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Donald Trump: The Reason Putin Invaded Ukraine?

Donald Trump. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
President Donald J. Trump is joined by Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, left; Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley, right, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, in the Situation Room of the White House monitoring developments as U.S. Special Operations forces close in on notorious ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s compound in Syria with a mission to kill or capture the terrorist. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

MSNBC journalist Ali Velshi has a quick piece blaming former President Donald Trump for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Velshi’s argument: when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Donald Trump for US military aid, Trump said he could help, but that he would need a favor first.

And in conditioning support upon a favor, Donald Trump “chose to try and leverage the situation for his own personal gain” and ultimately, “the freezing of US military aid and a shakedown by the President of the United States cost Zelenskyy in terms of power, respect and his authority against Vladimir Putin” and “Russia saw the undermining of Zelenskyy as an opportunity to invade, because Ukraine didn’t appear to have the universal backing of the United States. And that’s on Donald Trump.”

Blaming Trump for anything, at any time, for any reason, has long been fashionable.

It’s almost like a liberal game – how can we blame Trump for X.

Only the longer the game is played the more outlandish X becomes (and the more difficult the blame game becomes). 

You can blame Donald Trump, just do it the right way

The sick part is that Velshi could craft a coherent argument to peg Trump with a portion of the blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

That coherent argument would look something like this: Trump’s administration aggressively balanced against Russia, to the detriment of US interests and to the detriment of Ukrainian security. Donald Trump consistently strengthened sanctions against Russia; Trump opposed the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline; Trump approved the sale of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. Trump then increased troop levels in Eastern Europe; Trump pulled the US out of the INF and chose not to extend START; Trump launched missile strikes against Russia’s Middle Eastern satellite, Syria – all the while antagonizing Russia, making them feel less secure, and increasing the likelihood that they would lash out at their neighbor (i.e., Ukraine). 

However, that argument would conflict with one of liberal America’s sacred narratives: Donald Trump is soft on Russia – so soft that he may even be a Russian puppet; probably because Putin has dirt on Trump and has been able to blackmail him. But Velshi wouldn’t dare conflict with that narrative. So instead, he leans into the liberal-approved narrative about Trump using US military aid as leverage for personal gain – the narrative that led to a failed impeachment of Trump. That’s safe territory, so Velshi leans in and crafts an argument so remarkably simple that it is hardly sensible.

For whether Trump deserves blame or not, the Russo-Ukraine War is a much bigger, more complicated issue than Velshi offers. But that’s one of the primary trends – and primary downfalls – in modern liberal discourse. Everything is Trump all the time.

A multi-generational tension in Eastern Europe boils over into conflict. Blame Trump. I don’t really appreciate being put in the position to publicly defend Trump, who I believe in my heart is an idiot, but the stuff Velshi is spewing needs to be refuted. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine goes way beyond Trump. Sensible observers, like George Kennan and Noam Chomsky, have been warning since the 1990s that NATO’s eastward expansion would antagonize Russia into action. That’s a trend that began during the Clinton administration.

Velshi might want to include that in his analysis of how the situation in Ukraine unfolded.

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.