John Colson: Ukraine war birthed by Putin and Trump
Hit & Run
As Russia’s lopsided and criminal invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine approaches the end of its second month, it has confirmed my belief that the war is the combined outcome of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s obsessive desire to rewrite history and the anti-Ukraine attitudes and behavior of ex-U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
Oh, I understand that the seeds for the ongoing war first sprouted in late 2008.
That was when former President George W. Bush pushed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a military alliance founded in 1949 to contain the expansionist designs of the old Soviet Union, to grant NATO membership to the former Soviet satellites of Ukraine and Georgia (which still has not happened).
Putin, whose unhinged but obsessive goal is re-establishing the old Soviet empire, went nuts and has worked ever since to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its 30 NATO allies. In Trump, the Russian dictator found that wedge — or so Putin thought.
Because Trump is so ignorant and self-centered, and his coterie of henchmen and -women are just as bumbling as he is, the former president’s persistent attacks against NATO failed to achieve Putin’s goal of splitting up the alliance.
And current President Joe Biden has done a lot to repair the rips and tears in NATO’s security blanket left behind by Trump’s pro-Putin campaign.
Still, Putin watched as Trump and his “base” of supporters managed to turn the U.S. into a political mosh pit. Sensing an opportunity, he completely misjudged the commitment of the U.S. and NATO to support the Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion.
But his invasion was premised on that misjudgment and on his equally mistaken belief in the invincibility of his army.
As evidence of the Trumpian link to the Ukraine war, let’s take a stroll though the litany of anti-Ukraine moves, remarks and insults that issued from the president over the years.
We’ll start in 2017, when Trump only reluctantly agreed to meet with then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, possibly because former President Barack Obama had met with Poroshenko in the White House in 2014. And we all know that Trump so hated Obama that, basically, anything Obama did, Trump reflexively did the opposite.
Anyways, after posing for a photo opp with the Ukrainian leader, Trump told Poroshenko that his country was corrupt and, parroting a long-held Putin bit of propaganda, that Ukraine wasn’t even really a country but a territory that rightfully belonged to Russia.
Why, you might ask, would a U.S. president say such a stupid thing?
Well, our erstwhile leader explained (according to published reports), because people there speak Russian. Never mind that many citizens throughout that part of the globe speak several languages, including Russian, reflecting the shifting allegiances, takeovers, invasions and coups that have plagued the region for millennia.
Let’s see, what other evidence has there been that Trump is a Putin fan, acolyte and booster?
A key point is that Trump, prior to running for president, had spent years cultivating Putin and his cronies in the hope of making some easy money by doing business in Russia, and had sent a number of cronies and sycophants to that country to try and get things going even after being elected.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump and his minions watered down the Republican Party’s Russia-related platform, which had pledged “lethal defense” assistance, military equipment and support for Ukraine to use against Russian aggression.
When it became apparent that Putin’s cyber sleuths had hacked the Democratic party’s campaign to boost Trump’s presidential chances in 2016, Trump tried to turn it all around by parroting Putin’s misleading claim that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked into our election, and that the hack was in support of Clinton.
When U.S. intelligence experts differed with Trump’s view of things, he attacked the experts, fired a few people, and insisted that people not believe what they knew to be true — Trump was Putin’s errand-boy on the U.S. political battlefield.
Trump even publicly encouraged Russian cyber warriors to keep it up, saying at one event, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” a reference to the trumped-up (pun absolutely intended) charges about Clinton’s emails while she was Secretary of State under Obama.
Throughout his term, Trump often gave out declarations of admiration (perhaps envy) for the way Putin ran his country as though it were his own private private business, with the help of corrupt oligarchs who took over Russia’s former state enterprises, with Putin’s acquiescence and assistance, after the USSR collapsed.
And then there was the move that led to Trump’s first impeachment trial — withholding nearly $400 million in approved U.S. military aid to Ukraine for months in 2019. This was so that he could blackmail Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into digging up dirt on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who did business in Ukraine, to hurt Joe Biden’s chance of winning the 2020 presidential election.
One Trump critic, former National Security Council official Alexander Vindman, said of Trump’s anti-Ukraine posture, “We missed an opportunity to harden Ukraine against Russian aggression.”
Just imagine, in this context, how differently Trump would have responded to the war in Ukraine — his isolationist tendencies, his transactionally myopic view of the world, and his devotion to Putin would have been on full display while the rest of the world watched in horror and condemnation.