A recent episode of Real Time w/ Bill Maher on HBO saw the late night comic ask his panel, which consisted of Max Brooks, a non-resident fellow for the Modern War Institute and Kristen Solstis-Anderson, “Why didn’t Putin invade Ukraine [when his boyfriend, Trump] was in office?” This was something that Maher had previously asked during his show a week earlier to which no one could proffer a reasonable response.
Not to worry. Max Brooks, the man who wrote that great academic treatise, World War Z, had an answer that sounded like some hack at the White House wrote it: ah, you see, Putin didn’t invade Ukraine because he didn’t have to. And why didn’t Putin have to invade Ukraine when Trump was in office? Well, according to Brooks, because Trump was planning to remove the United States from the NATO alliance and disband the organization in his second term. This move would have been welcomed by Vladimir Putin and, therefore, would have avoided the need for the Russians to invade neighboring Ukraine.
Here’s a clip of the scene:
Max Brooks couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, the reason that Mr. Putin didn’t risk a confrontation with Donald Trump when the infamous real estate mogul-turned-reality-television-star was in the White House was simply because he could not get a read on Trump. Putin, a former KGB counterintelligence officer, is someone who understands body language and how to read an opponent. Trump was something unlike what Putin had become accustomed to from American leaders. He was volatile. Trump practiced the same kind of “power negotiation” style that most Russians adhere to which meant he was a tough nut to crack when engaged in a diplomatic setting.
What’s more, Trump was volatile. The rage-tweeting at four in the morning, while annoying to domestic voters, were monitored closely by foreign intelligence services and likely indicated to them that President Trump was not someone who could be dealt with rationally. The costs of upsetting this man, therefore, were far too high.
At the same time that the American “mainstream” corporate media was accusing Trump of having been a Russian sleeper agent in the White House, the Trump Administration blasted nearly 400 Russian mercenaries who were advancing on American Special Forces and Kurdish YPG elements in Deir ez-Zor, Syria. This rolled back a critical Russian advance in Eastern Syria that was intended to deprive the Americans of their grip on the oil-rich region and capture it for the Russian-Iranian-Assad axis that had been waging the Syrian Civil War. Thanks to Trump, the Russian plan was foiled.
Had Trump not acted to utterly slaughter those Russian mercenaries, Syria would’ve fallen into the hands of the Russian alliance and the Americans would have been set back significantly. Whatever one’s opinion about Trump or about the US involvement in Syria, the former president’s decisive actions against Russia there prevented the victory that Moscow had long sought.
Max Brook’s comments (and he is truly echoing the writings of others in places like the Washington Post and The New York Times who felt compelled to explain away the very reasonable question about why this didn’t happen under Trump) underscore a fear on the part of the elite. That fear is that many Americans are starting to rightly question the narrative they were force fed for four years. Namely that Trump was a Russian stooge and was going to destroy the institutions that had been established to protect Europe and, ostensibly, the United States from perceived Russian aggression.
Would Putin have loved to have seen a leader in the White House who desired to bust apart NATO? Absolutely. Was Donald Trump that man? Unlikely.
After all, despite Trump’s “bullying” of NATO leaders over the course of his presidency, Trump did force otherwise reluctant European NATO members to do something they had spent years refusing to do: increasing their defense spending. For almost the entirety of the Trump Administration, because Europe had become so afraid that the unpredictable 45th president might squelch NATO, European NATO members increased their defense spending by $50 billion. This, in turn, strengthened NATO rather than weakened it, as any possible Russian sleeper agent in the White House would desire to do.
Plus, Trump had done the one thing that his predecessor had refused to do, despite Russia’s illegal invasion of Eastern Ukraine and Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula: Trump authorized generous lethal aid to be sent to Ukraine for the duration of his time in office. Whatever problems Trump may have had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, he was very good to Ukraine. Many of the successes the Ukrainians have enjoyed on the battlefield against the lumbering Russian invasion force now terrorizing Ukraine have been because of the weapons that the Ukrainians were able to stockpile–all of which, again, is thanks to Trump’s controversial decision to arm the Ukrainian anti-Russian resistance.
Beyond that, Trump imposed extremely harsh sanctions on Russia–notably the sanctioning of the Nord Stream II pipeline project linking Russian natural gas through Germany into European markets. This crippled the Russian gas industry for a protracted period of time. It was Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, who shredded those sanctions and allowed for Russia to gain unprecedented dominance over European energy markets (which may have helped to create the current nightmare in Ukraine).
Here’s what Fyodor Luyakanov of Carnegie Europe had to say about the Trump Administration’s history of sanctions on Russia:
“Under President Donald Trump, new economic sanctions against Russia have been adopted on a nearly monthly basis on the most diverse pretexts, from purely political reasons to considerations of economic competition.”
Echoing elite sentiments when Biden was on his way to the White House in 2021, the Carnegie Europe assessment (wrongly, as it would turn out) assured readers that:
“There’s no question that the decisions already made in this respect will not be overturned by the next administration, and existing restrictions will remain in place.”
Those words were published on November 20, 2020. In April 2021, President Joe Biden lifted the sanctions of the Nord Stream II Pipeline creating the conditions for the fundamental rejiggering of Europe’s political and economic order to be closer to Russia than anything else. And for what? Not much, it seems.
Lest we forget the claims that one of the first times that Trump met with Putin he supposedly threatened to bomb the Kremlin if Putin ever threatened Poland or any other European NATO member? Whatever Putin said in response to this absurdity, the mere fact that the President of the United States had said such a thing might have sent a signal to Putin that this guy is not to be trifled with. And trifle with Trump Putin did not. This is not because Trump was Putin’s man in the White House. Instead, it was likely because Trump was brash, unpredictable, and prone to violent outbursts at the drop of a hat.
Trump placed fear into the hearts and uncertainty into the minds of his enemies. We will never know what Trump intended to do about Russia in any potential second term. We know even little about Trump’s true intentions about NATO. One thing we know is that the self-serving criticism of Trump from people like Max Brooks is not only wrong but likely the product of a political agenda. Things under the Biden Administration’s (non) leadership have been bad.
As we enter into another election cycle, the Democrats must do everything in their power to keep the American people from remembering the Trump years fondly. If voters did start pine for the simplicity and prosperity and security of the Trump era, they might vote the Democrats out of office–before they can implement their sweeping social re-engineering programs for the United States.
And if Trump was so dead-set on getting out of NATO then why, as Max Brooks argued to Bill Maher, did “John Kelly and John Bolton have to hold Trump down” and not let him abandon NATO? Trump is a head-strong guy. If this were something he was dedicated to, he’d have ripped the US out of NATO faster than it took for me to type this sentence out. Further, for a country like the United States to leave NATO it isn’t as easy as turning a light switch on or off. It is a massive undertaking and it is unlikely that any one president could achieve this feat–especially in the limited time frame of a potential Trump second term.
Quit listening to the hacks in the corporate media covering for their failed president, Joe Biden. Fact is, the Democrats are panicking as they know the American people are waking up to the reality that they were duped in 2020 into believing that Joe Biden was this competent leader. He’s not and the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine–and the inability to stop it–under Biden’s watch is a telltale sign of this fact. Max Brooks and the others parroting this line about how Putin didn’t have to invade Ukraine under Trump because Trump was going to dismantle NATO for Putin is obscene and papers over the real facts.
The reason Putin didn’t invade Ukraine under Trump was simply because Putin feared Trump whereas Putin does not fear–or respect–Joe Biden. That’s the unvarnished truth.