1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
PoliticsGlobal issues

Trump would 'solve all of Russia's problems'

July 20, 2022

Although Russia may be bluffing with its new offensive, it's crucial for Western cohesion that Ukraine retake its south — particularly if Donald Trump were to make a comeback, says political scientist Francis Fukuyama.

Portrait of Francis Fukuyama from 2018
Francis Fukuyama is best known for his book 'The End of History and the Last Man'Image: picture-alliance/DPR

Francis Fukuyama is best known for his book "The End of History and the Last Man," where he argues that liberal democracy and free-market capitalism are the final point of society's evolution.

At the end of June, Russian authorities banned the American political scientist and philosopher from entering Russia. DW spoke with him just days after he joined the advisory board for Anti-Corruption Foundation International, newly formed by imprisoned Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

DW: You are now on the entry ban list in Russia. How do you feel about being on this list?

Francis Fukuyama: I regard being on the list as an honor. All the important foreign critics of Russia and Russia's invasion of Ukraine have been put on the list, and I was actually wondering why it took them so long to get to me.

East German border guards stand in front of segments of the Berlin Wall on November 13, 1989
Months before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, young political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared 'the end of history'Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Gaps III

Why did you recently join the board of the Anti-Corruption Foundation?

I am a great admirer of Alexei Navalny, I met him in Warsaw in 2019. Corruption is a very great problem in Russia and around the world, and I am very happy to support his foundation in any way possible.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said, "We have only just begun," referring to the war in Ukraine. Is he bluffing?

I think he's lying, as he is about many things. Western military analysts who have looked at the Russian force posture have noted that right now, Russia is experiencing a very severe manpower shortage. They've also lost perhaps a third of all of the forces that they originally massed to defeat Ukraine. Estimates of Russian casualties are uncertain, but it's possibly 20,000 dead and maybe 60,000 wounded. With prisoners on top of that. And for a country the size of Russia, that's really pretty much a military disaster.

Putin: Russian offensive just getting started

So I think that actually, given that the Russians have only made very marginal gains in the two months since they started focusing on Donbas, I don't think they've got a lot in reserve, and I think that Putin is bluffing when he says that they haven't even started.

What do you think might be a successful strategy for Ukraine?

The most realistic strategy at this point is to focus on the south, to reopen Ukraine's access to the Black Sea by retaking Kherson and other ports on the Sea of Azov. That's more important than the Donbas. I think retaking the Donbas is going to be quite difficult to accomplish in the next few months. But by the end of the summer, you could see some real progress in the south. It's really, really important for Ukraine to recover that access, so that it can resume exports of all of its agricultural commodities out of its Black Sea ports and to break the Russian blockade of Odesa.

Map indicating Russian military presence in Ukraine

How could the situation change if Donald Trump were to be reelected as US president?

If Donald Trump makes a comeback in 2024, that solves all of Russia's problems because he's apparently committed to pulling the US out of NATO. Russia will have achieved its major objectives simply by this change in American politics. And that's why I think it is really important that Ukraine make some progress and regain military momentum over the summer, because unity in the West really depends on people believing that there is a military solution to the problem in the near term.

If they feel that we're simply facing an extended stalemate that's going to go on forever, then I think the unity will start breaking, and there'll be more calls for Ukraine to give up territory in order to stop the war.

How do you see Russia in a broader global perspective? What kind of political regime is it?

More than anything else, it actually resembles Nazi Germany at this point. Its only ideology is a kind of extreme nationalism, but even less developed than that of the Nazis. It's also a very poorly institutionalized regime. It really revolves around one man, Vladimir Putin, who really controls all of the big levers of power.

Congressional committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the US capitol gathered at a podium in February
Many believe the January 6 investigation will damage Trump enough to prevent reelection in 2024Image: J. Scott Applewhite/AP/picture alliance

If you compare it to China, they're very, very different. China has a big Communist Party with 90 million members, it has a lot of internal discipline. In Russia's case, you don't have that kind of institutionalization.

So I don't think it's a stable regime. I don't think it has a clear ideology that it can project outwards. I think that the people that align with it are simply people who don't like the West for different reasons.

After 30 years, do you have an update on your concept of the end of history?

We're in a different situation than we were 30 years ago, where there have been setbacks to democracy across the board, including in the United States and India and other big democratic countries over the last few years. But the progress of history has never been linear. We had huge setbacks in the 1930s that we survived. We had another set of setbacks in the 1970s, with the oil crisis and inflation in many parts of the world. So the idea of historical progress is not dead.

Sometimes you do have setbacks, but the underlying institutions and ideas are strong and they've survived over a very long period of time, and I expect them to continue to survive.

Is the war in Ukraine and other burning political crises overshadowing the more global, and more dangerous, climate crisis?

Obviously, short-term energy needs have led to a revival of fossil fuels and slowed down the progress toward reducing carbon emissions. But it is a temporary setback. And I think both of these issues have to be dealt with, it's not a choice of one or the other. You're really going to have to take both of them seriously.

But the climate crisis is a slowly unfolding one that will continue to be with us for the next generations. And so I don't think the fact that we're going backwards right now is necessarily the final position we will end up in.

Francis Fukuyama is political scientist at Stanford University in California.

The interview was conducted by Mikhail Bushuev, and it was condensed and edited for clarity by Sonya Diehn.

Skip next section Explore more