Donald Trump kicks off campaign with realist line on Russia
The ex-president’s dovish stance is a challenge to the bipartisan consensus
“FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES.” Donald Trump’s post last week on Truth Social was a characteristically forceful piece of rhetoric, suggesting that escalation in Ukraine could precipitate world war. As his campaign to regain the U.S. presidency took him through New Hampshire and South Carolina — two key battlegrounds in the 2024 Republican primary to secure the party’s nomination — Trump positioned himself as peacemaker. He reminded prospective voters that his “personality kept us out of war” and pledged that he could secure a peace deal “in 24 hours” that would end the Russian invasion.
Having promised to be “the greatest jobs president God ever created” during his 2016 campaign, Trump is not one to shy away from grand pronouncements. But it remains to be seen how his dovish, peacemaking swagger will go over with Republican voters.
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Chicago Council Survey polling data released in December 2022 showed that 76% of Democrats, 63% of Independents, and 55% of Republicans supported sending additional arms to the Ukrainian government. It also revealed a fascinating split between viewers of different news channels, in terms of whether Ukraine holds an advantage over Russia: only 26% of Fox News viewers believe the country does, as opposed to 48% for those who get their news from MSNBC.
There is, at a minimum, less enthusiasm among Republican voters for the Russia-Ukraine war in particular, as well as overseas intervention in general, an isolationist streak Trump exploited during his previous primary success in 2016. Senators Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, and J.D. Vance are three prominent Republicans among many who have called for at least some clear limitations on U.S. aid to Ukraine.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Trump’s leading rival for the 2024 Republican nomination, has spent the past two years focused on domestic matters, railing against the excesses of woke culture along with Covid-19 issues such as vaccination mandates and lockdowns.
However, unlike draft-exempt Trump, DeSantis has firsthand experience in America’s military efforts abroad: he served in the navy after law school and was deployed to Iraq as a legal adviser in 2007. During his three terms in Congress, he prioritised diplomatic opposition to Iran, “an enemy of our country” as well as a strategic ally to Russia. Whereas Trump praised Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “savvy”, DeSantis characterised it as a strategic blunder and has described the Russian leader as “an authoritarian gas station attendant”.
Trump and DeSantis will need to work hard to differentiate their respective value propositions to the MAGA base. Many key endorsements remain undetermined, ranging from mainstream Republican politicians to social media influencers like “Libs of TikTok” account operator Chaya Raichik, who has recently spent time with both candidates.
By leaning into the peacemaking and isolationist accomplishments of his administration, Trump may be able to offset the disadvantage posed by his role as an early proponent of the efficacy of the mRNA vaccines developed under his watch. At this point, it is too early to tell what issues will animate core Republican voters, though economic troubles and continued layoffs by American businesses may allow Trump to shift attention to his pre-Covid record as a job creator. Until the voters head to the polls in January 2024, all of that — like the fate of Ukraine itself — will remain up in the air.
You could be sure that if the USA joined a war, none of it would be fought on home territory.
They already lose tens of thousands every year due to to guns so they don’t need a war.
Many of the gun deaths are suicides by veterans of these perpetual overseas wars that achieve no substantive objective for the U.S.
America has been unable to “win” a war for a long time now. Couldn’t defeat the sandaled Viet Cong, and couldn’t defeat the Taliban as well. It did “defeat” (invade) Iran, but that didn’t win the peace. Rather spectacular concatenation of losses.
Iraq surely? Or is there something we have not been told?
Glad you don’t mention the Gulf War in the 1990s.
Or the Bosnian Operation.
Or the Kosovo War.
Indeed, it’s strange that US troops are still in Iraq, and neither Saddam or ISIS are very active now.
But you knew all that.
Yes and I dread to think what they have planned for us after reading this today! They want us to spend £3 billion on the army and apparently we ‘aren’t prepared for missile strikes such as Ukraine has suffered’. F*cking marvellous. Told us our army is sh*t basically. The audacity.
Britain is an island, post Cardinal Wolsey our foreign policy has been to keep out of Europe and defence spending focused on the Royal Navy and latterly the RAF. Producing a very high quality Royal Marine Commando/Airborne/ elite infantry /artillery/cavalry capability means we can intervene outside of Britain if need be (and in our interest) and defend our island. It also reduce the temptation of politicians to become involved in running countries through regime change. Our influence comes from providing high skilled military aid to allies and training them. Quality not quantity; doing what other cannot do. Which country has armed forces where members can operate in urban, desert, extreme cold weather, jungle and ant-terrorism?
Having vast poorly trained poorly equipped armed forces is expensive for taxpayers, is largely ineffective when dealing with fast moving events against skilled determined opponents in arduous conditions but does provide careers for large numbers of officers.
At 16 secs the Lt Col of 45 Commando RM says ” One’s drills have to be World Class”. I suggest the RMC have a better understanding of what Britain needs than the some American Officers.
Royal Marines | Forging the Arctic Commando – YouTube
Yeah. Peace in our time.
As someone tweeted
“This guarantees that Trump won’t be the Republican nominee. No-one advocating for peace with Russia will be allowed anywhere near the Presidency. I half expect that primary voters will be denied even the choice. DeSantis will win the nomination as an “anti-Woke” Wendell Willkie.”
” Until the voters head to the polls in January 2024”
Shouldn’t that be November, 2024, for US presidential elections?
He is wrong. If hostile power blocs are not stopped they will eventually rule the world. But if European countries won’t attend to their own defence and those of their immediate neighbours, you can see his point
Can you give some examples of “hostile power blocks” that have gone on to try to “rule the world”? I can only think of a 2 from the 20th century: Germany and the USSR. Prior to that, I would say Napoleonic France, Britain in the 17th-19th centuries, Spain before them, the Mongols before that. By then you’re back to ancient Rome.
There have been lots of powerful and militant leaders who have never attempted to “rule the world” or even any significant part of it. We’re blinded by recent experience. Most dictators aren’t Hitler or Stalin.
Yes indeed. You omit the rising power of China since 1948, and Japan in the 1930’s. Germany in the C19th. Then also the Austrian Hungarian empire, though relatively benign, very notably the Ottoman empire, the Vikings and related invasions and conquests from northern Europe into their southern neighbours, the Portuguese into South America, Africa, India, and China.
Is that enough? For democracy and liberty to survive it is necessary to defend their liberal and peaceful societies
Sorry, but I see no evidence that modern (or even Enlightenment) liberalism is capable of defending liberty in any meaningful sense.
I did forget about the Ottomans; I’ll give you that one. But the Austro-Hungarians wanted to “rule the world”? Really? Japan wanted to “rule the world”? The Vikings were genocidal ethno-nationalists on par with Hitler? Sorry, but you lose me there.
Russia can’t even conquer its next door neighbor. If anything, this war has demonstrated how far the mighty have fallen; NATO is defending against a paper tiger. Meanwhile, a real tiger in the East is growing.
I’m generally for DeSantis over Trump, but I’ve got to admit that I’m willing to consider almost anyone (even Bernie) who is willing to stop throwing money at Zelensky.
We would do well to remember John Quincy Adams words: “let us not go in search of monsters to destroy.” Or if you prefer, George Washington’s farewell address: “Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side… [let us avoid] foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues”
More realism. Less idealism.
Republicans now control Armed services and Intelligence Cmttes in the House. No major change in emphasis detected yet, and in fact in some areas arguably more hawkish on China too. Some impressive Representatives with military backgrounds on both.
Yes they’ll ask questions of Biden administration, but seems unlikely any major redirections of policy in this area for now. Putin will of course hope he can hang on for a Trump Presidency and Agent Orange undermine the alliance with Ukraine, but that’s two years yet.
Much can happen in the meantime, including Taiwan elections in 24, likely won by a more full independence candidate. Xi may be provoked to strike if he hasn’t already. A good chance Nov 24 therefore greatly affected by what’ll be happening in the South China sea. And as this realisation builds it’ll matter more the deterrent effect of staying the course on Ukraine.
There was a combination of wry amusrment, pity and irritation a few years back when Trump wore a Brigade tie when Inspecting a ceremonial Guard of Honour with HM The Queen some years back… The general comment from The assembled Guardsmen was that Trump would not even be allowed in as a recruit.
Trump’s only strength is chaos. People fear him because they have no idea what he’s going to do.
Once his bluff is called however….
Narrative that doesn’t track with reality. Ask General Soleimani or the Wagner Brigade in Syria.
Trump’s policy of pushing Shale Oil and Gas resulted in price of barrel declining to $40/barrel. Russia’s onshore production cost is $18/barrel and offshore is $50/barrel. Putin requipped the armed forces and increased his gold holdings when the price of barrel reached $150/barrel.
At $40/barrel, Russia can just about survive and does not have funds for war.
There is a nexus of fighting spirit, international events, trade, technology and training which only, when they all come together, enables an agressor to win; Alexander The Great being a good example. Luckily, both Germany and Japan in WW2 were hampered by a lack of oil.
Putin may want to recreate the Tsarist Empire but if he can only afford a catapault, he is not a threat.
Al Quaeda and any terrorist group or criminal gang can only be a threat if they obtain funds from somewhere: cut them off and they whither away.
I doubt that Trump could even find Russia on a map
I am quite delighted by this.
Looks like the Ukraine war will, by default, get a free pass from both Democrats and Independents. And if the GOP takes the bait, they lose in 2024.
Only Trump’s (and Tucker Carlson’s) shrinking base will support defeat in Ukraine.
Trump’s endorsement is Putin’s worst nightmare.
I just don’t understand Republican isolationists. In the past they would have let Hitler take over Europe and the U.K. And in the present they would let China take over the world.
They seem to think their ‘greatest economy’ can make others cower, but eventually these new empires would seriously affect the USA – then what? Their success at home is determined by their global influence – when that diminishes, their done.
One does not need to be an isolationsist (I am not) to see the strength of their argument, especially since the shale energy revolution. It is simply innaccurate to state America’s (economic) success at home is determined by its global influence. Helped, yes, but determined- no. America, almost uniquely, has the natural defence of geography, the self sufficiency of energy, abundant food supplies, younger demographics,and raw resources to survive in a non-globalized world. China does not, just as the once “future ruler” Japan does not. And neither do most nations of the world. At some point, American taxpayers reasonably tire of funding huge military budgets to protect international shipping and peace (essential for globalization), especially when several European nations cannot even figure out if they should trust Russian energy supplies or support an ally fighting a war or even pay up to committed spending for NATO. The biggest risk in America, to many Americans, is the staggering debt. Elimination of world-protecting military spending (and loss of lives of family and friends) helps America, not hurt it, in their eyes. For those of us living in the economic and moral freeloader nations outside the US, this will be most unfortunate if and when America decides to stop being the world’s cop and referee.
I don’t see the US ever really abandoning Europe; the ties of culture are too strong and our hearts are too soft. But even a partial pull-back will be very hard on Europe, since it would be similar to the loss of Russian gas and Ukrainian food from the current war.
Whereas Trump praised Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as “savvy”, DeSantis characterised it as a strategic blunder and has described the Russian leader as “an authoritarian gas station attendant”.
Both are correct. Putin was wise to invade while Biden is president rather than Trump, although the preparations were abysmal. And, yes, Russia is just a big gas station economically.
Why was Putin wise to invade while Biden is President rather than Trump?
…because Biden’s torpedoed the USA’s energy independence, for one thing. Russia is profiting from the consequent disruption. Admittedly, Putin may have miscaculated how reluctant certain US elements are to part with their money-laundering and bioweapons research facilities in the Ukraine.
Sorry, Trump would have just gone for a deal.
He has zero knowledge of int’l relations. He’d just see it as trading hotels.
Agreed that Biden was the better President for Russia to push around. One reason is set out in E.L. Herndon’s comment-Biden’s undermining of domestic energy independence (although I note on energy Trump had sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 that Biden waived at the insistence of the EU). I would add Biden’s bungled departure from Afghanistan the summer before showed a man who just wanted to be done with complicated military matters (and later had expected Ukraine would fold, like many other experts); the “minor incursion” comments from Biden showing little appetite for a fight; and the fact that Trump-for good as for ill- was difficult to predict! One need not turn to theories about Hunter Biden in Ukraine etc. to explain Putin’s choice.
I very much doubt that attitude would prevail very long. Events invariably come along that require intervention, as has been teh case for any significant power.
Both Russia and China explicitly want to take over areas that would provide a chokehold over the rest of the world, to include the US. (Russia, Ukraine’s agriculture; China: Taiwan’s chip industry). Indeed, Putin’s plan for 24 Feb was based on gaining control of the lion’s share of grain, fertilizer, and petroproducts. He hoped to neutralize Europe and come to a “deal” with the US to leave.
Isolationists invariably claim nothing bad will happen to the US–until it does, and then there are no more isolationists.
I guess that is where you and I differ: I think the evidence shows that the US could survive and even almost thrive domestically in a de-globalized world (which concerns this non-US citizen very much!). Take the two examples you just provided: Ukraine agriculture and Taiwanese chip manufacturing. The US is the world’s largest agricutural exporter. It would take time to adjust supply chains if Russia took Ukraine, but the US is neither exporting to nor importing from Ukraine or any Black Sea ports in significant amounts (OK, fertilizer, but that can be sourced from lots of places once manufacturing is established).
As for Taiwan’s chips, the problem is China’s, not the US’. The sanctions announced this week from the Americans, Japanese and Dutch would cripple almost overnight Taiwan’s production if it ever was handed over to China. And good luck with that remaining intact in a land invasion (if not sabotaged first). The high quality chips produced in Taiwan relies on complicated and intricate supply chains, virtually all of which would be broken by a Chinese land invasion and subsequent sanctions (see US, Japan and Dutch). The Chinese now can only produce the simplist of chips and these sanctions remove access to any of the inputs needed to become competent at higher end chips.
In short, I think you vastly underestimate both the ability of the US economy to do well post-globaization (not as well as it is doing now, but better than any other country) and the disenchantment of the American population with footing the bill ($ and bodies) to police the ungrateful world.
Oh, and PS to my response below, to answer your specific example, if Hitler had taken over Europe and the UK, “so what” would be the response from American isolationists (“not my problem and my son would still be alive”). Look at the world today and you see many autocrats and henchmen running nations that Europeans are quite comfortable supporting (Putin? Iran’s leadership? Xi?) and trading with. Why should Americans feel differently? Again, I disagree with the consequences of this, but it is not difficult to see the power of their argument.
Europeans sure have a lot of opinions about us, don’t they? Perhaps if they just set an example by action, the world would emulate them spontaneously. That wouldn’t be so hard, would it?
Manners maketh man. The USA under Biden and Germany plus countries like France and Italy presented themselves in a manner to Putin which suggested he would suffer no effective opposition if he invaded Ukraine. Putin took the risk.
Pascal Bruchner a Frenchman in his book ” Tears of the White Man ” points out that Europe no longer has the power to mould World events but the USA does. This creates a streak of resentment and bitterness gainst the USA whose magnitude varies. France, both Gaullist Right and Left resent the USA: Germany both those of extreme Left and close to Nazis and similar for Italy. In Britain, The Left wing middle class except for Blair detest the USA, especially Republicans; some pro EU Tories dislike the USA especially Republicans while the manual blue collar admire the vitality and can do attitude of the USA.
Basically attitudes towards the USA vary dramatically and over time. Americans need to assess whom they are dealing with.
The Greeks said the gods gave mortals charismos ( charisma for women ) for a purpose. Charismos is basically physical and mental energy which enables innovative risky enterprises to be achieved. Europe largely is run by defeatist weary, both physically and mentally people people who lack the energy defend themselves from attack and undertake risky innovative enterprises.
Much of the technology for computers came from British research but post war Britain was run by people too weary and risk averse to develop it. America has the physical and mental vitality to be open to new ideas and be prepared to take risks and so has created the modern high tecch industries.
Resentment for a lack of charismos and spite towards those who have it, is common place.
You seem to dread the impending loss of American global influence. As an American I can say that our endless imperialist shenanigans around the world have brutalized many others as well as ourselves. So its prospective demise is actually a thing devoutly to be wished.
Until Russia begins flexing its global influence.
Then isolationism dies its usual death.
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