Why Trump Doesn’t Spell Doom For Ukraine

We’ve been hearing for quite some time now that another Trump Presidency will be the death knell of American support for Ukraine against Russia. Whatever your feelings on the topic or towards the man himself, the fact is this is an exaggerated statement. No one actually knows what Donald Trump will do (in general, let alone with Ukraine). Without access to top military brass and classified information, I don’t think Donald Trump even knows. Contrary to what experts supposedly know of Donald Trump, he isn’t always the most predictable. Have we not learned yet that he’s full of surprises? Just take his speech after winning the Iowa caucuses last month. Moments ahead of it, TV commentators were quipping about the blusterous words bound to come out of Trump’s mouth. Then he called for unity. WHAT?!

News outlets and other critics of Donald Trump are constantly highlighting his rants against NATO to underscore their prediction that Trump will abandon the Eastern European nation of Ukraine in 2025 if he wins the Presidential election in 2024. The mistake here is that his quotes often come from rallies, which in the case of Trump are hour-long standup performances more than traditional speeches made by political candidates we all know and love. And let’s face it: Trump says a lot of things. If you ignore the snippets that are used to craft headlines and instead focus on the whole content: it doesn’t seem like Donald Trump has anything against NATO as an alliance, only the countries that refuse to pull their weight and aren’t spending the agreed-upon 2% of their GDP on defense. That’s a huge difference. And if you look at Donald Trump through the lens of a businessman, it makes all the sense in the world: for better or worse, everything is a negotiating tactic.

Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is the definition of polarizing. For some, and unfairly, he can do no good. When he said we’d have a vaccine against COVID-19 within months, they said, “No, vaccines take years.” When he closed off flights from China in the early days of the pandemic and floated the idea that the virus had originated in China, he was labeled a racist. When he went on the trade offensive against China throughout his presidency, he was nuts for tinkering with the delicate balance in the global economy. When he tried to rewrite NAFTA early on after his inauguration, it was said to be impossible. When he cut off funding to UNRWA because of links to Hamas, he was unconscionably wrong. And he’s still in the wrong even though the Biden Administration recently course-corrected and did it themselves.

Contrary to how Donald Trump is often framed, his critics aren’t always right either.

Assuming not everything is for political points; his opponents are simply blinded by their hatred for him. Lest we forget Nancy Pelosi calling General Milley to discuss President Trump’s mental capacity and ability to launch nuclear weapons. And have we yet dismissed the years-long idea that Trump is a treasonous stooge being blackmailed by Vladimir Putin? Yes, Russia did try meddling in the 2016 Presidential election. No, they did not succeed in the way you assume.

Russia’s meddling did sow doubts and conflict, but that was perpetuated by Trump’s critics (i.e. Democrats, the media) constantly making him out to be a suspected traitor. They were the useful idiots. In truth, correlation is not always causation. Russia had their reasons and the American people had their own. The end result just happened to coincide. Where in scripture is it written Hillary Clinton was destined to be President of the United States of America? Donald Trump won fair and square just as Joe Biden won in 2020. You’re invited to judge and oppose influential forces in our society that helped make that happen, but the results stand. When things are as tight as they were, the pendulum can swing in either direction. It can come down to timing.

So, will Donald Trump ultimately abandon Ukraine? I can’t definitively say no just as you can’t definitively say yes. Trump certainly isn’t helping support my point-of-view that he won’t, but not by substantiating otherwise, but by keeping his options open. The most he’s said is that he can end the Russia-Ukraine war in 24 hours. Naturally, details of such a settlement are yet to be announced. He’s modest that way.

Do we expect anything less? This is the guy who without notice ordered the drone strike to assassinate Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani. The action sent shockwaves around the world and would have been avoided by most Presidents. And yet, we’re in no worse position for it. We took an enemy off the field of play, ruffled some feathers and didn’t cause WWIII. Some in the West are uncomfortable admitting that it’s Donald Trump’s unpredictable nature that makes enemy states pause and tread carefully. The argument can still be made that Putin would have avoided entering Ukraine if Trump had won a second term. Maybe not indefinitely, but at least for four more years.

Remind yourself that Donald Trump was open to engaging with North Korea to end hostilities. Not everyone supported that. Though the peaceful effort could’ve been applauded, many were critical. And yet, he didn’t do it at any cost. After the first summit of goodwill in Singapore, Trump ultimately cut the second Hanoi Summit short. The moment he didn’t see a deal happening, he left. He abandoned North Korea, not the South. Why can’t the same be true in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia? If he were to come into office again, I can imagine a scenario that has President Donald Trump, against everyone’s wishes, himself hoping for the best and agreeing to meet with Vladimir Putin to make it happen; but to believe he’ll sign his name on any dotted line should be met with skepticism. Trump likes a deal.

For a moment assume Donald Trump is not the Devil incarnate. Donald Trump does possess the capacity to recognize the moral argument in helping Ukraine. He launched missiles against Syria when that country used chemical weapons against civilians in the town of Khan Shaykhun. And he’s the one who originally started seriously arming Ukraine defensively. He’s said himself: he just doesn’t want people dying.

Trump has the rationality to understand aiding Ukraine is a singular move that simultaneously coerces NATO into paying their fair share; keeps Russia concentrated on one geographical arena as opposed to the endless unchallenged string prior like Georgia, Syria and Africa; and all the while being the least costly deterrent to have China think twice before acting on any impulse to attack Taiwan. All of this without American boots on the ground.

Then there’s the shallower economic aspect. If sending more to Ukraine means replenishing the US military with a newer stockpile, creating domestic jobs in the arms industry and securing US economic interests towards Ukraine’s greater development… if all of that happens and at the same time forces Russia towards a negotiated peace faster, it’s as plausible as anything that Trump will escalate more than anyone. He did once joke with Republican donors that the US should put the Chinese flag on F-22 jets and “bomb the shit out of Russia” in retribution over its invasion of Ukraine. “And then we say ‘China did it, we didn’t do it, China did it;’ and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch.” He bragged about the US military already winning “skirmishes” against Russian troops while he was President. No, I’m not taking him at his word here because context is important.

A second Donald J. Trump Presidency does not bode all the doom and gloom for Ukraine that is assumed amongst the mainstream consensus. Trump could very well respond to the outright surprise of the current narrative of abandonment. He’d even have bipartisan support for it. Whatever the circumstances, sometimes Trump’s got a point. Always he wants a win.

[Photo of Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons]

*David Kobylanski is a writer by day, reader by night and lover throughout. His love for the United States, the Constitution and the military branches is cemented by his passion for history and the history that has yet to be written. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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