Ukraine’s War: Let’s Hope Trump Wins

When three weeks ago French President Emmanuel Macron said he refused to rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine, his words stood in stark contrast to both the European and American “red line” when it comes to putting boots on the ground in that country. As a matter of fact, several NATO countries, including the U.S., Germany and the UK, were quick to rule out that hypothesis. The "path to victory" is providing military aid "so Ukrainian troops have the weapons and ammunition they need to defend themselves," a White House statement said. Analogously, German chancellor Olaf Scholz, UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman, and the office of Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni reiterated the agreed commitment to supporting Ukraine without including the presence of troops from European or NATO states on Ukrainian territory.

Since then things haven’t changed that much, except that the awareness that the risk of plunging the world into the Third World War has increased. This is especially thanks to three factors. The first is the so-called Weimar Triangle. “Today we agreed on a number of priorities, including the immediate procurement of even more weapons for Ukraine on the entire world market,” announced Scholz at the end of a summit meeting, held on March 15, with the French president and the Polish prime minister Donald Tusk referring to the launch of “a coalition of Ukraine’s allies for long-range weapons.”

 The second factor is the insistence with which Macron reiterates his position.  “Maybe at some point -- I don't want it, I won't take the initiative -- we will have to have operations on the ground, whatever they may be, to counter the Russian forces,” the French president told newspaper Le Parisien in an interview on Friday.

The third factor is the myopia with which NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg keeps repeating mantras such as “Ukraine will join NATO. It is not a question of if, but of when,” or  influential experts such as former NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder are reiterating their calls to bring Ukraine into NATO sooner rather than later. Echoing a fairly widespread belief, Stoltenberg says that Russian President Vladimir Putin “started this war because he wanted to close NATO’s door... but he has achieved the exact opposite: Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before.” Yet, the major premise of the syllogism is misleading, since while it correctly assumes that one event (Putin’s will to close NATO’s door to Ukraine) caused another (Russia-Ukraine war), it seems to erroneously take for granted something which is in reality not so -- that  Ukraine’s entry into NATO  is in itself a good thing, regardless of the context and consequences.

Who cares if NATO expansion eastward is seen by Russians as directed against their country? Actually, only the unwary can imagine that the prospect of Ukraine’s entry into NATO wouldn’t escalate tensions with Russia, potentially leading to further conflict or instability in the region. Putin has been clear for many years that if continued, the expansion would likely be met with serious resistance by Russia. Among Western observers, Biden’s CIA director, William J. Burns, has been warning about the provocative effect of NATO expansion on Russia since 1995. But even apart from all this, there are sound reasons why NATO should not accept Ukraine -- for Ukraine’s sake. Bringing Ukraine into NATO now “is a bad idea” that will prolong the war and leave Kyiv in an even worse position over time, writes Stephen M. Walt, the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International relations at Harvard University. Membership now will only prolong the war: 

“If I’m correct that Moscow attacked in good part to prevent Kyiv from joining NATO, then bringing Ukraine in now will simply prolong a war that the country is presently losing. If that’s why Putin launched his ‘special military operation,’ he’s not likely to end it if his forces are doing decently well and Ukrainian accession to NATO is still on the table. The result is that Ukraine will sustain even more damage, conceivably putting its own long-term future at risk. Ukraine was one of the most rapidly depopulating countries in Europe before the war began, and the effects of the fighting (fleeing refugees, declining fertility, battlefield deaths, etc.) will make this problem worse.”

Add to this that the country does not sufficiently meet the requirements for membership. Still a fragile democracy at best, corruption is endemic and structural, elections have been suspended since the beginning of the war, and there are still influential elements in Ukrainian society whose commitment to democratic norms is questionable. For these and other reasons, the Economist Democracy Index rated the country a “hybrid regime” last year.

In short, the scenario is that of a western world in the grip of a strange obsession arising from a misunderstanding, whereby we are confronted with the possibility of WW III without there being any good reason for it.

 Donald Trump offers an alternative. He “will not give a penny” to Ukraine if he is re-elected U.S. President, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said after a meeting with Trump in Florida. This would be the first great step towards the attainment of peace, because it is obvious that Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet. “If the Americans don’t give money and weapons, along with the Europeans, the war is over. And if the Americans don’t give money, the Europeans alone can’t finance this war. And then the war is over,” said Orbàn. Furthermore, according to the Hungarian President, Trump has a “detailed plan” to end the Ukraine war. All of our hopes for peace in that part of the world are entrusted to that plan.

Samuel Robert Piccoli is a blogger and the author of the books Being Conservative from A to Z (2014) and Blessed Are the Free in Spirit (2021). He lives in the Venice area.

Image: Office of the President of Ukraine

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