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Would Putin have invaded Ukraine on Trump’s watch?

Hill, who served under presidents Bush, Obama and Trump. Scott Kowalchyk/CBS/Getty

Donald Trump “deserved more credit than he got” on geopolitics, former White House security advisor Fiona Hill tells UnHerd. He understood “the threat of China”, and the need for other Nato members to increase defence spending. His question to Germany – why are you getting into bed with Russia on energy development? – was a “bloody good” one. He dealt with the North Korean missile threat “head on”, albeit unconventionally. And Vladimir Putin probably wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine on his watch. Trump had made it clear Ukraine “didn’t matter to him one bit”, so Putin would have assumed he could take control of it via threats and negotiation rather than military action. How those negotiations would have gone is anyone’s guess, not least because Ukraine isn’t America’s to give away. But Trump ever felt he was being humiliated – by an invasion, say – there might have been a “more mercurial reaction”.

Trump “understood strength versus weakness. He understood that he had to appear strong.” His unpredictability made him a tough adversary – the “madman theory” in action. At the same time, he had a weakness for strongman leaders: with Russia and China, for example, he pandered to the autocrats in charge while keeping “behind the scenes” security measures going. The thing to understand about Trump is that everything was about him; diplomacy on behalf of America was reflected by “his own sense of self-interest”. Sometimes that would be disastrous. “And sometimes that would work.”