign debt. 

More and more, his own people are rebelling. His soldiers are fleeing the convoy. His game plan to march through the Ukraine and take Kyiv has failed. 

After prodding by Congress and the Europeans, Joe Biden is finally providing the kind of military and economic assistance that he should've put up before the invasion. At least now he's getting most of it done, but I want to make two points that should be done. 

First, there is simply no reason why the U.S. should not give the green light to Poland so the old Soviet MiG airplanes can be used by the Ukrainians. There's just no reason. Just say yes to the Poles. If Zelenskyy and his military think it will help, then help them. 

Second, the U.S. and Europe never got around to fully sanctioning the Russian oil and gas industry, or some of their key bank lenders. But Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins has a very good idea: The Europeans can escrow Russian gas sales payments until the fighting comes to an end. Quoting Holman Jenkins, Yuriy Vitrenko, head of Ukraine’s national pipeline company Naftogaz — and his pipeline delivers Russian gas to Europe — likes the idea of cash escrow. 


He thinks it's a lot better than actually shutting down the Russian gas wells because once you shut them down, it takes a long time to re-open them. But setting up an escrow account would at least stop the cash from flowing to Putin's war machine. I like this a lot, and I want to help Holman spread this around.  

If Russia wants to shut down the wells, that's up to them, but it would cost them some bad long-term damage if and when the fighting ends in Ukraine  

Mr. Biden finally got around to calling Putin a "war criminal" today. He foot-faulted on his first serve, but did get the ball in the court on serve number two. OK, but what I’m not seeing is our president taking the lead and publicly attacking Putin and his insane policies. I mean forceful speeches. 


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)

Remember Reagan taking on the Soviet Union communists? "We win, you lose." Remember Reagan working with Pope John Paul II and Margaret Thatcher to surround the Soviets on the world stage? Remember Reagan's "evil empire?" Remember "tear down this wall?" 

I know there's only one Reagan — it was my great honor to have worked for him. He was the greatest president in the 20th century, but in Mr. Biden's case, couldn't we have just a little bit of Reagan? 

This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow's opening commentary on the March 16, 2022 edition of "Kudlow."