Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Why Putin needs Trump to win 

Alex Thompson By Alex Thompson May31,2024

In Ukraine, the fickle fortunes of war have turned in Russia’s favor. The invaders have seized the military initiative, while a Trumpified Republican Party has thrown in doubt both America’s commitment to a free Ukraine and our will to confront a new Russian imperialism.   

For the moment, however, GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has managed to unsnag more than $60 billion in long-stalled U.S. military aid that Ukraine desperately needs to defend itself against a Russian summer offensive.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently confirmed Moscow’s plan to seize Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Exploiting their advantages in manpower and missiles, willingness to take casualties and Ukraine’s dire shortage of artillery shells, Russian forces lately have made significant if costly advances near Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Donetsk City.

Although I’m loathe to praise any 2020 election denier, Speaker Johnson acted patriotically, if belatedly, in bringing the aid package to the House floor and passing it with Democratic help.

Last weekend’s rare triumph of strategic clarity over MAGA tribalism in the GOP-controlled House is certainly a setback for Moscow. But Russian ruler Vladimir Putin is still counting on a Trump victory in November to take America off the field, thereby demoralizing our NATO allies and allowing him to grind Ukraine into submission, Chechnya-style.  

Conversely, if Trump loses, Putin loses too. So long as America and Europe keep providing arms, money and political backing to Kyiv, the best outcome he can hope for is a bloody stalemate.

In this test of wills between Putin and the West, neither the balance of national resources nor the asymmetry of sacrifices favors the Kremlin warlord.

The NATO partners are sacrificing a small increment of their vastly superior collective wealth, and no lives, to help Ukraine resist being gobbled up piecemeal by Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow’s “meat grinder” tactics already have claimed the lives of 50,000 soldiers.

Putin rules by fear, but such terrible losses likely aren’t sustainable if Russian society sees no path to victory.

In truth, the new infusion of U.S. weapons is more of a reprieve for Kyiv than a game-changer. It will plug gaps in Ukraine’s defenses, but it won’t be enough to uproot the Russian occupation.

Crucially, however, it keeps America in the fight. That will encourage our European partners to ramp up weapons production and deliveries and boost morale in Ukraine, which is struggling to call up enough military-age men to offset Russia’s preponderant troop strength.  

U.S. opposition to Russia’s serial aggression shouldn’t be controversial. Embittered by the Soviet Union’s collapse, Putin has invaded no less than three neighboring countries — Chechnya, Georgia and Ukraine, twice — in pursuit of his dream of resurrecting “Greater Russia.”

If he succeeds in Ukraine, few doubt that Putin will turn his acquisitive gaze to Europe. Moldova, outside of the European Union and NATO, and with a sizeable minority of ethnic Russians, already feels the heat.  

Although they are NATO members, the Baltic States are also worried about internal agitation by Russian separatists. As my Progressive Policy Institute colleague Tamar Jacoby found on a recent visit there, Poland is spending heavily on defense to deter what President Andrzej Duda recently called “insatiable Russian imperialism.”

Putin bears a deep historical grudge against the United States, which he sees as the chief obstacle to his expansionist vision. He’s flooding our country with disinformation intended to inflame racial and political tensions, stoke fears about an alien invasion across the border, paint Ukraine as hopelessly corrupt and amplify isolationist voices.

“Russian propaganda has made its way into the U.S., unfortunately, and it’s infected a good chunk of my party’s base,” laments Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The House vote revealed a GOP split between Trump’s “America First” camp and conservative internationalists in the Reagan mold. In siding with the latter, Johnson incurred the wrath of Freedom Caucus bomb throwers threatening to force a vote on ousting him as Speaker.  

Although Trump uncharacteristically sat this fight out, just over half (112) of House Republicans voted against Ukraine aid.  

Many insisted that securing the border is a higher priority. But that objection fizzled after Johnson, at Trump’s behest, refused last February to take up a bipartisan Senate bill that included $20 billion for border security.   

Other America Firsters echo Trump in contending that America has no vital interest in Ukraine’s independence, that Putin is entitled to a free hand in Moscow’s “sphere of influence” and that Washington should let Europe worry about Ukraine and focus on the Chinese threat instead.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), who appears to be grooming himself to be Trump’s successor as the top prophet of MAGA populism, contends that Ukraine is simply too weak to defend itself against Russia, even with U.S. help.

“This $60 billion is a fraction of what it would take to turn the tide in Ukraine’s favor. But this is not just a matter of dollars. Fundamentally, we lack the capacity to manufacture the amounts of weapons Ukraine needs us to supply to win the war.”

Vance’s defeatism calls to mind U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy’s dispatches from wartime London aimed at convincing President Roosevelt that Britain could not hold out against the might of Nazi Germany.  

Then there’s Trump’s grandiose promise, should he win in November, to negotiate a swift end to the war. His plan reportedly is to force Ukraine to cede Crimea and large chunks of eastern Ukraine to Russia.

Thus does appeasement march under the “America First” banner alongside isolationism and defeatism. If Trump returns to the White House, we’ll hear corks popping in Moscow as well as Mar-a-Lago.  

Will Marshall is the founder and president of the Progressive Policy Institute.

Alex Thompson

By Alex Thompson

Alex is an award-winning journalist with a passion for investigative reporting. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Alex has covered a wide range of topics from politics to entertainment. Known for in-depth research and compelling storytelling, Alex's work has been featured in major news outlets around the world.

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2 thoughts on “Why Putin needs Trump to win ”
  1. As for the situation in Ukraine, I believe that it’s crucial for the international community to stand firmly against Russian aggression. Speaker Johnson’s swift action in securing aid for Ukraine is commendable. However, the looming shadow of a potential Trump victory poses a threat to the stability of the region. Let’s hope for a different outcome in the upcoming elections to prevent further destabilization.

  2. As much as I dislike acknowledging any 2020 election denier, Speaker Johnson acted patriotically, albeit belatedly, in bringing the aid package to the House floor and passing it with Democratic help.

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