In the last several weeks as we have watched Putin command the Russian Army to action in invading Ukraine, many people have looked to Trump’s record with Putin as a time in which Putin became emboldened to action against their neighbor. Certainly, Trump’s talk on Putin has been at times sycophantic, something this author will not discount. However, referring to someone as a “genius” can carry with it, alternative meanings.
When it comes to Rahm Emanuel or David Axelrod, for example, I admire their political genius but hold them in complete contempt due to how they use their talents. Adolf Hitler, while a brilliant orator and a sociopath who committed genocide, was not a great one. I do not presume to understAnd Trump’s motivations in his less-than-polished statements about the Russian leader; however, I simply state that Trump can believe Putin is a genius and a sociopath. While I can think Trump is a genius in manipulating the media (and trust me… he is), I can disagree with him on things like increasing deficit spending and his lowest-common-denominator rhetoric.
The media and left tried to link Trump and Putin, even though there was no evidence. The media tried to portray Trump as weak in relation to Putin and Russia, whether it was Russiagate (in which Trump’s officials weren’t charged), or Trump’s behavior with Russian prostitutes.
One stark truth cannot be overlooked: Putin did not take any action against his neighbours during Trump’s Administration.
Regardless of Trump’s statements (which I often took issue with), the result of his foreign policy led to the lack of the entry of the US in any additional foreign conflicts for the first time in decades. This includes any saber-rattling of foreign powers.
Meanwhile, when you look at Trump’s predecessor, the same cannot be said.
Obama was confronted with Russian tactics in Crimea, Ukraine from 2009 onwards. Russia, which had been exerting influence in the region towards the end of 2008 (after Obama’s election but before he took office) thrust the new leader (Obama) into a place many felt he was unprepared to be. Obama watched in silence as Putin and his Russian counterparts drove the region to war.
In the months before the conflict began, Russians were issuing Russian passports for residents from other countries. This gave them the same rights as other Russian citizens and allowed them protection by the Russian military should they require it. The region was thrown into chaos by the emergence of protests in Crimea that were largely organised and funded by Russia. This was, of course, the Russians’ goal. They could then use the conflict to enter Ukraine in order to restore peace for the (newer) Russian residents living there.
Obama did not do anything.
During the 2012 election for U.S. President, Mitt Romney was asked by Wolf Blitzer about the United States’ number one geopolitical foe. Without hesitation, Romney responded “Russia.” This drew mocking from the left, leading to an exchange with Barack Obama during a debate months later, in which Obama almost laughed at Romney regarding his response:
“Gov. Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not al-Qaida. You said Russia … the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
Yet just months before Obama’s mocking of Romney, Obama was the one capitulating to the Russians, when during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, Obama was caught on a hot mic promising to lighten up on the demands on the Russians, after the election in November.
“This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
Dmitry Medvedev (then-Russian President) replied to:
“I understand. I transmit this (inaudible) to Vladimir.”
We had Trump, the president of the United States, promising compromises on national security issues of both her country and its allies. He was willing to submit to Vladimir Putin and the Russians. Trump’s same heated moment would have earned him (justifiably), the hatred of both the media and of all Americans. The only reason why Obama would have more flexibility after the election is that he intended to lie about his intentions during the election — only to reverse course after the election when he didn’t have to worry about polls and being accountable.
In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimea Region of Ukraine without any American involvement. There was no need to talk about red lines or preserving democracy. Was this some of the “flexibility” spoken of?
The issue with attempting to blame Trump for Ukraine is that it isn’t supported by the record at hand. Putin was able to influence Obama’s decisions and was adamant that Obama would not follow through on any demands or redlines he made of Russia. If anything, Obama’s failure came from his lack of willingness to admit that he was out of his element when it came to foreign policy. This is the same man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Why else would Putin have paused his foreign expansion aspirations during the Trump Administration, only to resume them upon Biden’s inauguration? While Putin may not have feared or been concerned about Trump on a personal level, it was Trump’s unpredictability that made Trump a threat to Putin. Obama and Biden, who are both cowards and talk the hard stuff but then walk the walk with Putin and the Russians while being cowardly, have been known to be apathetic.
Trump’s total unpredictable nature is the only thing that can be trusted. Trump is an unpredictable wildcard. Putin may have been able to get away with Trump’s same actions, but Putin might have also ended up in a mushroom cloud above Moscow. Either potential was just as likely in Putin’s mind. Putin evaluated the risk and decided to forgo it. Putin cannot choose between Biden and Putin because the chance of lasting, real consequences for his actions is very small. ButAct.
This isn’t praising Putin; in fact, the only reason why Putin even has a chance is as a result of Obama and Biden’s foreign policy failures. Say what you want to about Trump, but there wasn’t this same fight under his administration.