Under the leadership of President Joe Biden, the conflict in Ukraine has rapidly escalated toward a Russian invasion. Such situations always raise what-ifs. What would President Donald Trump do in Ukraine if he were the commander-in-chief today? Would he have acted differently? It seems inevitable his Reaganesque peace through strength doctrine would have taken this developing crisis down a different path.
Syria and Afghanistan
In April 2017, shortly after his inauguration, Trump ordered an attack in Syria as a response to reports of chemical weapons used by the Assad regime. A week later, he ordered the use of the so-called “mother of all bombs” against ISIS in Afghanistan, the most powerful conventional weapon in the U.S. arsenal. Both were spectacular and presented Trump as trigger-happy and willing to use extreme power.
From a military point of view, many argue there was no need for these attacks. However, none can deny the marketing value; both attacks strengthened Trump’s brand as dangerous and unpredictable. If foreign adversaries are afraid, they are more likely to negotiate and respect him — and therefore less likely to initiate offensive action.
Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump continued to exert military strength. In 2020, 45 ordered a drone attack in Iraq that killed Iran’s top commander, Qasem Soleimani. The media called it an “assassination” and predicted an escalation with Iran. No such thing happened. Instead, the former president brokered the Abraham Accords peace treaty between Israel and several Islamic countries.
Trump was roundly criticized for being weak and appeasing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. In public, he repeatedly spoke kind words about the North Korean dictator. Behind the scenes, though, he was pursuing a relentless economic blockade that severely hurt the North Korean economy.
This double communication served a crucial strategic purpose. The embargo told the North Korean regime that Trump meant business, but the public praise gave Kim an honorable exit, a way to save face on the national stage. He could make concessions to the U.S. while still appearing strong domestically. Outward, it would just look like a mutual agreement between good friends for mutual benefits.
Compare and contrast this method to how Biden has acted concerning Russia. He has leveled demands and threats in public while, behind the scenes, he has made feeble military moves. President Vladimir Putin is then left with the choice to obey the United States and look weak or invade Ukraine to save face.
While Trump’s method is designed to funnel the adversary toward a peaceful resolution, Biden’s approach does exactly the opposite.
Peace through Strength
Trump would probably have taken the opposite approach with the Ukraine situation. We would have heard him say phrases like “Putin is a great guy” and “I like him” while placing the most severe economic pressures on Russia behind the scenes. Putin would not only have respected this approach but would also find it a far more predictable manner of dealing with America.
Trump would also have reaped the benefit of sowing fear in two of Russia’s closest allies, China and Iran. However, none of these actions would have brought Trump much recognition in the West. The legacy media would likely have revived their false accusations of Russian collusion – a point which suggests the former president may have been right about enemies much closer to home as well.
~ Read more from Caroline Adana.