A Play In One Act
- Setting: The Oval Office
- Characters: Joe Biden, Advisor 1, Advisor 2
Biden: Welcome to the Oval Office, gentlemen. I have summoned you here because I need your advice about the War in Ukraine. Though the Ukrainians are making a heroic effort to hold off the Russians—thanks in large part to our weapons–it looks like the war could go on for quite a while with many more casualties. I am not sure what to do. I need your advice.
Advisor 1: Stay the course, Mr. President. With our weapons and the sanctions now falling into place, the Ukrainians will win. Putin made a terrible mistake and he knows it. He has lost thousands of troops, many of his best generals, several thousand tanks and even more heavy artillery. And what has he achieved? Killing thousands of innocent civilians and destroying villages and towns and cities, but not much more. He is a pariah and hated by the free world. David is standing up to Goliath. Putin is being humiliated. I say we can win this war. We can punish Russia, isolate them and put them in their place. Teach Putin a lesson and teach the world a lesson that conquering other countries will no longer be tolerated. This is your chance for greatness, Mr. President. This will be your legacy—standing up to tyranny. No Neville Chamberlin, you. You have drawn a line in the sand, and it is working.
Biden: Thank you very much, Advisor. It is always nice to feel appreciated and to know you are doing the right thing.
Advisor 2: Not so fast, Mr. President, if I may. I am the foremost Russian expert in the U.S. and maybe in the world. I have spent my entire career studying the country and their leaders—especially Putin. I hate Putin as much as anybody, but I have to tell you he will not accept defeat. If he feels cornered, he will react like a threatened animal and lash back. He will not accept humiliation or defeat. And besides staying the course means the war will continue for months, perhaps longer, and many more innocent civilians will die. But it could get even worse and impact a lot more people than the Ukrainians. A lot of countries depend on wheat and grain from Ukraine. The farmers in Ukraine have traded their pitchforks for AK 47s. They are not planting wheat. Every country in North Africa depends on Ukrainian wheat for survival. So do other countries. The world is facing massive starvation if the war continues for much longer. You have got to figure a way out of this. This war needs to stop and stop soon.
Advisor 1: Excuse me, Advisor 2. You certainly could not be suggesting that our President cut and run just when we have the chance to see Putin humiliated and weaken Russia forever. Intellectuals are leaving the country, and there are signs that the Russian people are unhappy with all the sanctions. President Biden would go down as a wimp and a loser if he gives in while ahead.
Biden: Thank you, Advisor. I do not want to be a wimp or a loser.
Advisor 1: Besides what could Putin do anyway? His army is pathetic. If he can’t take over a country like Ukraine, how much of a threat could he be to us or NATO countries?
Advisor 2: It is called nuclear weapons. Do you want me to spell that out for you. N-U-C….
Advisor 1. Oh, please. Don’t try to pull the nukes-scare trick. Nobody would dare to do that. It would mean the end of the world as we know it. There is nothing to worry about, Mr. President. No worries. Advisor 2 does not know what he is talking about. MAD, “Mutually Assured Destruction.” He nukes us. We nuke them. No winners. Nuclear war will not happen.
Advisor 2. Putin has said more than once that he will use nuclear weapons if left with no options. I know this man. I know that when he feels he has no other options, he will use nuclear weapons.
Biden: How many nuclear weapons does Russia have?
Advisor 2. Just short of 6,000. 5,977 to be exact.
Biden: And us?
Advisor 2: Nowhere close. 1,389 active, 2,361 inactive but available, and 1,800 in line to be dismantled.
Biden: So if Putin did decide to use nuclear weapons, that would not be good, right?
Advisor 2: Right, Mr. President.
Biden: And we would have to retaliate, right?
Advisor 2: Correct, Mr. President.
Biden: I think we should put a hold on dismantling the 1,800.
Advisor 1: Scare tactics. Don’t fall for it.
Biden: So what then do you recommend, Advisor 2?
Advisor 2: Cut a deal. Let Putin have eastern Ukraine and declare victory and take his troops home.
Biden: But that is not what the Ukrainians want. We have told them repeatedly that it is their decision to make to end the war, not ours.
Advisor 1: Plus, it shows we are a bunch of wussies. We would have let Putin get away with murder. He will come back and attack what is left of Ukraine again and then go after Moldova and then the Baltics. He won’t stop until he has expanded Russia to be the size it was under Peter the Great or Stalin. He is the new Hitler. Do you want to be the new Neville Chamberlin?
Biden: What do I tell Zelensky?
Advisor 2: You tell him to cut a deal.
Advisor 1: Traitor.
Advisor 2: Do the arithmetic. No deal—tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dead in Ukraine, mainly civilians. Starvation in North Africa and possibly—I would argue probably—hundreds of millions dead in the U.S., Western Europe, and Russia and the end of the world as we know it. Deal–bruised ego for Zelensky, angered diehard Ukrainian nationalists, but the bombing and killing would stop. Wheat for North Africa. That is the tradeoff.
Biden: What if Putin does not take the deal?
Advisor 2: Offer to end the sanctions and banking restrictions.
Biden: If that does not do it?
Advisor 2: Give him his yachts back.
Biden: And if that does not work?
Advisor: Give the oligarchs their mansions overseas and their boats back.
Biden: What else?
Advisor 2: Tell him you will order McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks to reopen immediately. The Russian people will love him for that. A deal sealer. He will be more popular than ever.
Advisor 1. Don’t listen to him. This is your chance for greatness, your legacy of standing up against tyranny, fighting for justice, democracy and American values. You can’t give in to this nonsense and scare tactics. History will not look kindly on you.
Biden: I will give it some thought and get back to you.
Question: If you were President Biden, what would you do?