Finger pointing is really useless right now but let’s all be honest about Ukraine and how we ended up in this alternative universe where another war is being fought in Europe. There are endless articles about Trump, Putin and how the the Republican party “supports” Putin. I have come to see these articles as being mostly written by the “all Republicans are Satan” crowd or the slightly different group that seems to see Trump as some undead creature who won’t die and is clearly going to come back and eat all of our brains. (Side note: I may have to revise my ridiculing of people who are obsessed with Trump if Trump ends up running against Hilary again. In that case it would be corrupt zombie versus corrupt zombie and we are all screwed so nothing would matter anymore including my mistake.)
However, people are dying in Ukraine and for my part I would hope we could look at the non-partisan facts of how we got here and how all our leaders may have contributed to making this situation worse. Conversely we can ignore how we got here and twiddle our thumbs and keep up with our social media posts.
I was prompted to explore this topic by one of the articles on Medium that pointed to the 2016 Republican platform and how pressure was made by Trump’s people to change the draft language of platform to weaken support for Ukraine. This was seen as proof that Republicans are all stooges of Putin and Trump is really in cahoots with Putin. If you look at the coverage at the time Trump did play a hand in softening the 2016 platform language relating to Ukraine.
“The Trump campaign convinced the platform committee to change …. [the] proposal. It went from calling on the U.S. to provide Ukraine “lethal defensive weapons” to the more benign phrase “appropriate assistance.”” (link)
However, what people writing these articles usually fail to mention is that Trump was following the policy set by Obama. Yes, I know, since “Republicans are all Satan” Obama’s policy was a reasoned approach and Trump’s position was pure up corruption but Trump’s approach did mirror Obama at first.
“ The [Obama] administration rejected lethal military assistance……. it was apparent that the White House’s main concern was escalation: that the Russians might out-escalate the United States, or that U.S. leaders would find themselves on an escalation ladder that would end up with the Eighty-Second Airborne Division deploying to Donetsk.” (Link)
Maybe Obama and Trump both wanted to avoid escalation although I am not sure Trump had a thought out plan. But to be fair, their real individual motivations are unclear unless you have the knee jerk reaction that Obama is the brilliant saint and Trump is a corrupt Satan. Obama did give an interview in 2016 which does show his mind set on Ukraine.
“ [Obama] said Ukraine is a core interest for Moscow, in a way that it is not for the United States. He noted that, since Ukraine does not belong to NATO, it is vulnerable to Russian military domination, and that “we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for.” (Link)
So should I think Obama was in some way a supporter of Putin? Yeah I don’t think so. I think he was approaching foreign policy based upon his world view. “More than anything else, Obama said, his rule was, “Don’t do stupid stuff,” sometimes substituting a different four-letter word for “stuff” in private conversation.”
“[So] since the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia, the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations have all, to some degree, delayed or balked at sending lethal aid to Ukraine — raising questions about whether a better armed Ukraine could have provided a deterrent to a Russian invasion.”
Its all very confusing but I do know the narrative that Republicans are all stooges of Putin is not correct and Democratic and Republican administrations did little to arm the Ukrainians. This may have emboldened Putin especially given our weak response to the Russia’s annexation in Crimea and Biden’s comment about our possible response to a “minor incursion” by Russia.
Now a lot has been made of a poll that shows that a majority of Republicans find Putin to be a stronger leader than Biden. While I despise Putin I have kind of agree that Putin appears to be stronger than Biden given all of Biden’s gaffes and his giving the appearance that he might be having cognitive issues. You can think someone is stronger and also think they are evil.
In fact these gaffes may have strengthened Putin at home leading to someone correctly feeling that Putin is a stronger leader then Biden. (God help us all)
“Richard Haass, an American diplomat who heads the Council on Foreign Relations, said Biden had “made a difficult situation more difficult and a dangerous situation more dangerous.”
“Putin will see it as confirmation of what he’s believed all along,” Haass said on Twitter. “Bad lapse in discipline that runs risk of extending the scope and duration of the war.”