Amidst the situations, could the policies of Donald Trump have averted the Russia Ukraine War?
“The military doesn’t start wars. Politicians start wars.”
This quote by William C. Westmoreland aptly points out that it is the leaders of countries who are solely responsible for starting a war. From the murky World Wars to the present-day Russia-Ukraine war – behind every war is a dirty game of politics, power play and the huge ego of the political leaders. If even one side of two hostile countries attempts to take a soft stance, the chance of war significantly reduces. Yet the fragile ego of old men prevents them from backing down. And the war happens. The old men continue living, while the young men, women and children keep dying – on both sides of the border.
2022 is the year that was marked by Russia’s so-called “special operation” in Ukraine, which is a nice way of sugarcoating war. However, let’s take a step back. What happened that suddenly Russia became so aggressive and declared an outright war on Ukraine? For that, you need to turn the pages of history. It’s not just a matter of land grabbing or ‘killing the Nazis,’ as Putin put it.
1. The Russia-Ukraine War Has Its Roots In The Warsaw Pact
After the end of World War 2, world politics was moving towards the build-up of the cold war. Germany was yet to be unified. The Soviet Union tried to shield itself from the newly formed NATO alliance with its proverbial ‘iron curtain.’
The Soviet Union and the world had not forgotten the damage done by Hitler’s Germany. In this situation, it proved difficult for the Western alliance to provide food and financial assistance to a demilitarised West Germany. Moreover, there was the fear that this aggressive disarmament would fuel West Germany’s anger against the allied power, which would encourage them to move closer to the Communist powers on the other side – Soviet-occupied East Germany.
This apprehension later led the newly formed NATO to push for the rearmament of West Germany. Memories of the destruction caused by Nazi Germany made the USSR and countries around it fearful of the rearmed West Germany. They joined together and signed the Warsaw Pact in 1955.
The Betrayal of NATO
In 1990, the then US Secretary of State, James Baker, promised Gorbachev that if Soviet Russia allowed the free movement of NATO troops inside unified Germany (even inside former East Germany), NATO would promise not to expand eastward.
While NATO and Russia did not sign a treaty to prevent NATO’s Eastward expansion, both parties treated the promise as a moral pact. Unfortunately, however, NATO betrayed Russia and kept on expanding Eastward.
More and More Eastern European Countries Became Part of NATO In The 90s
Countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria – all became part of NATO in the 90s and early 2000s. This eastward expansion of NATO proved to be an existential threat to Russia.
2. Ukraine Was the Last Remaining Buffer Between Russia and NATO
If Ukraine became part of NATO, Russia would lose its territorial leverage and become vulnerable to attack coming via Ukraine. Unlike the eastern part of Russia, Western Russia is easily accessible because of the vast patches of flat terrains in Ukraine. Ukraine, therefore, acts as a shield for Russia. It will be too expensive for Russia if Ukraine becomes part of NATO.
Joe Biden’s Over-eagerness
As per the role of the United States in the Russia Ukraine war, The long history lesson was necessary to provide a context on why Joe Biden’s overeagerness in trying to include Ukraine in NATO was the final straw. In 2021 when Ukraine’s president, Zelensky, demanded a straight Yes or No from Biden regarding Ukraine’s bid to join NATO. While Biden did not say yes, he kept the door open. He talked about solving domestic issues and seeking approval from other allies. This hints at the fact that Biden’s United States is quite interested in expanding NATO eastward by including Ukraine. It was just a matter of time. Time and again, we have seen how NATO did not think about the geopolitical implications while taking countries like Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania – all close to Russia – under its wings.
3. The Smart Foreign Policy Adopted by Donald Trump Kept Russia Happy
Love him or hate him, it is a fact that during the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States had successful relations with problematic countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
During the presidency of Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021, Russia became less and less fearful of further Westernisation of Ukraine. This has been possible only because of the smart strategies employed by Trump.
More than once, Donal Trump praised Putin’s leadership and called him a “strong leader.” Putin reciprocated by calling Trump “a very bright and talented man.” This newfound friendship between the US and Russia did not just stay limited to these superficial exchanges of pleasantries.
Donald Trump made it quite clear that he supported Russia’s stance on Crimea and claimed that the Crimean people were in favour of remaining with Russia. The US president even tried to reverse the sanctions imposed on Russia when the latter invaded Crimea.
In short, Donald Trump created a status quo regarding America’s stance on Ukraine. This assuaged Putin, and he felt no need to launch a full-blown attack on Ukraine. As long as Ukraine remained neutral, the region would remain peaceful – Trump knew this simple truth.
4. Trump’s America Was Moving Away From the Remnants of Cold War Era NATO
NATO is an artefact of the World War era. The modern world order does not fit with the vision of NATO anymore. This is the world where every country needs every country. It’s a brave new world where we are all friends. World Wars are long forgotten. Continuing to hold on to yesteryear’s ideals will keep the old enmity alive.
Donald Trump tried to move America out of this narrow group when he openly stated that he might not adhere to the rules of Article 5 of NATO’s founding document that states NATO countries would defend any other NATO country in the event of an attack on the latter. He further talked about reducing financial assistance to NATO.
Trump’s open disdain for NATO further assured Putin that NATO wouldn’t be expanding Eastwards anytime soon.
The overall foreign policy of the Trump administration focused on normalizing strained relationships between countries. He improved ties between Israel and other Gulf countries like UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan by playing a key role in urging these Gulf countries to sign Abraham Accords. The Middle East, which was historically used by previous US presidents as an opportunity to achieve petty political goals, found in Donald Trump a true ally. Morocco recognized this noble work by Donald Trump by awarding him the highest award– The Order of the Muhammad.
5. Biden, On the Other Hand, Started a Proxy War With Russia By Placing Guns On the Shoulder of Ukraine
One year after the war, the United States and NATO have been giving huge financial and military assistance to Ukraine – not to help Ukraine, but to weaken Russia. However, the urge of Biden to weaken Russia has actually prolonged the war. In 2023, this eagerness of Biden might turn this war into a multi-country war.
Biden’s United States has supplied more than $19 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine since the war started. This is a bad precedent. The United States is so invested in the war that it leaves no room for Putin to back down. As we said in the beginning, it’s the ego of old men that results in war. Biden has put the US in a position where it cannot back away from its promises made to Ukraine. And Putin, too, can’t afford to look weak in front of the US. Hence the war continues.
Over 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers and 7 thousand Ukrainian civilians have died since the war started. On the other hand, Russia lost 5000 soldiers (according to Russian estimates. Western estimates peg the number at 90,000). Will Joe Biden’s aggressive, toxic foreign policy be able to give the mothers their sons back? Will all the rhetoric be able to reunite the dead soldiers with their beloved wives, sons and daughters? Donald Trump, despite all his flaws, promoted peace. And that’s all that matters.