Espreso. Global

Trump delays Ukraine aid, aims to cast himself as "savior". Vitaly Portnikov's column

28 February, 2024 Wednesday

In a calculated move, Trump is intentionally slowing down aid to Ukraine, waiting for the situation to worsen, ensuring no opposition in Kyiv to his dealings with Putin

"This is a moment where an individual can reshape history," remarked Jake Sullivan, the United States National Security Advisor, following discussions with House Speaker Mike Johnson. Sullivan emphasized that a bill providing aid to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia could garner bipartisan support if Johnson brings it to a vote. However, the fate of this crucial bill rests on the Speaker's willingness to act.

Expectations for clarity on the situation heightened with the meeting between President Joseph Biden and Congressional leaders. However, despite progress in averting a government shutdown, opinions on providing aid to Ukraine remained divided among American media. Following the president's urging for swift support to avoid severe consequences, disparities in approaches to the issue surfaced again. While President Biden and Democratic leaders stressed the urgency of aiding Ukraine, Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson outlined his current priorities for the House's future actions.

The speaker's top priority is managing the budget and implementing measures to prevent the closure of federal agencies. The second key focus is ensuring security on the US-Mexico border.

It's worth noting that, disguised as a concern for border security, Republicans obstructed the approval of aid for Ukraine and Israel. They suggested bundling these decisions into a bipartisan agreement in Congress. However, when an accord was reached between Republicans and Democrats specifically on the border issue, Republicans unexpectedly abandoned the comprehensive deal. They proposed voting on each issue separately, resulting in a successful Senate vote for aid to Ukraine and effectively blocking a similar vote in the House of Representatives.

Mike Johnson has labeled the talks about aid to Ukraine as the third priority in the House of Representatives' agenda. I stress that he mentioned a discussion, not a solution, indicating that it may not take precedence in the coming weeks. The lack of consensus between Republicans and Democrats on the top two issues adds to the complexity. The hope is that Republicans won't resort to a complete federal agency shutdown but will find compromises with Democrats to avert this critical situation.

So, what's really happening here?

In reality, Mike Johnson seems to be intentionally delaying discussions, likely to preserve his political standing and align with the growing influence of former President Donald Trump within the Republican party.

Trump secured victory in the South Carolina primary, as anticipated. However, every Republican vote in his favor creates unease among lawmakers who worry about the potential repercussions on their political careers. They fear that any criticism from Trump, who is eyeing a return to the White House, could be detrimental. Now, with Trump poised to win the Michigan primary as well, the concern among Republican congressmen and senators is escalating rapidly. They increasingly feel the need to align with Trump to safeguard their political standing.

What's Trump's objective? He wants a clear path for his political agenda, firmly rooted in his own vision. Perhaps he genuinely believes that, as president, he can negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ex-president of the United States has consistently shown sympathy for autocratic rulers, a trend evident throughout his tenure in the White House. Trump actively sought meetings with Putin, engaged in seemingly pointless conversations with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and failed to recognize that his foreign policy pursuits resulted in a regrettable failure. Now that the power dynamics have shifted, with Donald Trump exerting influence over the Republican Party rather than the other way around, he has essentially taken ownership of the party for personal gain. In this new position, the former president is likely to act more openly and confidently. He seems unconcerned about the opinions of pro-Ukraine Republicans regarding any potential dealings with the Russian leader.

Trump recognizes the importance of facing minimal opposition to execute his agenda. So when he assumes the presidency, Ukraine is in a dire situation, and then he will position himself as Ukraine's savior from Russia's attempt to annex the country.

To play this role effectively, Trump needs assurance that Kyiv won't object to agreements between him and Putin. Consequently, he'll withhold aid until he's confident in Kyiv's compliance, leveraging his considerable political power for strategic delays.

This program is bound to fail: if Trump becomes the US president, it'll be another political disaster, costly for Ukraine. Putin won't make a deal with Trump; he'll manipulate him, drawing on his political savvy as a former KGB officer. Trump will take offense, escalating the crisis from a Russian-Ukrainian war into a broader US-Russia confrontation, where two egotistical leaders vie to assert their importance on the world stage.

So, if Trump wins the US presidency in 2025, it might usher in a significant and brutal war. The only uncertainty lies in Ukraine's role in this conflict.


About the author. Vitaly Portnikov, journalist, Shevchenko National Prize laureate 

The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.

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