How Biden could prevent another Russia-Ukraine type war with a Trump model of deterrence

How Trump policy may have prevented the Russia-Ukraine war

Historian Victor Davis Hanson on how Biden could have avoided various quandaries in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on ‘The Ben Domenech Podcast.’

Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson explains how the Biden administration could have avoided the various quandaries it has encountered in its handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on a new episode of “The Ben Domenech Podcast” on Fox News Audio.

VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: I think we were getting there with Trump. For all of his excesses – the people who were around him, his national security advisers and people who were advising him – I think he did get to a Jacksonian common ground. And by that, I think it’s similar to what you and I were talking about, and that is, you create deterrence abroad, and you don’t screw with the United States.

Whether that’s taking out Baghdadi, who is responsible for killing U.S. people, or your 200 Russian mercenaries, and you attack an American installation in what is now the Wagner Group, you’re going to get rid of them, or whether it’s Soleimani, who has caused so much mayhem. But you’re not going to get on an expeditionary, optional, huge military engagement or even something like Libya. Trump did not want to go in and create a no-fly zone between Turkey and Kurdistan. And the never-Trump right went crazy, they didn’t want to do that, but that was wise. 

And so we were kind of saying, “no better friend, no worse enemy.” But we weren’t going to try to remake the world in our own image. And that sometimes meant to North Korea, if you want to talk crazy stuff, we can talk crazy stuff, and we’ve got a lot better deterrent against you than you do against us. 

And so for that four-year period, we did some pretty Jacksonian things – I mean, going and taking out a lot of bad people. But you know, we destroyed ISIS, and we backed North Korea into a corner. Yet we moved the embassy to Jerusalem, we said that Golan Heights are not going back. But if it wasn’t for the hysteria over the Russian collusion hoax, the Alfa Bank hoax, the laptop hoax, I think Trump would have had more latitude still. 

But he was getting to a point, in the art of the deal style, where he was back to the Kissinger formula that China will never be a better friend of Russia than it will be to us. And the same was true of Russia – it won’t be a better friend of China than it is to us. And within that triangulation, you have a sense of stability. The only thing that has changed now is that Russia’s the weaker of the three rather than China.

Russia has a lot of national interests that are not the same as China. They have a border. They’ve had problems in the past and China vis-a-vis – and it seems to me that we really just handed over that Russian card, a realist card, to play against China. We shouldn’t have done that. In terms of existential threats, obviously short-term Russia is scaring everybody because they’ve got all this oil and the oil price is high, and they’ve got all these nukes, and they’re talking promiscuously about using them. But long term, it’s China, and that’s right.

Former President Trump and President Biden
(Getty Images)

What we do in Ukraine and vis-a-vis Russia at this late date, how we got here, I think, will be a discussion because it could have been prevented had we armed the Ukrainians with Javelins much earlier, so they had maybe 20,000 anti-tank weapons and SAMs rather than, you know, 500 or 600 the first day of the war. Had we pumped oil and kept it up to 13 or even gone up to 14 or 15 million barrels, we wouldn’t have been in this situation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool
(REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool)

Nevertheless, I think, if we can deter Russia – and that means that he {Putin] doesn’t take most of Ukraine and he pays a big price – then I think China will – they’re already hedging a little bit. If you look at their communiques, they thought this was the blueprint for Taiwan, and they would be legitimized by the world. So when they did it to Taiwan, it would be just as easy and nobody would complain. Now they’re thinking second thoughts, I think. What if the Taiwanese fought like the Ukrainians. What if they parachuted, Javelins, SAMs and stingers in there? What if they did these sanctions on us? 

Like, what if these Europeans that were our puppets, what if they got on their hind legs and reacted toward us? And so what if we lost 380,00 students in the United States and they all had to be sent home?

So I think that you can start to see the formulation of what we can do if we have somebody there that knows what he’s doing. Unfortunately, we don’t. 

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