Featured Security & defence

Time for American voters to ask some awkward questions

american electio ns
Written by Adrian Hill

Leave aside how Trump is a genuine friend of Britain, admired the Queen, would deport Harry, and might draw up a trade deal with us while slapping tariffs on EU imports. We face the prospect of an American withdrawal from NATO, possibly formally, more likely by Trump leaving a trail of chaos through indifference, inaction and drift.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

John Bolton who was Trump’s National Security Adviser warns we should take his threat seriously. A former US Ambassador to NATO warns that legal measures to stop Trump abandoning NATO are unlikely to have much impact. Trump pulled out of the World Health Organisation last time and Biden had to rejoin. Trump claims he respects the world weariness of America’s voters yet polls show the majority of Americans value their membership of NATO.

Putin is desperate to gain a breathing space after ten years of war since he invaded Ukraine and occupied Crimea followed by the last two years of intensive industrial scale fighting. He’s lost half his tanks and armoured infantry carriers, had to seek help from Iran and North Korea to replace drones, missiles and artillery rounds. At sea, in the air and space, on the ground NATO is the most powerful alliance on the planet. European political weakness helps Putin but his best ally remains Donald Trump – whose influence on the Republican Party in Congress is directly responsible for the Ukrainians withdrawal from Avdiivka. They simply ran out of ammunition for ground operations and air defence.

Russia’s hackers put out lots of false stories – defeated and disorganised Ukrainian troops flee from the battlefield and suffer heavy losses in the process. The Institute for the Study of War ( ISW ) in Washington DC has seen no evidence of such incidents. In fact the evidence showed an orderly withdrawal to newly constructed defensive lines followed by general slackening of Russian activity. ISW decline to give details because they want to protect Ukrainian security. After occupying the town ruins Russia’s army now tries to build up the pace and pressure. Whether they succeed is another matter.

American voters should be wary of allowing Trump to make life easier for Putin who gambled 47,000 soldiers killed and wounded for capturing a deserted, ruined city, population 30,000 before it became a battlefield. Trump’s latest gaffe about NATO may even have emboldened Putin to murder Alexei Navalny. Putin surrounds himself with people who say yes – he doesn’t like people who say no, that’s why he murders political opponents. On the 1 March thousands of courageous people lined the street to the church where Navalny’s parents laid him to rest. I am no Russian expert and perhaps plain clothes security people were among the crowd taking photos, but all those people show that opposition to Putin has the seeds of a much stronger movement. To me it looked a huge victory for Navalny’s redoubtable mother and a significant part of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are both aging draft dodgers who let other young people fight the Vietnam War. I don’t know Joe Biden or Trump, but most of the Americans I knew in Vietnam became friends for life. Joe Biden is dangerously cautious. Trump is dangerously self-centred, a street trader not a thinker, with a big opinion of himself and armed with a belief that his winning a Presidential campaign is more important than victory and safety for 37 million Ukrainians. According to the Washington Post, Congress neared a deal over the package of help for Ukraine – until Trump warned the Republicans that he wants to use the Mexican border situation against Joe Biden’s campaign.

General Ben Hodges, former US commander in Europe, describes Trump as strategically illiterate. Europe, reminds Hodges, provides the United States with almost three-hundred bases which allow American forces easy and reliable access to Europe itself, North Africa, the Middle East and Indian Ocean. These bases are not simply defending German taxpayers’ lives and property. They support American foreign policy for Americans.

There are red lights warning of trouble ahead. Hungary’s Victor Orban after a recent visit to Trump, says the former president told him that if elected again in November, he will not send a penny to Ukraine. The British media either missed or do not understand the significance of the most recent glaring red light – the retirement of Victoria Nuland a few days ago from the State Department. She was their top European specialist.

She has done many jobs – Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary during Bill Clinton’s time, Assistant National Security Adviser to Dick Cheney, Ambassador to NATO, State Department Spokeswoman during Obama’s time, lead official on European and Eurasian Affairs. She saw the Ukraine invasion coming and designed the support for Ukraine from the Maidan Uprising onwards, later the support for Georgia and Moldavia. She resigned during Trump’s first administration along with many other career diplomats because of the dysfunction and drift towards isolationism. Joe Biden and Anthony Blinken persuaded her to come back as Blinken’s deputy. Her assessment may mirror mine – Trump will turn the clock back a hundred years. From now onward beware the EU morphing into a new imperial Germany and making deals with a new imperial Russia. And the only sanction will be a weekend on the golf links with Donald.

During Trump’s recent GB News interview , Nigel Farage asked him would the U.S. defend NATO allies if they started to “pay their bills properly,” and Trump said, “Yes. But the United States should pay its fair share, not everybody else’s fair share.”

“So if they start to play fair, America’s there?” asked Farage.

“Yes. 100 percent,” Trump replied.

While Trump has a point about allies riding on America’s back it’s better said in private. By posturing for public approval he sends a very dangerous signal to Russia, China and several other countries run by various breeds of dictator.

Nor does Trump grasp the big picture. He also told Nigel Farage that having an ocean between America and Europe was a very comfortable position. Well, that didn’t work on 9/11 and all those allies with bases in Europe and the Middle East provided a vast launching pad for hunting down Bin Laden.

How Trump imagines Americans will become safer if Putin occupies Ukraine is beyond my powers of reason.

I would add only that Brexit makes the Special Relationship work better – while Europe talks the US Navy and Royal Navy with the RAF from Cyprus are doing something about Iran’s clients attacking ships going about their lawful business. Egypt loses huge revenues in foreign exchange when ships avoid the Red Sea and Suez Canal. At some point we may have to remove or jam that Iranian spy ship passing information to the Houthis on shore. I rather doubt that we’ll see any warship from an EU country join in.

Make the EU pay for its own defence is a wonderful slogan but will ‘ never happen ’ as we used to say during the Vietnam War. Actually I blame the Democratic Party establishment for a foolish belief that the EU can be trusted with the defence of Europe. Instead the EU will appease Russia. They want to have that cheap gas again. Germany wants to end a recession that’s lasted two years already. France has been miserly with military help. Ukraine is a problem that’s only going to cost more and more money.

We should be careful, and keep our distance from the EU. Fortunately most of our economy is involved with trade beyond Europe. Our task is to grow our global trade so that Europe becomes a much smaller portion of the whole. The Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance guards the safest path through our treacherous time. We must stay wary of Trump and his isolationist Republican Party pulling out of the Five Eyes as well. Putin won’t threaten the EU because they pay for his wars through buying his gas and sell him technical parts that are sanctioned. Rumour claims he keeps a second family in Switzerland where rich Russians have lots of property and cash stashed away. We, however, are trouble for Putin and his cronies, therefore as they keep reminding us, a nuclear target. Presently America’s bases in Britain deter Putin almost as much as our deterrent submarines. If Trump closes America’s bases when he quits NATO, instantly we become more vulnerable.

These are matters that America voters should be asking awkward questions about .  So should we.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Adrian Hill