Politics & People

Is this Joe Biden’s last NATO summit? Trump and the fate of Ukraine loom over conference.

By Robert Romano

President Joe Biden is convening the 2024 NATO Summit in Washington, D.C. this week with a promise to continue U.S. support for Ukraine in its war with Russia that has raged since 2014, but will he be around in January to keep that promise?

Swirling around the alliance are the prospects of the 2024 election, wherein Biden trails significantly in both national and state polls his opponent former President Donald Trump, who has said that he would push for a peace settlement between Kiev and Moscow.

At the June 27 debate between Biden and Trump, Trump declared he would have the war “settled”: “I will have that war settled between Putin and Zelenskyy as president-elect before I take office on January 20th. I’ll have that war settled. People being killed so needlessly, so stupidly, and I will get it settled and I’ll get it settled fast, before I take office.”

Trump also said that the war was becoming increasingly dangerous, warning that it could result in the use of nuclear weapons if something is not done: “His policies are so bad. His military policies are insane. They’re insane. These are wars that will never end with him. He will drive us into World War Three and we’re closer to World War Three than anybody can imagine. We are very, very close to World War Three, and he’s driving us there.”

This is nothing new for Trump. In 2016, he explicitly campaigned on his opposition to U.S. intervention in Ukraine and with similar warnings of what it might lead to. It’s what prompted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against his campaign and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which ultimately found no criminal conspiracy by the campaign to coordinate with Moscow to interfere with the 2016 elections.

And in 2019, when Trump acted on his 2016 campaign promise, and sought to withhold weapons from Ukraine, the Democratic House at the time impeached him over it.

Meaning, even if Trump does win the election, there could be significant internal obstacles and certainly opposition to his proposed peace plan, which most likely will not be considered at the current NATO conference this year.

And yet, if the odds are to be considered, Trump would be favored to win the election in November based on the current polls, and so Trump’s proposal should not be dismissed out of hand.

In response to the proposal, after the debate, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he took Trump’s idea “very seriously”: “The fact that Mr. Trump, as a presidential candidate, declares that he is ready and wants to stop the war in Ukraine, we take this completely seriously… I am not, of course, familiar with possible proposals for how he plans to do this. This is the key question. But I have no doubt that he means it sincerely, and we support it.”

Could it be done? Key questions would obviously be Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO, which Russia opposes, and then Russia’s occupation of territories that once belonged to Ukraine, including Crimea. These are why the war is being fought, and so if those questions would not be settled on the battlefield — risking a wider war — then they could be settled at a table.

And it might just come down to the election. Will it be Trump, or Biden (or Kamala Harris, should Biden be replaced)? Which direction do the American people support: More war, or an attempt at peace that might fail? We’ll find out in November.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

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