Trump paradox. Can the ex-president of the United States return and replay everything
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English Prospect

Trump paradox. Can the ex-president of the United States return and replay everything

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Text by Mikhail Shevchuk

Translation by Vladimir Kolosov

As fighting continues in the Donbass and Southern Ukraine, while Vladimir Putin diagnoses Western society, Donald Trump appears to be preparing to return to the political stage. «I don’t know what can keep me from participating in the 2024 presidential race,» he said the day before.

The next US presidential election is still two years away, but for more than a year Americans have been worried that the ex-president might again take part in them. The previous two times ended in grandiose scandals — the first, when Trump won, the Democrats decided that Moscow was helping him, and for the next four years they enthusiastically searched for traces of Russian influence in his campaign. Then, when Trump failed to win re-election, his supporters stormed the Capitol. The investigation into these events is still ongoing.

In recent months, Donald Trump himself hinted several times that he would try to return. But he has not made unequivocal statements in this regard.

And a lot still depends on who becomes the President of the United States. For example, the US President may or may not provide military assistance to some other country. Or he may even try to make sure that such an attack does not even happen. In 2019, Trump froze military aid to Ukraine — allegedly, in order to force Kyiv to launch an investigation against Joe Biden’s son.

However, Joseph Biden is firmly on the platform of helping Ukraine as much as possible. And he also promises to fully protect Taiwan in case of an attack by China. Trump says that Biden is following insane policies leading to a world war. And the United States, in his opinion, is doing very badly — both in foreign policy and in domestic affairs.

The price of petrol is going up. There is not enough electricity. Rental rates are growing, and so on. According to the ratings which are very low, Biden was clearly not the president that American voters were counting on. Even the progressive Elon Musk now votes for the Republicans — and does not say yes or no to the question of whether he will vote for Trump.

After the rather ignominious withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the military operation in Ukraine, and several smaller but revealing episodes in the Middle East, the US now looks diminished. It may well be that voters will want to see a stronger leader in the White House. Before running for President, Donald Trump — if he really decides to do that — will first need to receive a nomination from the Republicans. But there he will have many competitors, his main rival being Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. DeSantis is young, energetic and has a good chance of winning. However, there are many who think that, as in 2016, Trump will be able to beat his competitors because their supporters will disperse their votes.

It is hard to disagree with Trump on the main point. Of course, anyone can argue about who exactly is leading the world to a big war. But does that really matter if the consequences affect everyone? Donald Trump presents himself as a man who was able to stop Vladimir Putin. He calls himself the only US president in the 21st century under which Russia has not invaded other countries — even though «no one was tougher with him,» he says. «They said that I personally would lead you to war, but in fact, I personally kept you from it,» Trump said.

In a recent interview, he recounted his dialogue with Vladimir Putin about Ukraine: «I threatened him in a way that he had never been threatened before… I told him what our answer would be, and he asked: «Really?» And I said, «Really.» And he said something that allegedly, even Putin himself thought 5% likely, but he would still think: «I will never do that.»

Trump did not say exactly in what way he threatened Putin. One can only guess whether there was such a conversation at all or whether Trump invented it to show off in front of voters.

It looks like some paradox. The threat to democracy (this is how Trump’s opponents regard it) means hope for peace and vice versa at the same time. A man who called Putin «brilliant» is now ready to stop him. The one whose victory in the elections, in fact, was considered the most beneficial for the Kremlin. Many people in Russia can agree with that. Well, you remember — even the State Duma deputies greeted with applause the news about Trump’s victory in the elections. In other words, maybe stopping Putin does not necessarily mean beating him. Moreover, it is unlikely that anyone in the West can imagine what a «final victory over Russia» might look like. There are doubts that anyone needs it at all.

However, hope for Trump as a peacemaker is also vague. His plan is to make the United States look so strong that it would never occur to anyone to compete with it openly. He believes that the US is to blame for the Ukrainian military conflict because it allowed it to start. Trump’s policies have often been compared to Richard Nixon’s «Madman Strategy» during the Vietnam War. This is the behavior of a political leader who deliberately portrays a person who is capable of doing anything to intimidate the enemy. Nixon even tried to imitate the threat of a nuclear attack on the USSR. But he did not succeed in it — in those days Moscow did not pay much attention to Nixon’s movements, while the Vietnam War continued for several more years.

Putin is now doing the same strategy much better. For Trump, this behavior is sincere, but the world may no longer be able to withstand the clash of two such strategies. In March, Donald Trump raised the idea of putting Chinese flags on American warplanes, attacking Russia, and then watching Russia fight China. Maybe it was a joke — at any rate, the audience laughed. Yes, let us better assume that it was just a joke.

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You can read other articles and NP interviews in English in section English Prospect.

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