Donald Trump has devoted much of his last week to rewriting history when it comes to his relationship with Russia, Ukraine, and NATO. Among other things, the former president has claimed that Vladimir Putin “never would have” invaded Ukraine on his watch; that there “would be no NATO” if it wasn‘t for him; and that he generously armed Ukraine “when the previous administration was sending blankets.” These statements, of course, are lies. When it comes to NATO, Trump had to be convinced not to destroy the organization. With regard to Ukraine, the former president conveniently leaves out the part about how he famously tried to extort the country and make U.S. aid conditional on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy agreeing to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
As for the idea that Trump was so tough on Russia that Putin feared him, and wouldn’t have dared to attack Ukraine if the 45th president had gotten a second term, well, please enjoy this exchange between former Trump administration official John Bolton and Newsmax on Tuesday morning:
Newsmax: There is something to be said though, about the simple fact that there was not aggression during the four years. I mean, you were part of that administration as well, and there was not aggression from Russia and they waited him out, it seems, and made a move. I mean, we have a list of things, the Brookings Institution says that the “Trump administration implemented 52 policy actions against Russia,” was pretty tough on Russia in a lot of ways. Forcing NATO members to pay up; as we know, sanctioning Nord Stream 2; oligarchs close to Putin were sanctioned; selling anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, so arming Ukraine; withdrawing from the INF treaty; and expelling Russian officers from this country as well. In 2018, he looked NATO members in the eye and talked about the reliance on Russian energy by Europe and how horrible that was. I mean, he took a very tough stance against Russia. I’m surprised you don’t think that he would’ve handled this better than Joe Biden.
Bolton: No, he did not. He did not. We didn’t sanction Nord Stream 2…we should have, we should have brought the project to an end. We did impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs and several others because of their sales of S-400 antiaircraft systems to other countries. But in almost every case, the sanctions were imposed with Trump complaining about it saying we were being too hard. The fact is that he barely knew where Ukraine was. He once asked John Kelly, his second chief of staff, if Finland were a part of Russia. It is just not accurate to say that Trump’s behavior somehow deterred the Russians. I think the evidence is that Russia didn’t feel that their military was ready.
For those of you who prefer CliffsNotes, the takeaways here are that:
(1) Any sanctions that were placed on Russians during Trump‘s time in office were in spite of Trump, who thought they were too mean
(2) Russia didn’t not invade Ukraine while Trump was in office because it was scared of him but because it wasn’t ready—meaning it might very well have done so in Trump’s second term
(3) Trump is a village idiot who couldn‘t find Ukraine on a map. (Which reminds us of the time his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was said to have lashed out at a veteran reporter for daring to ask a question about the country amidst the first impeachment trial, suggested that she couldn’t find Ukraine on a map and then had his staff bring one in so she could prove it. Which she did, because she’s smarter than your average 45th president.)
(4) Trump—and here we’re just going to quote Bolton because it bears repeating—once asked “if Finland were a part of Russia.”
But hey, if Trump literally not knowing that Finland is its own country doesn’t drive home the point that he would have let Putin take Ukraine no questions asked, please note that just this past weekend, he was praising Putin’s savvy and calling the U.S. a “stupid country.” And when he was in office?