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In his lucrative column for the Daily Mail, Boris Johnson backed the return of Donald Trump to the White House, primarily because he expects the former US President to be the man to stand up to Vladimir Putin by enabling a Ukrainian victory in the war Russia has been waging against it. “My thoughts, of course, go first to Ukraine,” Johnson wrote.
The former Prime Minister observed that it was under the Trump Administration that Ukraine received Javelin anti-tank weapons that proved to be invaluable in fending off the Russian attack on Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv. This is partially true. Ukraine did get those weapons but not because of Trump, who actually attempted to withhold this congressionally-mandated military assistance package.
Ukraine had already been fighting against the Russian invasion of its eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014, by the time President Trump attempted to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into doing him political favours before sending the weapons. That resulted in Trump’s first impeachment.
But it was not the first time Trump wanted to hobble military support to help Ukraine thwart President Putin’s violent aims. In July 2016, when Trump was formally designated the Republican Party’s candidate for the presidential election that year, language that had called for the United States to provide “lethal weapons” to Ukraine was deleted. The Trump campaign was being managed by Paul Manafort, who tried to use his involvement to “get whole” on a debt owed to a major Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska.
Manafort was also involved in another aspect of the Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election – one that culminated in an infamous meeting at New York’s Trump Tower with a delegation of Russians. The meeting came about after a series of email exchanges between Donald Trump Junior and a music promoter working for the pop star son of another Russian oligarch, Aras Agalarov. The ties between the Trump and Agalarov families go back some years, with their most prominent interaction happening when Trump took his Miss Universe pageant on the road to Moscow.
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When the representative from the Agalarov family reached out to Donald Trump Jr on 3 June 2016, the contact was very deliberately worded. The email explicitly stated that what was being offered was “very high level and sensitive… part of Russia and its Government’s support for Mr Trump”. The appropriate reaction would have been to contact the FBI, but Trump Junior replied: “I love it!”
On 7 June 2016, another email stated that there was a “Russian Government attorney who is flying over from Moscow” for the subsequent meeting attended by Manafort alongside Trump Junior and Jared Kushner.
While in office, Trump flew to Helsinki for a summit with Putin. The two men sat behind closed doors for a period of time, after which Trump ordered the translator to destroy her notes. The press conference did not go well. A leading Russian expert in Trump’s administration, Fiona Hill, described it as “mortifying”, with Trump publicly taking Putin’s words over those of his own security agencies.
These examples are evidence enough that Donald Trump has not stood up to Vladimir Putin. That he will not stand up to Putin if he returns to the White House. It is not unlikely that the Russian President has kompromat on Trump, which means the businessman cannot stand up to Putin.
Though Trump claims that the multiple court cases he faces are a political witch-hunt, they are nothing of the sort. One current legal proceeding against him is determining the degree of damages to be awarded for defamation and sexual assault. In another case, Trump and his children are accused of a series of financial crimes spanning decades.
Then there are the multiple cases that are linked to the events of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. The most significant legal battle here is whether having incited insurrection, Trump is banned from holding office again in line with the Constitution.
So why did Boris Johnson feel the need to endorse Trump on the basis of Ukraine?
Both men share one characteristic: they are both liars. Perhaps Johnson’s endorsement is, as usual, in his own self-serving interests. Because it is certainly not in the interests of the United States, Ukraine or the world.