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JD Vance Defends ‘Future President’ Trump at Munich Security Conference

The Ohio Republican senator, rumored to be on the short list of possible running mates for President Donald J. Trump, spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference Sunday, defended Trump, and warned Europeans that even if the United States wanted to help Ukraine—and that is still up for debate—the United States cannot help Ukraine.

“I can’t speak for Donald Trump. I can speak for myself, and I think that he agrees with what I’m going to say, but I can’t speak for the former, and I think likely future president of the United States,” said Sen. James D. “J.D.” Vance (R.-Ohio), a Marine veteran of the Iraq War elected in 2022 to the upper chamber.

“Despite a lot of the hand wringing, and I’ve heard a lot of it in private meetings and public meetings, Donald Trump was maybe the best president at deterring Russia in a generation,” Vance said. 

“The only time that Russia has not invaded a foreign country over the last 20 years was the four years that Donald Trump was president,” the senator said. “That’s interesting that so many people accused Trump or me or others of being in Putin’s pocket.”

The author of “Hillbilly Elegy” said more pointedly that Trump was not even Putin’s choice for the White House in 2024. “He says Joe Biden is his preferred candidate because he’s more predictable.”

Vance said while attendees of the security conference tend to believe that Trump is hostile to NATO, he is actually an agent for reform and renewal.

“They said: ‘Well, Trump is going to abandon Europe.’ I don’t think that’s true at all. I think Trump is actually issuing a wake-up call to say that Europe has to take a bigger role in its own security,” the senator said.

He said it is a good thing that Germany is finally spending two percent of its gross domestic product on its military. “That, of course, is something we had to push for in the United States, and it just now has finally cleared that threshold.”

However, what other NATO ally could respond with a battle-ready mechanized brigade besides the United States and the United Kingdom? he asked.

“How many mechanized brigades could Germany feel tomorrow? Maybe one,” he said.

“The problem with Europe is that it doesn’t provide enough of a deterrence on its own because it hasn’t taken the initiative in its own security,” Vance said. 

Western Europe’s reliance on the United States is such that the region created this problem, the senator said.

“I think that the American security blanket has allowed European security to atrophy,” he said. 

Besides, America has worldwide obligations and competing foreign policy priorities, he said.

“The point is not that we want to abandon Europe,” he said. “The point is we need to focus as a country on East Asia, and we need our European allies to step up in Europe.”

Vance was part of a panel discussion on the conference’s last day. The conference is like a military Davos since it is dominated by NATO-affiliated military and national security leaders and officials, along with a heavy presence of defense contractors and non-governmental organizations.

Interestingly, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. chose to visit the chemical spill-recovering East Palestine, Ohio, a bastion of Vance’s electoral support Friday, after the senator went wheels up for the conference.

My RedState colleague Levon Satamian covered Biden’s visit in his piece: “Citizens of Ohio Slam Biden As He’s Set to Visit East Palestine 378 Days After Train Disaster.”

Vance spoke about the prospects of Congress approving more aid to Ukraine, which he said was missing the point.

The deindustrialized United States and its NATO allies do not have the wartime production capacity to meet Ukraine’s demand.

One example he gave was the munitions required for the Patriot Advance Capability system, the PAC-3, the most up-to-date Patriot missile package, which the Ukrainians depend on to keep the skies contested. 

The Ukrainians use the same number of PAC-3 munitions in a month that the United States manufactures in a year, the senator said. 

These PAC-3 missiles are on a five-year backorder backlog, he said.

The 155-millimeter artillery shells used by Ukraine are also on a five-year backlog, he said.

“We are talking in the United States about ramping up our production of artillery to 100,000 a month by the end of 2025,” Vance said. “The Russians make close to 500,000 a month right now at this very minute.”

The Yale Law School graduate said money and American will would not fix the lack of capacity because the United States and every one of its Western allies went along with the policy of deindustrialization—except for Germany.

Vance said he did not want to come off as a critic of Germany. 

“I love Germany,” he said. 

“Yet, at the very moment that Putin is more and more powerful where the Russian army is invading European countries en masse, this is the point at which Germany starts to de-industrialize,” he said.

“The problem here vis-a-vis Ukraine is America doesn’t make enough weapons, Europe doesn’t make enough weapons,” he said.

“That reality is far more important than American political will or how much money we print and then send it to Europe.” 

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