Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has “set back” China’s ambitions to invade Taiwan, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said.
In a wide-ranging interview at the FT Weekend festival in Washington on Saturday, the one-time Democratic presidential candidate, who served as America’s top diplomat under Barack Obama, offered stark assessments on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US-China relations, and US president Joe Biden’s re-election prospects next year.
Clinton warned that re-electing Donald Trump in 2024 would “spell the end of democracy” in the US and the “end of Ukraine”.
She described Putin as a “complicated, Messianic, narcissistic authoritarian”. The Russian leader had believed that if Trump won the 2020 presidential election he would have pulled the US out of Nato, she added.
“It would have literally been a cake walk for him, and so when Trump didn’t win, he figured he had to go forward.”
This turned out to be “absolutely the wrong calculation”, she added.
Clinton said she believed Xi was re-evaluating his approach to Taiwan in light of Putin’s failure to swiftly take over Ukraine.
She said she had previously assumed that Xi would “make his move against Taiwan” within three or four years of consolidating his power in China. But she added: “I think Ukraine has really set that back. I mean, what has happened in Ukraine has had a significant impact, in my view, on the Chinese leadership.”
“Look, Trump was the gift that kept giving to people like Xi and Putin,” Clinton added, in an attack on the man who defeated her in the 2016 election. “He was . . . so enamoured of authoritarians, he was inept in any kind of strategic approach to China, and you know, he was clearly going to do whatever Putin wanted on Nato.”
Clinton said she did not “believe” Trump would win the presidential election in 2024. But she cautioned that if he did, it would be “the end of democracy in the United States” and the “end of Ukraine,” warning Trump would pull the US out of Nato.
Clinton acknowledged that at 80, Biden’s age was “an issue” that voters had “every right to consider”. But she paraphrased the president’s oft-quoted phrase: “Don’t judge him by running against the Almighty, but against the alternative.”
Clinton also endorsed Biden’s effort to push the Democratic National Committee to overhaul the party’s nominating process after the 2020 Iowa caucuses were marred by delayed results because of a malfunctioning vote-counting app.
“Thank God they are over, at least for the Democrats, because they are deserving to be finished,” Clinton said of the Iowa caucuses. “I won Iowa, but still, it’s not a good idea. You know, let my people vote.”