What Donald Trump’s Ukraine Strategy Could Look Like

This article originally appeared in The National Interest on December 20, 2023.

Donald Trump has vowed that in a second presidential term, he would end the war in Ukraine “in twenty-four hours.” Mainstream analysts have dismissed the president’s statements as hyperbole, but there is a strong possibility that Trump will be back in the Oval Office in just over a year’s time. Foreign policy experts, therefore, should take the former President’s statements seriously and assess how a Trump administration might deal with the largest conflict in Europe since World War II.

Let us start by recognizing that Biden’s Ukraine strategy leaves much room for improvement. His weaknesses encouraged Putin to launch the invasion in the first place. Biden’s own Supreme Allied Commander in Europe assessed that Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan led to Putin’s decision to re-attack Ukraine. Biden’s feeble attempts at “integrated deterrence,” threatening sanctions and aid to Ukraine, failed in their intended purpose of deterring Putin’s aggression.

Putin invaded Ukraine under both Obama and Biden, but he did not attack while Trump was president. Trump has stated that the Russia-Ukraine war would “never have happened” under his watch.

Following Putin’s invasion, Biden pursued an overly cautious wartime strategy. Instead of clearly defining a goal of victory, Biden vowed to help Ukraine “as long as it takes.” But this only raises the question: as long as it takes to do what? Biden should have provided Ukraine with the weapons it needed to win quickly, but instead, he was afraid of potential Russian “escalation” and provided a cautious IV-drip of arms. Biden opposed providing many major weapons systems, like tanks, aircraft, and long-range artillery before changing his mind. The result is that Ukraine has had enough weapons to fight but not enough to win.

Biden’s revealed wartime strategy was to spend billions of dollars only to produce a bloody and inconclusive stalemate.

Read full op-ed in The National Interest

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