Nikki Haley slams Biden administration for all the wrong reasons

Among the most important geopolitical relationships in the world right now is the fragile partnership between Russia and China. As Vladimir Putin’s government runs short on friends in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, Beijing’s support for the Kremlin matters.

It’s against this backdrop that Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and CIA Director William Burns told lawmakers this morning that, according to U.S. intelligence, Russia’s brutally misguided war has raised new questions in China. Talking Points Memo noted this morning:

Although the partnership between China and Russia has strengthened since 2019, Burns said he believes that Chinese President Xi and Chinese leadership are “unsettled” by what’s unfolding. Burns argued that China likely did not anticipate the “significant difficulties” Russia has run into during its invasion. Additionally, Burns suspects that China is paying close attention to the “reputational damage” the invasion caused as well as its negative impact on the global economy.

As part of the same congressional hearing, the CIA director went on to note that Putin has brought Western forces closer together, which has further “unsettled” officials in Beijing.

With this in mind, it’s hardly surprising that senior Biden administration officials have repeatedly reached out to their Chinese counterparts in recent months, hoping to convince China to use its influence to steer Putin in a saner direction.

It’s Diplomacy 101: Identify those who have influence. The Russian autocrat clearly isn’t inclined to listen to the United States or its Western allies, but Putin might be swayed by his allies in China who are not overly pleased with his unprovoked attack.

And yet, there was former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on “Meet the Press” this week, condemning the White House for trying to reach Moscow through Beijing.

“You never negotiate, you never deal with your enemies,” the South Carolina Republican told NBC News’ Chuck Todd. “You can’t trust them. And that’s why I was mortified that Biden went so far as asking China for help with Russia. I mean, you never ask an enemy for help with another enemy.”

First, as Haley really ought to know, the concept of “strange bedfellows” exists in international affairs for a reason. Countries reach out to one adversary in the hopes of influencing another all the time. FDR and Churchill partnered with Stalin, for example, to defeat Hitler. It’s not as if these examples are obscure moments from history.

Second, this line of criticism is a reminder that Republicans are having to go to unusual lengths to find ways to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis. When GOP voices are reduced to being “mortified” by the White House pushing China to rein in Russia, it’s evidence of a party that’s running out of talking points.

And third, Haley occasionally appears to be positioning herself for a national campaign. She has a habit of demonstrating that she’s still not ready for prime time.