Senator Chris Coons, friend of the president who now holds the seat that Joe Biden vacated in Delaware, is scrambling today to claw back a number of public comments that seemed to suggest he was in favor of sending U.S. troops into the war in Ukraine.
On Sunday when asked about direct American involvement in Ukraine, Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) said it was up to the United States to “stop” Vladimir Putin.
“I deeply worry that what’s going to happen next is that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria,” he told CBS “Face the Nation.” “The American people cannot turn away from this tragedy in Ukraine. I think the history of the 21st century turns on how fiercely we defend freedom in Ukraine and that Putin will only stop when we stop him.”
A week earlier, during remarks at the University of Michigan, he was more direct about potential U.S. troop involvement.
“We are in a very dangerous moment where it is important that, in a bipartisan and measured way, we in Congress and the administration come to a common position about when we are willing to go the next step and to send not just arms but troops to the aid in defense of Ukraine.”
Coons, who sits on the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee, is the highest-profile policymaker to explicitly open the door to putting boots on the ground. He is now walking back on those comments. In an interview with France 24 English on Tuesday, Coons claimed that “I am not calling for U.S. troops to be sent into Ukraine, but I am calling for the West to be clear-eyed about how hard and how long this conflict might be.”
On Monday he tweeted that “The global community that has mobilized against Putin’s ruthless aggression in Ukraine must continue to work closely together to stop and deter him,” however, “I’m not calling for U.S. troops to go into the war in Ukraine."
Nevertheless, his comments opened Pandora's box to a chorus of media talking heads defending the possibility of sending ground forces to Ukraine: CNN’s Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt defended Coons’ comments by saying that “I will just say that I think you heard Senator Coons there talk about the moral outrage that he feels…I do think he was expressing a concern that the U.S. maybe should not be out there in public ruling things out.”
On MSNBC, Former Defense Department official Evelyn Farkas was even more forthcoming: “I think we need to leave these options on the table, so humanitarian no-fly zones, and even – again, I’m not advocating for U.S. forces to get directly involved, but I don't think we should take it off the table, if the munitions that we get to Ukrainians don’t do the job.”
The Biden Administration was not as sympathetic, “respectively disagreeing” with Coons’ apparent suggestion on Monday. During the daily press briefing, Press secretary Jen Psaki stated "The president has no plans to send troops to fight a war with Russia. He doesn't think that's in our national security interests.” Neither do the American people. A recent University of Maryland poll found that “Large bipartisan majorities remain opposed to sending U.S. troops to Ukraine, even if the conflict persists.”
Sending troops to Ukraine would constitute a serious escalation of the war in Ukraine, especially given that the U.S. and Russia possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads. A conflict with NATO could result in Putin’s use of nuclear weapons, according to Russia’s military doctrine. Given Washington’s recent history of failed humanitarian interventions with “rogue states,” there is little indication that the U.S. would fare any better in a direct war with a nuclear-armed power.