Desperate to change the subject from how Joe Biden’s weak leadership and incoherent foreign policy set the stage for Vladimir Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine, many on the Left and in the mainstream media have resorted to a familiar tactic: Find a way to blame this crisis on President Trump—even though he has been out of office for 14 months.
The first attempt by liberals, like Washington Post editorial writer Eugene Robinson and former National Security Council staff member and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Fiona Hill, was to claim that Trump’s national security policies, especially concerning Russia and NATO, emboldened Putin to invade Ukraine.
This criticism didn’t make sense since Putin ordered invasions of neighboring states during three of the last four presidencies, but none while President Trump was in office. All of these invasions—Georgia during the George W. Bush Administration in 2008, Ukraine during the Obama Administration in 2014, and Ukraine now during the Biden Administration—occurred when there was a global perception of American weakness and lack of resolve.
There’s no question the world sees weakness and lack of resolve in the Biden presidency after the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and a year of confusing and unserious national security policies focused on climate change and wokeness in the U.S. military.
This clearly wasn’t the case during the Trump presidency. Love him or hate him, America’s adversaries viewed Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy as strong and decisive and knew he was prepared to use military force when appropriate to defend U.S. security interests.
President Trump also had a tougher Russia policy than either Barack Obama or Joe Biden. This included sending lethal military aid to Ukraine, something the Obama Administration refused to do. President Trump successfully pressed NATO members to meet their defense spending commitments, which made NATO a much stronger organization at the end of the Trump presidency than it was under the Obama Administration.
President Trump imposed over 270 sanctions on Russia, including sanctions in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. with a chemical weapon in 2018, and for Russia’s unsuccessful meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump also imposed sanctions in 2019 on the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany—which Biden waived in May 2021.
Having failed to make a convincing case that President Trump is responsible for the Ukraine crisis, some on the Left, including NBC reporters Peter Nicholas, Jonathan Allen, and Allan Smith and CNN reporter Julian Zelizer, have turned to arguing that the Ukraine conflict discredits Trump’s “America First” approach to national security by mislabeling it as isolationist or antagonistic to U.S. allies and the United Nations. They also contend those who believe in an America First approach to U.S. national security do not want to help the Ukrainian people or stand up to Russia.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Today’s America First movement, which the America First Policy Institute proudly represents, is clearly not isolationist. We favor a strong U.S. defense and the prudent use of U.S. military force.
America First calls for using military force only when America’s strategic interests are at stake and when there is a clear plan for success. This means the United States must not go to war with Russia over the Ukraine crisis, a conflict that could easily go nuclear, but should provide military aid to Ukraine so it can defend itself.
America First does not mean “America alone,” nor does it mean ignoring alliances and international organizations. But it means the United States will not let other nations determine U.S. foreign policy. As the world’s last remaining superpower, America must sometimes act on its own to defend its interests and not wait for permission from the United Nations or other multinational organizations.
The main reason liberal critics hate America First is that it is a philosophy that places everyday Americans ahead of beltway insiders and rejects the establishment thinking of the Left. Under an America First approach to domestic and foreign policy, policymakers give priority to the interests of our country, the American people, and the U.S. economy over the failed ideas and initiatives of the liberal elite. America First also prioritizes being respected over being liked on the international stage.
This approach guided the Trump Administration’s decisions to reject the Paris Climate Accord, the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was improved under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
America First also means keeping America out of unnecessary wars promoted by the liberal elite for nation-building in which America has no strategic interests. It is the reason Donald Trump was the first president since Dwight Eisenhower not to get the United States into a new war.
The Ukraine crisis is a direct result of American weakness under the incoherent foreign policy of Joe Biden. And it also stems from Biden’s decision to subordinate U.S. national security decision-making to Europe and the United Nations. The American people know this and won’t be fooled by recent attempts by liberal pundits and reporters to somehow blame President Trump for Biden’s foreign policy catastrophes or misrepresent the America First approach to national security as unsuccessful or isolationist.