Noem changes her tune on how US should deal with Russia invading Ukraine


In 2014, the governor of South Dakota said politicians should refrain from publicly criticizing Barack Obama during Russia's invasion of the Crimean peninsula. But she isn't extending the same courtesy to Joe Biden.

When Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine in 2014, Kristi Noem, then a Republican senator from South Dakota, said that America had to be "united" in the face of Russian aggression.

"We need strong leadership out of the United States, but I'm not going to be the one to go out and criticize the president at this point. We should be united in our stance that we are willing to take action," she told reporters on a conference call in early March 2014.

She also told the Argus Leader on Mar. 5, 2014, that Americans "need to be united in our stance."

But despite her previous commitment to maintaining a united front in the face of authoritarian aggression, Noem, now the governor of South Dakota, has publicly and aggressively criticized President Joe Biden over the way he has handled Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which began on Feb. 24.

The day after Russian President Vladimir Putin euphemistically declared his country would launch "a special military operation" in Ukraine, Noem blamed the invasion on Biden.

"Our prayers are with the people of Ukraine. The families, children, people who are being targeted now. The hell of war has come to that country. If we ever needed a reminder that leadership matters, the last 48 hours have shown us what happens when America projects weakness," she said in a speech delivered at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 25.

"President Biden's been weak, and that is why we have the consequences we see playing out today in Ukraine," Noem added in an interview that day at the political conference.

Noem, along with many of her fellow Republicans, has taken to blaming the President's energy policy for the invasion as well.

On Feb. 23, just as the first Russian troops were entering Ukraine, Noem said she agreed with Fox News's Sean Hannity that Biden had "made Putin rich" with his domestic energy policy.

Biden "canceled the Keystone pipeline," she said. "He clearly said that he was not prioritizing us being energy independent, he was not prioritizing American businesses and families, that he was going to strengthen Putin, and that we were going to be here where were are today. This is what you get when you are a weak president."

It's true that Russia, the third-largest producer of oil after the United States and Saudi Arabia, reaped huge profits in 2021 off of higher oil and gas prices. But experts dispute that Biden's domestic energy policy resulted in increased prices. Instead, they say that consumers' coming out of COVID-19 lockdowns last year caused demand for oil to skyrocket, leading to higher prices.

In fact, the cost of oil began to rise in the waning months of the Trump administration.

Later in her interview with Hannity, Noem went further and said that Biden may have wanted Putin to invade Ukraine.

"It feels planned to me, Sean. There is just no way he could possibly get all of those wrong and not know what it was going to do and how it was going to put us where we sit today with Putin," she said.

Despite Republican attacks on him, Americans seem to approve of Biden's response to the invasion, with 46% supporting the president's actions and 42% disapproving, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll from March 8. His overall job approval has also ticked up from 41% to 45%, though a majority, 51%, still disapprove of the president's work.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.