September 15, 2022 9:19 pm
New London ― Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman on Thursday evening told a receptive audience at Connecticut College that the “corrupt scheme” precipitating the first impeachment of then- President Donald Trump had a “direct tie-in” to the invasion of Ukraine.
Touted by the college as a preeminent expert on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and its impact on the global economy, Vindman took the stage to a standing ovation from the roughly 500 people in attendance.
The decorated officer’s appearance was part of a series bringing national figures to Connecticut College each fall. It was sponsored by the Sound Lab Foundation and Friends of the Connecticut College Library.
Vindman, who gained prominence for bringing attention to Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Joe Biden and his family, said the plan showed Russian President Vladimir Putin the vulnerabilities in the relationship between the US and Ukraine.
“The president was offering a clear signal that personal interests were to be placed above national security interests,’ he said. “And there was an opportunity to take care of something that Putin has been wanting to solve for a very very long time, which is deal with a Ukraine that was instrumental in the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
He said Ukraine’s vote for independence in 1991 “put the nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union.”
Vindman, who was born in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and came to the U.S. as a 3-year-old, is an Iraq War combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient. He served in the U.S. embassies in Kyiv and Moscow before accepting an assignment in 2018 with the National Security Council.
Vindman walked into international spotlight the following year amid the allegations Trump was trying to influence Zelenskyy. He testified at Trump’s first impeachment inquiry that he was concerned by Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with Zelenskyy and reported his concerns to the NSC’s legal counsel, saying he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen.”
Trump ousted Vindman in February 2020, and Vindman retired from the Army that July with 21 years of military service.
The retired lieutenant colonel in February filed a federal lawsuit against Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and two former White House staff members for allegedly intimidating and retaliating against him for testifying in the first impeachment of Trump.
Vindman said Biden’s administration has also made mistakes in its messaging to Russia. He said Biden’s public announcement that there would not be any American boots on the ground in Ukraine further emboldened a president who’d been enabled for more than two decades by global inaction.
“To Putin, it was a green light,” he said.
Vindman suggested Biden should have employed “strategic ambiguity” instead. Just because a principal is right doesn’t mean it needs to be stated, he said; it’s better to leave the opponent wondering what the plan is.
Asked during a question-and-answer session if he has any plans to run for elected office, Vindman was strategically ambiguous.
He is now a senior advisor for VoteVets, a Ph.D. student and fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a board member of the nonprofit Renew Democracy Initiative.