In this June 16, 2021, file photo, President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive to meet at the Villa la Grange in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

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Following President Joe Biden’s  press conference on Jan. 19, I expressed my deep concern over his apparent distinction between a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and what he called a “minor incursion.” Predictably the administration had to walk back that statement the next day. The old saying “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” certainly applies to Vladimir Putin and the president gave him an inch. Does he not know history?

In 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson said in a speech to the National Press Club that South Korea and Taiwan were not included in America’s Pacific defense perimeter and just six months later North Korea invaded South Korea.

Looking back even further (but not too much further) in history, another geopolitical blunder, by Great Britain, conceded Adolf Hitler’s “right” to annex the Sudetenland area of northern Czechoslovakia because it was primarily populated by Germans. The Nazis had already taken over Austria without firing a shot but Hitler promised the British prime minister that the Sudetenland was the last of his territorial expansions. Of course, it wasn’t, and in 1939, Germany invaded Poland resulting in a declaration of war by Great Britain against Germany.

History is rife with examples of duplicity by dictators and naivete by free countries. Make no mistake: Putin is measuring us with every move and statement he makes, and I am deeply concerned about the competence, determination or both of the Biden administration to respond in the most effective ways. Ambivalent statements by the president are extremely dangerous and cast doubt among our allies about our resolve.

Someone must try to restrain Biden’s off-the-cuff remarks before it’s too late and matters get completely out of hand. Who can do that? Who will?  

Hal Wheeler