Wargaming a Second Trump Term

I found this story at Business Insider, reported by Michael Peck, interesting:

If Donald Trump wins a second term in the White House in November, NATO may fall apart, a recent wargame found.

As a presidential candidate, Trump has threatened to quit NATO unless European allies contribute more, and should he carry it out Europe may decide to go it alone on defense, the game suggests. “A US policy of frustrating NATO has the potential to cause the alliance to collapse, with the EU as a candidate for eventually replacing NATO’s ultimate function — defending Europe from Russia,” wrote Finley Grimble, the British defense expert who designed and ran the game.

The US doesn’t have to withdraw from NATO to imperil the 75-year-old alliance. Technically, the US is barred from leaving NATO after Congress voted in 2023 to prohibit withdrawal without congressional approval.

But the game showed how Trump — the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who said on the campaign trail that he’d encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” with NATO allies who spend too little on their militaries — could undermine NATO simply by doing as little as possible to support the alliance. “What Donald Trump can do is just really hollow out what NATO does,” Grimble told Business Insider. “He doesn’t need to leave NATO to ruin it. He can ruin it from within.”

The details of the wargame are described here by its designer, Finley Grimble:

The wargame commenced on a successful Trump Inauguration Day: January 1, 2025, and running for two years into the presidency. All 32 NATO members, Ukraine, and Russia were represented by participants. These countries with ‘dedicated representation’ were given time to:

  1. Develop a strategy.
  2. Negotiate with allies to cohere strategy.
  3. Negotiate with adversarial countries.
  4. Take a series of military, diplomatic, economic, and intelligence actions for a turn that represented two months.
  5. Any military actions were then carried out using an operational wargame map with bounded adjudication rules. This ran as a minor facet of the wider geo-political wargame to establish correlation of forces and battlefield situations.

Once these phases had occurred, the non-military actions were freely adjudicated by a ‘wargame control team’, then the next turn would begin with a new set of starting conditions based on the outcomes of the previous intertwining actions.

I suggest skipping the BI story and jumping directly to the post about the wargame. Most interesting and unreported by BI was that one of the conclusions of the wargame was that Russia would not invade the Baltics within the period of the wargame:

  • The Ukraine conflict was still using much of Russia’s resources, so it could not open a second conflict on its border.
  • That the US would not commit itself to defend Europe in full was still uncertain despite 6 months of dormancy.
  • Russia assessed that the Baltic States could potentially resist an effective occupation, even without support from NATO.
  • Russia assessed that the European NATO Allies could defeat Russia in the Baltic Sea & come to aid the Baltic States.
  • Russia assessed that Finland and Poland alone, not to mention with support from other NATO Allies, possess the ability to counterattack into Russia, cut off Murmansk (Where Russia’s main nuclear deterrent and Northern Fleet are based), encircle Saint Petersburg, and have a path to Moscow.
  • Russia risked becoming increasingly isolated globally by performing another ground invasion in Europe.

which I believe to the case.

I wish that there were a comparable wargame showing the outcome of a Biden re-election.

4 comments… add one
  • Drew Link

    Last night we broke out the Monopoly set, but with specially constructed side rules.

    After I purchased all of Boardwalk (for real), so impressed with that was Jennifer Aniston that she climbed into my bedroom and had her way with me for most of the night. Later, I scored the winning goal against the Boston Bruins. Before calling it a night, (and I admittedly flipped the scenario switch) I cornered the silver market and nuked it, causing futures prices to skyrocket. I have all the non-radioactive silver in my basement.

    We are going to play modified Sorry tonight. I plan to cause 24 of the last zero predicted-but-never-seen global warming catastrophes to occur all in one night. Be afraid. Seek shelter at least 200 miles in from all ocean shores……..or get a row boat.

  • steve Link

    Well, Russia would need to mass troops on the borders of the Baltics before attacking so they would have time to prepare. Of course various people, including people on this blog would be claiming Russia would never do such a thing. At any rate, they already lost their best trained troops going into Ukraine so it would take years to be ready for another invasion.


  • Andy Link

    This is what’s so weird about Trump and the reactions to him.

    On the one hand, he’s demanding something that every previous administration has wanted from Europe for the past couple of decades—more defense spending and military burden-sharing by Europe and our NATO partners. And that is something that Russia definitely does not want a NATO with greater military production and military capabilities.

    On the other hand, Trump often talks nice about Russia, threatens to quit NATO if he doesn’t get what he wants, and goes so far as to suggest he wouldn’t protect NATO countries from Russia (and invite them to do what they want) if those countries don’t meet some unnamed military spending standard. This is all stuff that Russia would really like to see and that really benefits Russia – a weakened and divided NATO, a US that won’t invoke article 5 guarantees, a US that withdrawals from the alliance.

    How to reconcile these? There are all kinds of ways to interpret what Trump really means, which I think is Trump’s real intent. He attacks the status quo and sacred cows and implies they are up for debate or negotiation and that nothing is settled. He allows people, intentionally or not, to interpret what he says according to their own biases.

    So if you’re a person who thinks that Trump is a Russian stooge compromised by kompromat and basically Putin’s bitch, then you can find a narrative for you. And if you think Trump is the patriotic America First master negotiator who is playing tough with allies who have taken advantage of us for too long, then you can find a narrative for that too.

    Or if you think Trump is just unhinged and senile with little grasp on reality in the pre-dementia stage, you can find a narrative for that.

    Or maybe Trump is a fascist, and this talk about NATO and Russia is just to sow confusion and distraction from the real effort at home to take over the government.

    Or maybe Trump just treats everything like a NY real estate deal which means keep everyone off balance by not letting anyone know what his cards are, what his demands will be, and keeping opponents worried about what he might demand and that Trump doesn’t actually care at all about NATO or Russia, he’s just playing a game, there’s a narrative for you too.

    Whatever the case, this isn’t good for being President of the United States.

  • Your last scenario is the closest to my view and I agree completely with your final sentence.

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