Will the Republicans side with Ukraine?

Ukraine is torn between Republican parties. Consider what happened last week between former President Donald Trump and Senator Lindsey Graham.

On January 24, Graham issued a statement enthusiastically welcoming President Joe Biden’s decision to send Abrams tanks to “help Ukraine evict Russia from Ukrainian soil. Defeating Russia in Ukraine is in America’s national security interest because Russia’s ambitions are to rewrite the map of Europe and China is watching.”

On January 26, Trump criticized Biden’s tank announcement on his Truth Social website: “First come the tanks, then come the nukes. End this crazy war, now. So easy to do!” Donald Trump Jr His father’s post explained that ending the war would include ending military aid to Ukraine: “Until we say we’re not funding this crap anymore, nobody has the incentive to negotiate.” A few weeks ago, Trump Sr. said, “The good old US ‘suckers’ are footing a vast majority of the NATO bill, and outside money is going to Ukraine. Very unfair!”

On January 28, Graham spoke in support of Trump’s presidential campaign at a South Carolina event. “How many times have you heard, ‘We like Trump’s policies but we want someone new?’ Without Donald Trump, Trump has no policies.” Graham wasn’t referring to domestic policies like tax cuts. He went on to praise Trump’s foreign policy record, crediting Trump for handling NATO, China, Mexico and the Middle East.

The notoriously shape-shifting Graham, however, did not mention Russia or Ukraine. How can he do this without widening the internal divisions in his party?

The GOP is in an unusual, volatile place today. Foreign policy has been a source of party unity for decades. During the Cold War, strong opposition to communism, along with strong support for military spending, was central to the GOP’s identity. After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Republicans defined themselves as the party most committed to waging a “war on terror” and blasted Democrats as soft and weak.

Over the past 15 years, the political tectonic plates have shifted. Expanding the “War on Terror” to Iraq has tarnished the Republican Party’s reputation. This revived the conservative interest in isolationism that had characterized the post-World War I Republican Party. In 2016, Trump resurrected the “America First” slogan used by Charles Lindbergh when he led a failed attempt to steer American foreign policy toward warmer relations with Nazi Germany and keep America out of “these wars in Europe.” Trump’s 21st-century version of America First offers a nationalist rationale for strengthening ties with uneasy foreign powers. Trump has thawed relations with Russia, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Longtime Republican hawks like Graham jumped in but Trump remained in the fold because of his sympathies with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

Meanwhile, Democrats have united behind policies to suppress Russian imperialism. Biden’s signature achievement on the world stage has been his support of the Ukrainian resistance and leadership of the extraordinarily well-connected Western coalition backing Kiev. Biden did so with Senate Republican hawks and Democratic Party doves rooting for minimal carping.

Whether America’s commitment to Ukraine can survive a prolonged military standoff depends on many factors, but the odds of stability increase when partisanship declines. If Ukrainian policy is not a point of contention between parties, policy can change public opinion.

For now, Ukrainian policy is less a matter of contention between Democrats and Republicans than among Republican factions — the Reaganesque enemies of Russian dictators and America Firsters. from Trump.

This divide includes voters as well as Republican politicians. Sixty-four percent of respondents to a January CBS News/YouGov poll said they want their House representatives to support “US aid to Ukraine.” For Democrats, that number is 81 percent. But a narrow majority of Republicans, 52 percent, want their representative opposition Help Ukraine.

A November poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs gave similar numbers, though with more support for Ukraine from Republicans. Sixty-five percent of respondents favored “sending additional weapons and military supplies to the Ukrainian government,” including 76 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans.

Although the GOP is divided, grassroots energy appears to be with America Firsters. Trump is leading in most primary polls, although there is a plurality of support. Fox News’ top-rated prime-time host, Tucker Carlson, regularly makes hysterical criticisms of aid to Ukraine. Apostate conservative representative Matt Getz and Lorraine Boebert House Speaker Kevin McCarthy held up the ascent, boasting (wrongly) that a delay would disrupt Ukraine funding.

In December, Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in favor of a resolution sponsored by Representative Marjorie Taylor Green to audit aid to Ukraine. Last week Greene went even further, posting on Twitter that “We must stop funding Ukraine. This war needs to end. … It’s a corrupt slush fund and it’s just killing people.” (Greene once addressed the America First Political Action Conference, which is not affiliated with Trump but is led by Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who urged attendees to “do a round of applause for Russia.” And Vladimir Putin was seen drawing comparisons to Adolf Hitler, the Russian strongman and Nazi figurehead. Führer in a favorable light.).

McCarthy’s comments during the midterm campaign arguably divided the two parties but leaned more toward critics of Ukraine: “I think Ukraine is very important. I support making sure that we move forward to defeat Russia in that program. But nothing should be a blank check.”

But Senate Republicans are led by Mitch McConnell, who often views the Trump wing of the party as electorally competitive and intellectually suspect. He’s helping Biden drum up votes for aid to Ukraine. The last two batches of aid were tied to larger “must pass” spending bills that keep the federal government open. With McConnell’s blessing, the bills attracted healthy bipartisan support in the Senate while garnering few Republican votes in the House.

The internal party debate will likely spill over into the presidential primaries. While we don’t know which 2024 GOP presidential candidates will challenge Trump over Ukraine funding, we have some possibilities. Former Vice President Mike Pence delivered a foreign policy speech in October that broke with America First: “I believe that conservatives must make it clear that Putin must be stopped, and that Putin will pay. Apologists for Putin may have a place in the conservative movement.” No.” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t said much about Ukraine. Still, after the initial attack, he called Putin an “authoritarian gas station attendant” (while blaming Biden for not doing enough to stop him).

Yet, as Senator Lindsey Graham exemplified, a Republican may be in favor of arming Ukraine but lack the courage to say as much while on stage with Trump. Candidates in the presidential primaries may conclude that there is a high price to pay for entangling with the America First party.

Polls indicate that the GOP electorate is roughly evenly split on Ukraine, making accurate short-term political calculations difficult. But what’s best for the Republican Party in the long run is clear, and clearly, spelled out by Pence. A Republican Party that is home to Putin apologists is no longer built on liberty and freedom.

Last week, former high-ranking counterintelligence FBI official Charles McGonigal was arrested for illegally helping Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska escape U.S. sanctions imposed five years ago as punishment for Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Eight months after imposing the initial sanctions, Trump lifted the ban on Deripaska’s businesses, though the sanctions on Deripaska personally remain.)

Deripaska was not only an ally of Putin, but also had business dealings with Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager. as The New York times As reported in November, Manafort and Deripaska discussed a plan to resolve the Ukrainian conflict on terms highly favorable to Russia through mediators, as well as sharing polling data that mapped Trump’s geographic path to 270 Electoral College votes. Clearly, Russia could use poll data to conduct its disinformation strategy, and Manafort could use his position to lobby Trump for a peace plan.

Manafort—as you may recall—resigned from his post during the 2016 campaign and was later convicted of tax and bank fraud related to his work in Ukraine. An incarcerated Manafort couldn’t lobby Trump. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s opposition to Russia’s occupation hardened throughout Trump’s presidency, prompting President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky in 2019 to resist Putin’s demands. Trump, suffering from Nixonian paranoia in his upcoming 2020 re-election campaign, wanted to exploit Zelensky’s weakness. he Withheld $400 million in aid to Ukraine Before pushing Zelensky to investigate Biden, which led to his first impeachment. Trump was acquitted in the Senate with near-unanimous support from Republicans. Trump pardoned Manafort before leaving office.

We have no evidence that Trump had an affair with McGonigal. However, some national security analysts such as Jeff Stein and Timothy Snyder have speculated that McGonigal may have played a role in undermining Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. At a minimum, McGonigal’s arrest raises questions about whether Russia’s election meddling activities reached the FBI.

But for Trump, any Russia-related news development is an opportunity to demonstrate his friendliness toward Putin and divert attention away from Russian election meddling. “The FBI guy after me for the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, long before my election as president, was arrested for taking money from Russia, Russia, Russia. May he rot in hell!” Trump posted on Truth Social. (Some conservative media outlets were quick to claim that McGonigal played a major role in the 2016 “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged links to Russia, but Stein quoted a former FBI official as saying that “she didn’t touch that.” Fox News reports (stated that McGonigal was “presumably briefed” on the investigation.)

On Monday, Trump posted, “Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, basically, who do I trust more, Russian President Putin, or our ‘intelligence’ underworld. My instinct at the time was that James Comey and the F.B.I. We’ve had really bad guys in the form of others,” Now add McGonigal and other slimes to the list Who will you choose, Putin or this misfit?”

After everything that has happened in the last eight years, since Trump first announced his campaign, through all the Russia-related investigations into the invasion of Ukraine, Trump still wants us to put our trust in Putin.

Russia’s efforts to manipulate American public opinion and infiltrate American institutions since Trump’s 2016 victory have been a dismal failure. In a recent YouGov poll, Putin’s favorable rating among Americans is 11 percent, and his unfavorable rating is 74 percent. American foreign policy is more oriented against Russian imperialism than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Do Republican primary voters really want to hitch their party’s wagon not only to Trump, but also to his America First agenda that calls for closer ties to one of the world’s most unpopular — not to mention homicide — statistics?

To this day, we don’t know the answer. But the 2024 primaries will determine the Republican Party’s foreign policy agenda, and it will determine whether America remains committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty regardless of the changing political winds.