Opinion | What It Means to Get Tough on Putin
Talking tough is certainly part of a successful approach. Ronald Reagan famously used fighting words against the Soviets, describing his Cold War strategy as “we win, they lose” and even casting the Soviet Union as an “evil empire.” Biden has been clear about how he sees the other side, calling Putin a “killer” and suggesting he has no soul. Contrast that with Donald Trump, whose kind words for Putin provoked an outpouring of hawkish rhetoric on Russia from practically every other part of the U.S. government, and made Trump look isolated and weak.
But tough talk also means clearly defining red lines against unacceptable behavior and what happens if those lines are crossed—and ensuring the other side believes you will to do what you say. President Barack Obama famously declared Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons as a red line in Syria, but when that line was crossed, he backed down from using force. This helped enable Russia’s subsequent intervention to save the Assad regime from collapse.
In Geneva, Biden must not only tell Putin to stop Russian hacking, but …
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