Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 17.07.2018
The presidency of Donald Trump rose and it will fall on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and ‘annexation’ of Crimea.
I first wrote about Trump in mid-2015. Like most people, I took Trump to be an asinine reality television performer whom I could easily ignore. But then he started to say strange things about Crimea. Interviewing Trump at his golf course in Scotland on 31 July 2015, CNN reporter Tom LoBianco asked “What would you do with Crimea, for example. Do you accept that Crimea lies under Russian control?” Trump did not let the reporter finish his question, talking over him to say “This is Europe’s problem.” Trump was frantic not to blame Putin or Russia. Judging from everything Trump says and does not say about Ukraine and Crimea, I knew from mid-2015 that Trump is not just a moron: he is Putin’s moron.
In the almost three years since that interview, Trump has never criticized Putin or Russia for anything at all. Any question about Russia’s war against Ukraine or illegal annexation of Crimea has always resulted in Trump deflecting blame to others, notably President Barack Obama.
On July 16 in Helsinki, Trump’s absolute refusal to criticize Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea tipped over into treason against the United States of America. Trump’s sycophancy towards Putin was so extreme that the Russian dictator felt it necessary to deliver a line about US foreign policy that Trump wouldn’t voice. Putin said at the press conference: “U.S. President Donald Trump's position on Crimea is well-known, and he's been sticking to it. He says Crimea has been taken illegally.” In fact, Trump’s position on Crimea is not well-known at all, and Trump himself has never said that Crimea has been taken illegally. Trump never said “Ukraine” or “Crimea” or “democracy” in the entire press conference. Putin did, but only to tell lies and sneering half-truths.
After the Putin-Trump press conference in Helsinki, the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, sent out a tweet. Translated from Ukrainian, President Poroshenko said: “We are ready and will defend our land even if we remain alone, without international support. To do this, we continue to build the army, and the Armed Forces of Ukraine remain a priority.” Nothing that was said or not said at the Appeasement Summit (or as some are calling it, the Treason Summit) affects the resolve of Ukrainians to fight the foreign invaders from Muscovy to save their land and their people.
Putin made a fatal mistake at the press conference by admitting that it was Russia that held a so-called ‘referendum’ on Ukraine’s territory of Crimea. Putin forgot the propaganda lie claiming the people of Crimea held the vote themselves. After Russia invaded Ukraine in Crimea in February-March 2014, the Putin regime justified the so-called ‘annexation’ of Crimea to the Russian Federation by claiming that a referendum had held. This referendum was heavily pushed by Kremlin propaganda as being a popular appeal by the people of Crimea to ‘return’ to Russia. Of course it was no such thing: the so-called ‘referendum’ was a made-for-propaganda-TV affirmation exercise in which terrorized Ukrainians were forced to participate. It was held under the barrels of the guns of the invader-occupiers from Muscovy.
When it was no longer convenient, Putin dropped the fiction that Russian special operations soldiers (Spetsnaz), who led the invasion of Ukraine in Crimea, were “local anti-Maidan militants.” But Putin has made a major error by dropping the fiction that the ‘referendum’ was by local people. As a foundation of legitimacy for Russia’s claim to Crimea, the so-called ‘referendum’ was always weak to the point of impotence. But it was the only thing the Russians had. Now, Putin has thrown away the only flimsy pillar on which “KrymNash” (Crimea is ours) stands.
Trump could have said clearly that Crimea is Ukraine and told Putin to stop his war and get out of Ukraine. He did not – Trump was silent about core US foreign policy. Putin could have remained silent about his war against Ukraine. But Putin foolishly believes his own propaganda, and he spouted off with genuine fervour on his favourite falsehoods. Putin talked about the ‘internal Ukrainian crisis’ (meaning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), mentioned pressuring ‘the Ukrainian leadership’ to implement the Minsk Agreement (drawing attention to Russia’s egregious violations of Minsk), claimed that Russia had ‘put paid’ to the issue of Crimea (meaning that the status of Crimea is very much an open issue), and said that Nord Stream 2 will not lead to cutting gas transit through Ukraine (meaning Nord Stream 2 is entirely a weapon to deprive Ukraine of gas transit revenue).
For Ukrainians, the Appeasement Summit in Helsinki could have been much worse. Trump could have said that Crimea is Russia. But it could easily have been much better if Trump had only been loyal to the United States and asserted US foreign policy to defend the US’s strategic interest. Trump could have said that Crimea is Ukraine.
Trump was silent about Ukraine and Crimea. This is a comfort to aggressor Russia, which is attacking Ukrainian defenders and civilians in Donbas relentlessly. But the absence of US support, as President Poroshenko hints, does not diminish the right and the desire of the Ukrainian people to fight for their homeland. Americans must deal with the traitor who Russia installed to be their president. Ukrainians must conduct the war of national salvation against foreign invaders from Muscovy knowing that no substantial help will be forthcoming from the US for the foreseeable future. The Ukrainian government has the right and it has the duty to liberate Crimea and Donbas. The debacle of the Appeasement Summit in Helsinki will harden the resolve of the Ukrainian people to defeat Putin’s barbarian invasion, even without US help. “We are ready and will defend our land even if we remain alone.”