Donald Trump’s recent praise for Vladimir Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused some political troubles for the former president. On the defensive, and with leading Republicans making no effort to defend him, the former president issued a new statement this morning about the ongoing crisis:
“I hope everyone is able to remember that it was me, as President of the United States, that got delinquent NATO members to start paying their dues, which amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. There would be no NATO if I didn’t act strongly and swiftly. Also, it was me that got Ukraine the very effective anti-tank busters (Javelins) when the previous Administration was sending blankets. Let History so note!”
Even by Trump standards, the claim-to-lie ratio on this one is amazing. Indeed, it’s effectively one-to-one.
Right off the bat, the fact that Trump still, even now, believes there were “delinquent NATO members” who were failing to pay “their dues” is a reminder that the Republican still doesn’t know how NATO works. As he’s been told many times, there are no “dues.” There are defense spending targets, and it was under the Obama administration that NATO members’ military investments started increasing.
Just as jarring was Trump’s insistence that NATO wouldn’t exist were it not for his strong and swift actions. This is, of course, utterly bonkers: The only thing threatening NATO’s existence was Trump himself, who not only repeatedly disparaged the alliance, but who, on several occasions, expressed an interest in abandoning NATO altogether. By all accounts, it was a plan he intended to follow through on in a second term.
As for the idea that the Obama administration merely sent “blankets” to Ukraine is a lie Trump has spent years peddling. The claim has been discredited many times, which has done nothing to discourage the Republican from repeating it.
But the piece de resistance in the former president’s statement was his boast that it was he, thanks to his awesome awesomeness, who “got Ukraine the very effective anti-tank busters” known as Javelins.
It was on July 25, 2019, when Trump held a phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. According to the official White House call summary, the Ukrainian leader specifically told his American counterpart, as part of a discussion about security measures, “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”
A moment later, Trump replied, “I would like you do us a favor, though.”
What followed was a scheme in which the Republican tried to leverage security aid to an ally in the hopes that Zelenskyy and his government would help Trump cheat ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections. This was an illegal extortion scheme for which the then-president was impeached.
This is, in other words, a subject Trump really ought to try to avoid.
Making matters just a bit worse, a Washington Post fact-check added this morning, “Ironically, Foreign Policy magazine reported, Trump initially did not want to provide Javelins to Ukraine, but eventually aides convinced him that it could be good for U.S. business. Nevertheless, the sale was mostly symbolic. The Trump administration insisted that Javelins could not be deployed in a conflict zone, so they are stored in western Ukraine, far from the front lines of the ongoing conflict against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.”
The former president concluded that he wants history to take “note” of the developments as they occurred. On this, I couldn’t agree more.