Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    
The World: Trump Presidency Risks Foreign Policy Betrayal

The World: Trump Presidency Risks Foreign Policy Betrayal


The throughline between Putin, Ukraine, Gaza, white supremacy, and Trump

Last year Yellow Scene examined the Ukraine conflict through the eyes of the citizens experiencing it. We focused on mental health and everyday life in a nation under attack. This year, we take a step back and examine the overall picture of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Russia’s aims and goals, and how the expanding violence in the Middle East is connected. We also examine the possible effects of a Trump election in 2024. Colorado’s efforts to remove Trump from the ballot have global ramifications, with implications spanning Europe through Ukraine to the Middle East. 

Linking Russia and Iran

The eruption of war in Gaza could not have come at a better time for Russia. The opportunity to drive a wedge between American and European allies, coupled with the possibility of shifting arms support from Ukraine to Israel, has Russia directly vested in widening global conflicts.

“I think the war in Ukraine has massive global effects and is the equivalent of the great European land wars — like World War I and World War II. You could argue that Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel is like a Pearl Harbor event, opening up a whole new front in what’s now becoming a global set of conflicts,” Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institute wrote.

The opportunity to distract and tie down Western resources in the Middle East has Russia allied with Iran in the closest relationship the nations have had in memory. Russia’s involvement in the Middle East is not new, with the current relations dating back to the Cold War confrontation with the United States CU Boulder Professor Erin Hutchinson explained to YS. The United States and the USSR — and Russia following the Union’s collapse — vied for power, influence, and allies in the oil-rich region.

Foreign Policy Magazine, in an article titled, “Iran and Russia Are Closer Than Ever Before,” stated: “Russia and Iran have formed a partnership of convenience against Western powers for decades, but an undercurrent of distrust and wariness has historically tinged that relationship, experts said. … The war in Ukraine may be changing all that, pushing Moscow to embrace Iran as one of its top foreign partners.”

“People can argue endlessly about the reasons for the war in Ukraine, or Israel’s operation in Gaza, but for many the conclusion is obvious: the United States was critical of Russia when it killed innocent civilians in Ukraine, and now it is silent when its ally Israel does the same thing in Gaza.”

“The Israel-Hamas war poses a serious challenge for Ukraine both in sustaining the attention of the world and the U.S. and keeping financial support,” Dr. Sarah Wilson Sokhey, CU Boulder professor of political science, noted in a statement to YS.

The threat of Russia sharing nuclear secrets with Iran, although not likely, is not impossible to imagine. Russian and Iranian military advisors have visited each other’s nations. Iranian-made drones have killed Ukrainians.

“Moscow enjoys an increasingly close relationship with Tehran – which backs Hamas and whom Washington has accused of supplying Moscow with drones for Ukraine which is locked in a grinding war of attrition with Russia,” Andrew Osborn wrote for Reuters.

Nations and empires

Putin’s global political vision is vastly different from the U.S. and Western Europe’s. Most of the world today is built on the system of independent nation-states that settle disputes via diplomacy rather than warfare — at least in theory. A nation invading its neighbor to take over its territory threatens the global system of power currently upheld by the U.S. and its allies. This power balance is not without its deep flaws and biases, but upending it all together could throw multiple previously unrelated areas into conflict.

The U.S. wages war but has not laid claim to owning territory since the end of WWII. It would be unthinkable for the U.S. to annex Iraq or Afghanistan into the nation or even as a colony. This differs drastically from Putin’s invasion which is an attempt to conquer the independent nation of Ukraine and incorporate it — and its people —  into the Russian state.

“Putin, say Russian and Western policy experts, is trying to use Israel’s war against Hamas to escalate what he has cast as an existential battle with the West for a new world order that would end U.S. dominance in favour of a multilateral system he believes is already taking shape,” Osborn elaborated.

Not everyone benefits from the Western nation-state system. Many in the Global South have their eyes not on the Ukraine conflict but the Israel-Gaza one. “… Russia understands very well that it aligns itself with constituencies across the Middle East and even beyond – in the Global South, in their views on the Palestinian issue where the Palestinian cause continues to resonate,” Hanna Notte, a Russian foreign policy expert, stated to Reuters.

The argument of the U.S. being two-faced in international relations is not a new one. It was a Communist rallying call for much of the Cold War, but the support the U.S. has for Israel’s retaliatory attack on Hamas contrasts starkly with the defense of Ukrainian self-determination. U.S. foreign policy, despite its lofty rhetoric, is only based on human rights when those movements align with U.S. interests.

“In doing all of this, Russia understands very well that it aligns itself with constituencies across the Middle East and even beyond – in the Global South, in their views on the Palestinian issue where the Palestinian cause continues to resonate,” Osborne quoted Notte.

“The unequivocal support of the United States and the West for Israel’s actions has dealt a powerful blow to Western foreign policy in the eyes of the Arab world and the entire Global South,” Russian Senator Alexie Pushkov was quoted in the same article.

“Against this backdrop, the war in Ukraine has slipped down the agenda. The United States has said it will provide help to both Israel and Ukraine.”

Useful Idiot

National politics in the U.S. often take on global significance. Colorado’s battle to remove Trump on grounds of the 14th Amendment would have had wide-ranging geopolitical effects if it were to meaningfully prevent his presidency. Diverting U.S. attention from Ukraine to Israel, questioning U.S.-European alliances, discrediting Western electoral democracy, and turning to conservative social principles are all goals that Putin hopes to achieve through his pawn in Trump.

Trump stated in February that he would not uphold NATO obligations and would even encourage Russia to attack members if they were behind on payments. This threatens to sever historic 60-plus-year alliances formed across the Atlantic and disrupt the West as a whole. Ironically, Trump and his organizations are themselves accused of behind on payments to many contracts.

The turn in the U.S. of the Republican Party from one of fervent anti-USSR policy, with suspicion of all things Russian, to now finding common ground with identity politics in Putin’s regime must be one of the most dramatic shifts from the Trump era. Long gone are the neoconservative voices calling for a U.S.-led global order upheld by free trade coupled with justified interventionist militaristic foreign policy.

Although neocons no longer run the Republican Party, swept away by Trumpism, their rhetoric can still be heard across the board, this time not in justification of invasion but in defense of culture wars. Samuel Huntington’s much-deridedThe Clash of Civilizations? argument seems to have found a renewed home in the U.S. conservative party, European far-right movements, and Putin’s Russia, despite both academic and mainstream criticisms.

In his conversation with Tucker Carlson, Putin spoke at length about the myth of Russian history stretching back to the medieval period. He claimed that Ukraine was not an independent nation, falsely stated the West was behind a coup in Ukraine, and mischaracterized Russian ethnic cleansing in the Caucasus as a civil war. None of these points were seriously questioned by Carlson.

Putin also spoke about Ukraine and Russia sharing an Orthodox culture, hearkening to Huntington’s idea of global, separate civilizations. Many talking points spawning from that point of view mirror far-right conservative thought in the U.S. and Europe.

Common threads of these movements include anti-immigration stances, anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, a call for a return to traditions — imagined or not — the rejection of tolerance, belief in the separation of cultures, and the inherent superiority of their own. The idea that there are separate and distinctly different cultures including the West, Islam, and the Orthodox world, among others, and that these cultures have inherent conflict with one another, is reductive yet explanative.

As explained in an earlier YS op-ed overview of the idea, this worldview does not take into account the fact that cultures change over time or that there is just as much conflict within these cultural groupings as between them. Furthermore, before the rise of the nationalism ideology as a widespread movement, there was not as hard of a border between most ethnic and linguistic communities. People were united under very different imagined communities, that of believers of a certain religion or members of a vast powerful empire, rather than speakers of the same language with a shared cultural history.

The upcoming 2024 election is a direct way for Putin to achieve foreign policy results in numerous arenas. Diverting attention from Ukraine would be the most immediate benefit. Further eroding trust in free and fair elections would open the door for other wannabe dictators to overturn democracy abroad, encourage anti-democratic parties in the U.S. and Europe, and lend credibility to Russian imperial worldviews. Bolstered support for Israel would further discredit the U.S. to human rights movements and the Global South as well as indirectly help Russia on the Ukrainian battlefield.

Belief in the separation of civilizations, of those who may look or act differently from us, reinforces the view of inherently clashing groups. Civilizations, under this worldview, must be identified and preserved to maintain their purity, from that purity there is power. This manifests itself in the West as a call to a return to “traditional” values that ultimately uphold white supremacy repress women, and reduce non-white immigration, all to maintain an imagined integrity, an imagined link to the past that has supposedly allowed Western culture to flourish despite assaults by Islamic or Orthodox worlds.

This is also the basic tenet of modern white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys and local organizations such as the Colorado Conservative Patriot Alliance. The push for traditional values is an effort to uphold Western civilization that is supposedly slipping away due to immigration and LGBTQ+ acceptance.

The fault in the supremacist’s view is that no nation, no culture, no civilization has ever been static. Languages, religions, populations, and ideas are all permeable and malleable and influence one another. Racial or cultural supremacist ideas lock civilizations into an arbitrary time period of values and achievements that do not reflect the changing nature of humans throughout history. The fact that someone can be a Christian Israeli Arab, or that supposedly both Orthodox Ukraine and Russia are at war, pokes holes in the “Clash of Civilizations” argument.

“Peace for our time”

It would not at all be surprising to hear Trump, should he win back the office, call for a resolution in Ukraine that involves ceding land to the aggressive party. Many across the board, and the majority of Republicans, already state U.S. support for Ukraine is too expensive. There are stark lessons to draw from history here. Yes, the military-industrial complex is out of control, overfunded, and holds too much influence on our government, but stopping an aggressive invasion from an authoritarian, anti-democratic nation is one of the more noble uses of this power.

“Peace for our time” was the rallying call by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he ceded Czech lands to the Nazis. Lands Nazis claimed were historically “German.” Rhetoric on Ukraine sounds incredibly similar. Trump pushing for peace for land would be worse than Chamberlain, however, as his campaign and businesses have been financed by Russian interests. Trump will likely incur additional significant additional legal debts by the time he would take office again. Financial debt is something many officials with security clearances working for the U.S. government, like CIA agents, are not allowed to have, as they could easily become compromised by foreign interests paying their debt.

This would cause any cessation or material reduction of support for Ukraine under a Trump administration to be intensely scrutinized as it may not be a best-interest U.S. foreign policy decision but a personal move by Trump to help pay his bills. Whereas Chamberlain was simply wrong about foreign policy, Trump may be actively guided to harmful decisions by foreign powers.

With or without you

Fear of a Trump election or an American population that tires of funding war has prompted numerous European leaders to raise the specter of drafting people into the military. The former head of NATO, British General Sir Richard Sherriff, told the media that the U.K. may need to consider reinstating conscription shortly. The U.K. has no plans to reinstate the draft, but much of Europe is preparing for a prolonged conflict with or without U.S. support.

“Ukraine’s ability to fight will be significantly hampered with less support from the United States although it is encouraging for Ukraine that the EU finally passed a large package of financial support that had previously been blocked by Hungary’s [Viktor] Orban,” Sokhey stated.

The fear of the U.S. losing its commitment to NATO or other European allegiances is on the minds of many European policy experts even beyond the crucial 2024 election. The role the U.S. will play in the global nation-state system is being internally questioned for the first time in 60 years. Putin appears to be cultivating a new global order that is based on separating cultures, one that does not respect the territorial integrity of neighboring nations, and one that discredits electoral democracy.

Despite the human rights abuses, interventionist wars, and numerous coups, the military and political powers of the U.S. and the West have a real opportunity to commit further to upholding democracy and preventing ethnic cleansing by maintaining support for Ukraine and rebuking Israel for its invasion. Idealistic, yes, but possible.

Russia, Putin, Trump, and Iran are all more aligned on foreign policy issues than many may realize. Despite Trump’s loss in 2020 and the stalled invasion of Ukraine, Putin still has a clear path to achieving his goals, which would end up shaping the world into a more conflict-prone, less democratic place. With the 2024 election, and a second front opened up in the Middle East, it is crucial voters understand the implications of the presidency.  

National politics in the United States often take on global significance.

Yemen nearly touches East Africa, forcing a narrow passage for ships traveling through the Red Sea from the Mediterranean to the Indian and Pacific Oceans.


Who are the Houthis?

  • The Houthis are an Iran-backed militant group that rebelled and seized power in Yemen in 2014. Yemen’s civil war stretches back to the early 2000s with Saudi Arabia and Iran both having a vested interest in the outcome. Over 160,000 people have died in the Civil War according to the BBC. The Houthis claim to represent the Shia population in Yemen which has faced repression under previous Sunni governments.
  • Although supported by Iran, the Houthis are not necessarily Iranian-controlled, although the October 7 attacks and subsequent Israeli invasion have forged even closer bonds. U.S. intelligence suggests that the Houthis could not be launching such sophisticated attacks without direct Iranian support. It is very likely that Iran is using the Houthis to retaliate against U.S. and European support for Israel in its current war.
  • Yemen nearly touches East Africa, forcing a narrow passage for ships traveling through the Red Sea from the Mediterranean to the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is one of the major shipping arteries of the world with massive food shortages and humanitarian implications if it were to be shut down.
  • One of the main roles the U.S. plays in global affairs is to secure international shipping lanes. In fact, the U.S. Navy has an extensive history of fighting piracy and ensuring transcontinental trade. Ensuring global trade upholds the global economic system and securing the oceans from attack have been of the highest national defense priorities. For both of these reasons, attacking shipping is seen as a way for Iran, and Russia, to draw the U.S. into a wider conflict.


Austin Clinkenbeard
Austin Clinkenbeard has been traveling the world with his wife for the past several years exploring food, history and culture along the way. He is a passionate advocate for stronger social science education and informed global travel. Austin holds degrees in Anthropology and Political Science from San Diego State. When he’s home there’s a good chance you can catch him cooking allergy friendly food. You can follow along Austin’s travel adventures and food allergy journey at www.NowWeExplore.com.

Leave a Reply