If Donald Trump Had Won 'Russians Would Already Be in Kyiv,' John Bolton Says

Ex-White House national security advisor John Bolton suggested that former President Donald Trump would have "given Ukraine away" had he won the 2020 presidential election and was serving a second term during the current standoff with Russia.

Bolton told Newsweek that a second Trump term would likely have seen the former president double down on the conspiracy theories that poisoned his administration's ties with Kyiv and led to his first of two impeachments.

"I think he would have given Ukraine away, basically," Bolton told Newsweek. "Until they turn over that Democratic National Committee server and find out what Hunter Biden was doing in Ukraine, Ukraine was going to fend for itself."

"And you can see that with some of the Trumpsters these days, Tucker Carlson and people like that," Bolton added.

Fox News host Carlson has been at the forefront of right-wing skepticism on Ukraine. Carlson had dismissed Kyiv as "strategically irrelevant" to the U.S. and criticized the White House for alleged warmongering with Russia.

"I think in a second Trump term, the Russians would already be in Kyiv," Bolton said.

Newsweek has asked Trump's office for comment.

The former president has repeatedly made false claims relating to U.S. cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which investigated a 2016 hack of a Democratic National Committee server that multiple private firms and U.S intelligence agencies blamed on Russia.

Trump and some of his Republican allies, however, claimed falsely and with no evidence that California-based CrowdStike was owned by an unnamed wealthy Ukrainian oligarch and that the company planted evidence on the DNC server to frame Russia.

The former president falsely claimed that CrowdStrike was holding the suspect server in Ukraine. In reality, the DNC said it decommissioned 140 servers related to the 2016 incident, 11 of which were later rebuilt, NBC News reported.

The milieu of Ukraine conspiracy theories adopted by Trump and his allies also included President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, who for a time served on the board of private Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma.

Trump's focus on such theories—driven in part by former attorney Rudy Giuliani who ran the administration's shadow Ukraine agenda searching for dirt on Democratic opponents—led to his first impeachment for abuse of power.

He was found by the U.S. House to have pushed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to interfere in the 2020 election by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid and a White House invitation, both of which would be forthcoming if Ukraine agreed to investigate Hunter Biden and CrowdStrike. The Senate acquitted Trump.

In an infamous July 2019 call with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart "to do us a favor" and "find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike...I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it."

The president added: "The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me."

Bolton told Newsweek that the Biden administration is not showing the required resolve on Ukraine. "I don't think Putin believes the threat of post-facto sanctions after he invades," the former national security advisor said.

"I don't think he's made a decision to use military force yet. I think he's still calculating the cost-benefit logic here.

"There's a lot of reporting now on sending or making ready American troops and NATO countries in the region—in Romania, in the Baltics and Poland. All which I think is fine. I agree with it.

"But they're not going to Ukraine, and I don't think they deter. I think they reassure the NATO allies, which is an important thing to do. But I don't think it has any effect on Putin's calculus on Ukraine."

Bolton has recently argued for NATO troops to be deployed to Ukraine—a red line that Russia has repeatedly stressed could provoke war. Moscow is demanding guarantees that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO, a proposal dismissed by Kyiv, the U.S., and the alliance.

More than 100,000 Russian troops remain deployed on Ukraine's northern, eastern and southern borders. The U.S. has repeatedly warned that a major invasion could be "imminent," while officials in Washington, D.C., Kyiv, and Brussels expect continued Russian hybrid warfare and agitation in the separatist-held Donbas region.

The U.S. has increased military aid to Ukraine and sent troops and hardware to Eastern Europe. Biden has ruled out deploying more American troops on Ukrainian soil. A force of Florida National Guard troops is currently in Ukraine on a training mission.

"The common question is assessing the firmness of American resolve," Bolton said.

"And I think withdrawal from Afghanistan blew a big hole in that in our credibility and our perception of our resolve, and therefore the effectiveness of our efforts to create—in the case of Ukraine, for example—deterrence by threatening sanctions in the future."

John Bolton at event in Durham NC
Former national security adviser John Bolton is pictured during an event at Duke University on February 17, 2020 in Durham, North Carolina. Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

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