Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Politics

A Donald Trump Comeback: What That Means for the Ukraine War

Donald Trump
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Image by: Gage Skidmore.

In two weeks Americans will go to the polls with control of both houses of Congress at stake. A victory by the GOP would undoubtedly have an impact on U.S. foreign policy, but the election isn’t the only shadow looming over the Biden administration’s international ambitions. Former President Donald Trump remains a major force within American politics, even as he faces serious legal jeopardy on a number of fronts. Here’s how that might affect U.S. foreign policy, especially toward Ukraine and Russia.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona back in 2016. Credit: Gage Skidmore.

Congress After the November Elections

The Democrats probably won’t keep both houses of Congress after November, and may not even control one. This probably won’t matter much for US foreign policy. Even if the GOP takes control of both houses, internal fractures in the Republican coalition will likely work in favor of continued support for Ukraine. “Restraint” with respect to the Russia-Ukraine War isn’t obviously even a majority position in the GOP Congressional delegations, and the levers of power will be controlled by leaders who remain broadly sympathetic to Kyiv. Presumed Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy will need to navigate a House GOP caucus with a significant MAGA component, and he has already promised to review Ukraine aid. But MAGA-affiliated Republicans will not command a majority of the House GOP, and will have no more than a few votes in the Senate. This would be far from enough to prevent Biden from pursuing his preferred policy towards the war.

The fact is that the U.S. Presidency has a vast number of tools to implement foreign policy with only limited input from Congress. The executive branch has enormous latitude over the defense budget and to a great degree over arms transfers, making it difficult for Congress to have an impact simply through lack of acquiescence. While Presidents tend to whine a great deal about the need for unity in the face of foreign challenges, in practice even serious political scandals in the United States do not seem to have much impact on the ability of the U.S. government to pursue its international objectives. Finally, Presidents often shift their effort to foreign policy after losing control of the levers of Congress. When domestic victories become impossible, foreign glories beckon. In this context, Biden would have both the tools of power and the incentive to use them.

The Donald Trump Effect: Ukraine and Beyond

Former President Donald Trump looms over the foreign policy conversation. Trump’s foreign policy still stands at odds with much of the GOP, and the differences are consequential for what the foreign policy of the next Republican President might look like. Trump was uniquely friendly with foreign autocrats (including Russian President Vladimir Putin), and it’s unclear that even a non-Trump “MAGA” candidate could develop the same appeal and rapport. The prospect of Trump serving another term as President would throw the politics of NATO engagement with Ukraine in question, as well as the status of any negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow. Russia might be tempted to try to tough it out for Trump’s return, when it could hope to get a better deal. Ukraine would face the opposite problem. At the same time, there are reasons to believe that Trump is a uniquely weak general election candidate, making it difficult for the world to know what to expect from the United States.

But Trump has other problems, and those problems could play out before the end of the Russia-Ukraine War. Whether or not the GOP takes control of Congress, former President Donald Trump could well be indicted on a variety of state and federal charges. A successful prosecution could potentially eliminate Trump as a 2024 contender for the Presidency. The Department of Justice has approached Trump with extraordinary care, in to deflect charges of partisan witch-hunting, and in part out of concern about violence from Trump supporters across the country. If the latter manifests to any serious degree, it could have an impact on how foreign leaders perceive the stability of the United States. And if Trump escapes prosecution and survives as a plausible candidate, everything is on the table.

What Happens Next? 

In some ways, we have found ourselves in an odd moment of elite foreign policy consensus. U.S. troops are no longer in Afghanistan, and the presence of small contingents in Syria and Iraq has not become a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans have roughly analogous views of the threat from China, with the only differences involving tactics and the level of commitment to antagonism. There remain significant differences in immigration, but this has become more of a domestic than a foreign policy issue. There’s not much reason to turn foreign policy into a campaign issue, and for the most part candidates haven’t.

That could easily change in 2024. Prior to 2016 many simply did not believe that Trump would try to upend as much of the foreign policy consensus as he could. The system held, but might not do so in a future term. Much will depend on the elections, and much on whether Trump suffers irreparable damage before 2024.

A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Written By

Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. 403Forbidden

    October 24, 2022 at 8:52 am

    If trump makes a comeback (fat chance though), the dark veil or dark shadow cast over ukraine by biden & democratisch fascismo figureheads will get lifted and humans can then breathe a sigh of relief.

    Otherwise, people need to prepare for ww3, ensuing chaos and runaway inflation, and shortages of essential items and heating fuel.

    Someone needs to wipe away the dark evil cloud that now hovers over europe, otherwise nuclear war is extremely inevitable or unavoidable.

  2. GhostTomahawk

    October 24, 2022 at 10:31 am

    Trump was not friendly to Putin. Want to know who was friendly? Obama. Bush. Trump sanctioned Putin and stopped his pipeline from being built. Who restarted the pipeline for Putin (and then blew it up) Biden. Stop being a schill for the establishment war machine.

    We arent in Ukraine for democracy. The western globalist with the Biden puppet only want to help Ukraine because it contains the lithium they need for their green energy scam they’re all invested in and the dirty bio labs they’re funding. The GOP warmongers are wanting to help because that leads to more weapons purchases from the arms manufacturers that are in their pockets.

    Proxy wars need to be outlawed. If the offense is so egregious to lead to the spending of hundreds of billions, death and the destruction of the European economy SEND TROOPS OR SHOVE OFF.

  3. John

    October 24, 2022 at 2:11 pm

    Given his narcistic personality DT will not run in 2024.
    He could not mentally survive another loss.

  4. Yrral

    October 24, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    MAGA Indictment Google Trump Organization Trial

  5. Tamerlane

    October 24, 2022 at 6:03 pm

    I think a second term would mean a restoration of traditional American foreign policy of avoiding nation-building regime change wars of choice (aka restoring non-intervention and benighted benevolent example leading the free world). This would be bad news bears for the chickenhawks and their never ending series of wars demanding American intervention. All in all, it’d be a positive step for our republic and would strengthen our position globally.

  6. TheDon

    October 24, 2022 at 8:23 pm

    Bidens admin is supporting Ukraine who is decimating Russia without our troop involvement. The Ukrainians show the US doesnt need to send troops, what many countries havent done in the past.

    Don’t vote for Trump.
    I did 1st election.
    He’s always right,doesnt listen. Same problem got Putin where he is.

    On this one I recommend 4 more Biden years. It takes coordination of countries, something Trump lacked.

  7. Mike

    October 25, 2022 at 2:30 am

    If DJT comes back to power – The corruption in Ukraine, quid pro Joe and Burisma fraud will be finally investigated and perpetrators of the crime Biden and Clinton family will be prosecuted.

  8. WhiskeyDelta

    October 25, 2022 at 8:35 am

    Wow, another Trump hater.

  9. Hal

    October 25, 2022 at 9:26 am

    Another anti-Trump liberal writer.

  10. Brian

    October 25, 2022 at 9:47 am

    Armchair quarterbacking at its very best! Barely worth reading let alone reading to the end. See you in 2024. I’d stock up on ketchup to make that bowl of crow go down a little easier.

  11. My Name Here

    October 25, 2022 at 1:34 pm

    All theory I remember reading an article that said if Trump was elected we would have WWIII because of this and that etc.

  12. iGreg

    October 25, 2022 at 4:04 pm

    Weird article. TRUMP is going run. TRUMP will then win a second term. To hell with the corrupted federal judicial and law enforcement system. Nothing the federal courts or FBI does means anything to me. I do not trust either political party’s leadership establishment, whereas I do trust TRUMP. The USA has NO vital interest in who rules Ukraine, it is not worth a single American’s life.

  13. Ezra Teter

    October 25, 2022 at 8:27 pm

    I don’t like Trump at all but the only reason I would consider voting for him is PRECISELY BECAUSE OF his policy positions on the proxy war in Ukraine.

  14. Lsi

    October 26, 2022 at 6:33 am

    Trump will run again and will win again as he did in 2016 and 2020. His 2024 victory will not be stolen and we will subsequently let Europe handle the Ukraine situation as we should have from the beginning. Ukraine is not a democracy, not a NATO member, and not our problem. It is a convenient pork barrel for all of the corrupt uniparty pols to launder money. Thousands of Washington swamp dwellers live off of the Ukraine grift. Biden family gets millions, number one donor to the Clinton initiative was the Ukraine, Romney’s son, John Kerry’ step son, ad infinitum. Trump will prevail in the end.

  15. CrenshawRules

    November 1, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    Farley remains the best columnist on this website. Look forward to his articles every week.

    Look at the whining in these comments. Utterly delightful. They aren’t getting their spoonfed echo chamber from exactly 1 columnist on 1 website and they’re losing their minds.

  16. Randy131

    November 7, 2022 at 6:40 am

    [“There’s not much reason to turn foreign policy into a campaign issue, and for the most part candidates haven’t.”]

    Not true, Obama told the American people that he selected Joe Biden to be his running mate because of Joe Biden’s foreign policy experience, since Obama had none. I believe Obama was lying when he said that because I believe he selected Joe Biden because Joe Biden was a low IQ individual and would not be smart enough to challenge Obama on any of Obama’s terrible decisions, policies, and agendas for the USA and the American people, but would be more like a stringed dummy that Obama could easily manipulate.

    President Trump makes friends with everyone, especially his adversarial opponents, to disarm then and then take the attitude in front of them that Teddy Roosevelt projected to his foreign adversaries, walk softly but carry a big stick, and President Trump lets his adversaries know that nobody has a bigger stick than he has, as he once told North Korea’s Kim Il Un that he (the USA) had a nuclear red button too, but his was bigger than Kim’s, and his (the USA’s) worked. Intelligent and smart, too bad other Presidents don’t understand how to do that.

    When Syria crossed Obama’s “Red Line”, unlike Obama, President Trump took action and used cruise missiles to completely destroy a Syrian airbase that the Russians were using to deliver the poison gasses from on the Syrian people who were fighting against Assad’s regime, and President Trump warned Russia that he was going to do this, and if they wanted to save the lives of the Russians at that base, they had but a few hours to remove them from there, and President then did what he told the Russians that he was going to do.

    The Russians, wanting to get back at President Trump, sent their people to destroy a battalion of Kurds led by American military that were fighting against ISIS in Syra, and the Russians were destroyed and those left alive after their retreat told Putin that they got their asses kicked by the Americans, when we were just leading the Kurds’ forces and showing them how to fight. needless to say the Russians never did that again to the Kurds, even to this day.

    All this showed Putin that President Trump does what he says, and has the big stick to accomplish whatever he says he’s going to do, and is why Putin never attacked Ukraine after taking the Crimea when Obama was President, while President Trump was in office. This is a terrible hit-piece against President Trump, a great President, by someone who is a liberal Democrats and suffers from TSD.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Advertisement