Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a Young America’s Foundation at the University of Virginia on April 12th. During this appearance, he was honored to give a speech to those in attendance and he didn’t mince words about how he sees US foreign relations going forward. His memories as VP give him a unique perspective on Putin and how he is best handled. To say that nobody else has done what he and Trump did would be an understatement.
“I’ve also met Vladimir Putin. I stood toe to toe with him and I’ve told him things he didn’t want to hear…Let me tell all of you. Putin only understands strength and America must meet this moment with American strength. That means more military aid to the brave and courageous Ukrainian military. That means more economic sanctions on Putin and his regime. And let me also say it means more humanitarian aid.” This strong message is one of someone who looked at another country’s leader and simply told him to step up if he felt ready.
Putin has never felt ready when a Republican was in office. When former President George W. Bush was in office Putin never felt the need to step up against him or to try and poke the bear. He left Ukraine alone until 2014 when former President Obama was in office with Biden as his number two. He continued getting aggressive off and on his entire time in office.
When former President Trump took office with Pence riding shotgun Putin called his troops back and left the regions he had been contesting alone. The willingness of Pence and Trump to talk to Putin with respect but with a firm hand was something they saw from Bush. They watched and learned as he met with foreign leaders, and they took those lessons and made them work. For Trump it was a bit easier as Putin responds like a businessman, so talking to him was like closing an easy deal.
For Obama and Biden it was a game of trying to bow his chest out and Putin just laughing at the fake confidence that was nothing more than fear with a spiked collar. Therefore, he was able to resume his aggression with Ukraine and continue what he had started when Biden took office. Nobody was going to check his power and make him atone for what he has done. Putin knows that he’s in a no-fail situation here. Unless Ukraine decides to roll into Moscow and take Putin out themselves, he either crushes Ukraine as his goal or his military goes out trying, but he will still have made his point and proven something in his own mind.
Meanwhile, with the threat of a nuclear war on the table, the US and other countries cannot do much to respond other than selling Ukraine supplies. From food to beans to bullets, the US can keep their fighters rolling forwards and as long as it’s not costing American lives, they are happy to do so. The contractors being sent in to drop things off and mercenaries who have reported to Ukraine to help have been a huge help that Ukraine has been begging for, but no country could directly supply troops for.
This conflict is also putting NATO back in the spotlight. The American people see the strength in that alliance of these countries looking out for one another, and with Putin threatening to go after more globally neutral countries soon, the idea of joining NATO is something more countries are starting to see the distinct advantages of. With a lot more fighting to go, time will tell how this will end. Perhaps for now we can all take solace in the fact that the Ukrainians are not like the Afghanis, and they will fight for what is theirs.