Nikki Haley: West's ‘Total Failure of Deterrence’ Drives Putin’s War Machine

‘The West’s foolishness was boundless’

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June 22, 2022

The Western world’s "total failure of deterrence" is largely to blame for Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ongoing war in Ukraine, former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a foreign policy speech Wednesday in London.

The West’s decades-long failure to confront Putin and other malign regimes like China and Iran should serve as a warning that prompts a "fundamental shift in how the West approaches our enemies," Haley said, according to an early transcript of her remarks obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. She said it is time for the Western world to cut economic ties with Russia and China to send a message to these regimes that their subversion of the international order will no longer be tolerated.

Haley, who is positioning herself as a Republican prospect for the 2024 presidential election, previewed how a future Republican administration would handle the globe’s most pressing foreign policy matters. She harshly criticized the Biden administration’s appeasement of countries like Iran but also said Europe shares blame for the world’s instability—criticism that is usually expressed behind closed doors when a foreign leader travels abroad.

"It was Western weakness that convinced Putin he could get away with attempting to swallow Ukraine," Haley said. "He saw America as too internally divided and distracted, and Europe as too bureaucratic and soft to stop him. And sadly, I have to say he wasn’t wrong."

Decades of appeasement—and fears about directly confronting the Russia-China-Iran axis—led to the worst European war in nearly 80 years.

"We should have made crystal clear to Putin the full implications of his actions ahead of time. We didn’t," Haley said. "And now we have the worst war in Europe since the Second World War. This dereliction of duty was years in the making. For too long, the West wrongly feared provoking Putin, instead of taking the steps needed to prevent him from starting a war in the first place."

The Biden administration’s recent foreign policy blunders, primarily the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, provided the fuel that sparked Putin’s war machine, Haley said.

"It pains me to say it, but if there had been no Afghanistan disaster, there would likely have been no Ukraine invasion," she said. "Putin saw our lack of resolve in Kabul and assumed nothing meaningful would happen once his tanks rolled into Kyiv."

But the conditions that led to Putin’s war weren’t created overnight. The United States and Europe spent decades trying to integrate Russia and China into the global economy while ignoring their totalitarian tendencies and mass military buildup.

"The West’s foolishness was boundless," Haley said. "Whenever Russia tested us, the West shrugged off the necessary strong response, fearing it would do more harm than good."

"It is critical that we all understand this central point: Appeasement never satisfies the appetites of tyrants. It only makes them want more," Haley said. "Trying to be ‘inoffensive’ only emboldens our enemies. It leads to wars—like the one we are now witnessing right now in Ukraine."

Russia is not the world’s most present threat, however, according to Haley. That distinction goes to China.

There can be "no doubt that China is the biggest national security threat the world faces," she said.

There is only one solution to reassert Western dominance, Haley said. "We must economically detach from our enemies and rely more heavily on ourselves and our friends."

"That means breaking the Western addiction to Russian energy," Haley said. "It means securing strategic supply chains completely free of Chinese control or leverage. It means expecting our businesses to do their part to uphold our interests rather than those of our enemies."

The belief that "economic interdependence with hostile regimes" would dampen their worst tendencies has been "painfully disproven," according to Haley. If the West does not abandon these foolish ambitions, "our pain and vulnerability will only increase."

The Western world stands at an "inflection point," facing a "set of powerful and fanatical dictators with dreams of conquest. Imperial Russia, Communist China, and Jihadist Iran pose existential threats to us and to free peoples all over the world," Haley said. "The Western way of life depends on deterring these threats."

A stalemate, she said, "is not good enough. Victory is required."