Is there a Republican plot to get Donald Trump? Senator J.D. Vance is already huffing and puffing in The American Conservative that the Senate plan to aid Ukraine represents an establishment conspiracy against the major domo of MAGA world.
Vance’s complaint is that Republicans could have nabbed a border deal had they only fought more vigorously against the Democrats. Instead, they folded.
According to Vance, “The Republican establishment of Washington is so obsessively committed to Ukraine that they will use every tool at their disposal to apply pressure to other Republicans to write that big Ukraine check. The problem is that every time they apply pressure, they create an opening for Democrats and the media to tank our nominee.”
Don’t believe a word of it. What Vance’s revisionist history overlooks is that the Democrats had already capitulated on border security. It was Trump who tanked the deal—and who inadvertently threw a life preserver to President Joe Biden on border security. In refusing to entertain even a modicum of compromise on border security—Vance himself came up with a cockamamie scheme in which certain border numbers would be stipulated in exchange for releasing a drip-drip of funds to Ukraine—Trump created the best of all worlds for Biden. He agreed to compromise without having to enact it. No blowback from the progressive wing of the party over the concessions he made.
Trump has compounded his difficulties by publicly declaring that he would grant Russia carte blanche to attack America’s NATO allies as president. It offered a welcome diversion for Biden from the attention on his age. He pounced, calling his remarks “appalling and dangerous.” Others agreed. Nikki Haley observed, “the last thing we ever want to do is side with Russia.”
If anyone is undermining his campaign to become president, it isn’t the Republican establishment which continues to shun criticizing him, but Trump himself. Telling the Kremlin to “do whatever the hell it wants” is perfectly consistent with his lifelong ethos. You could even call it the Trump doctrine. But elevated from his personal life to a principle of international relations, it becomes a daunting proposition indeed.
Those sifting for a few nuggets of gold in Trump’s fulgurations are claiming that his remarks about NATO will prompt Europe to mind the gap, as it were, and spend more on its own defense. To some degree, it already has. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has sobered up Germany. NATO has expanded. But Trump’s remarks undermine rather than bolster the alliance. The same goes for his insouciance about Ukraine’s fate, which is appears disposed to hand over to Putin within 24 hours.
His remarks serve as an earnest of his intentions, which are to form a de facto alliance with the Kremlin. It seems safe to say that Trump is a spheres of influence kind of guy who sees Europe as an adversary, particularly when it comes to international trade. Putin? Not so much. A kind of conservative international featuring Washington, Moscow and Budapest would fortify Trump’s conviction that he, and he alone, possesses the capacity not simply to divine America’s true national interests but to act upon them.
If there is someone who is plotting, it’s Donald Trump.
About the Author
Jacob Heilbrunn is editor of The National Interest and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He has written on both foreign and domestic issues for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Reuters, Washington Monthly, and The Weekly Standard. He has also written for German publications such as Cicero, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Der Tagesspiegel. In 2008, his book They Knew They Were Right: the Rise of the Neocons was published by Doubleday. It was named one of the one hundred notable books of the year by The New York Times. He is the author of America Last: The Right’s Century-Long Romance with Foreign Dictators, coming soon.
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.