Republicans support an aggressive policy towards Ukraine and are breaking with Trump

Republican lawmakers have been following Donald Trump's lead for the past half-decade, even though he shifted the party away form its long-held party ideology.

Republicans support an aggressive policy towards Ukraine and are breaking with Trump

However, GOP officials have stopped following the lead of Donald Trump in regards to Russia's invasion Ukraine.

The rare unifying force of Capitol Hill is the condemnation of Vladimir Putin. Few Republicans agree with Trump's description of the Russian president being smart and savvy. Mike Pence, a former Vice President, stated that there wasn't room in the party to "apologize for Putin". Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina even suggested that Putin should be assassinated.

After years of watching their party leader question the value of NATO, traditional global security alliances and threaten to withhold aid for Ukraine in return for a political favor, Republicans now argue for any resource that is not U.S. ground troops in order to stop the war in Europe.

The "vast majority" of Republican Party members across the country are behind the Ukrainians, and are urging the president "Face the Nation" Sunday by Mitch McConnell.

"There has been a very dramatic division between the traditional post-1945 Republican view of our leadership, which I hold, and those that wanted to follow a policy more focused on retreating into thinking that someone else would take our place in the global arena if we didn’t," Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri, told CBS News. "And I believe that what's currently happening is that most Republicans, and frankly most members of Senate, have shifted to what, for me, is a more internationalist view on our responsibilities. It's a good thing.

Sometimes there can be a disconnect between party leaders, party voters and party leaders. In this instance, however, polling indicates that party rank and file support a more aggressive stance on Russia.

CBS News polling shows 76% approve of sanctioning Russia’s oil and gas. 62% of Republicans say so, even though it may mean higher gas prices. 75% believe the U.S. should supply weapons and supplies to Ukraine and 61% think the U.S. should send soldiers to support NATO allies in the area.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who is a Trump ally in Senate, stated that his constituents were appalled by the Russian invasion and told him to "we must do everything we can to help the Ukrainians."

They are fighting for their existence. Over the past 60 years, Russia has supported every enemy. So, I don't feel bad. I know Putin loves that this is escalatory. He has invaded a sovereign country. According to CBS News, Hawley said that we should arm Ukraine and give them all the defensive weapons they need. To help the Ukrainians, we must do everything possible to be asymmetrically involved in Ukraine. We should do this for the long-term, no matter how long it takes.

Hawley was joined by all Senate Republicans except Mitt Romney in exonerating Trump in his impeachment trial that began in 2019. It centered on his asking Volodymyr Zelenskyy the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden in return for military aid. Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, stated that Trump had not done anything in his conversation with Zelenskyy and that he was therefore impeachable.

McCarthy is now trying to keep his conference from expressing ill will towards Zelenskyy and praising Trump. Republican Representative Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina was criticized for calling Zelenskyy a "thug” at a town hall.

McCarthy said that last week's comments were wrong and told reporters. Putin is the greatest thug on earth. McCarthy then referred to the Russian bombings of a maternity unit and a children's theater. He said that Putin was "atrocious", "wrong", and "this is what we need to stop this war." "This is the one everyone should unite against." McCarthy answered "yes" when asked if he would vote for Cawthorn's reelection.

Republicans remain opposed to U.S. military intervention in Ukraine. There is also very little support on Capitol Hill for the establishment a no fly zone. This is a reflection of Trump's decision to move away from military conflict abroad. Colin Dueck, an American Enterprise Institute senior fellow who wrote a book about post-WWII Republican foreign policies, said that Trump had tapped into the frustrations of voters with traditional hawkish GOP views. However, party voters maintained their support for NATO and opposition to Putin. He says that the invasion reminded them of these views and there has been a strong support for a hardline approach against Russia.

Dueck stated, "It has been a common case that Trump acts and other react what's fascinating right now is the fact that nobody seems deferring to Trump on this issue." "There is momentum independent of Trump. He has to catch up."

Some cases show that appearing to support Trump's rhetoric about Putin can be a liability for Republican candidates while on the campaign trail.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory created an ad in which he accused his Trump-backed opponent Ted Budd, accusing him of taking Russia-friendly vote and praising Putin. In an interview, Budd describes Putin as a "very intelligent actor". Club for Growth released an ad in support of Budd. McCrory then played clips of the entire quote where he called Putin "evil", and "international thug".

Politifact states that McCrory cut Budd's entire quote from McCrory's advertisement: "I would call Putin evil. He's smart, but that doesn't make him stupid. Although he is an intelligent actor, I would say that he has been quite inconsistent in his approach to Ukraine.

Although Republicans support a tough line against Russia, they don't want to be critical of Trump's past behavior towards Putin. When asked about Trump's approach towards Putin, they respond that the policies are more important than the rhetoric.

"I disagreed with President Trump’s rhetoric about Putin previously. It was not helpful. However, it was not helpful in substance. The Trump administration's actual policies against Russia were more severe than the Biden policies," Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said to CBS News. He cited the sanctions he authored for Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which Trump signed into law.

"There are probably many mistakes that we can look at...I know Trump has been criticized for his rhetoric. When it came time to get tough, to sanction Nord Stream 2, for instance, he was there to do the right thing and be tough on them." Hawley said to CBS News that he believes Trump miscalculated Putin. But listen, that's in our rearview mirror. We now have to ask ourselves, "What are we going do to move forward?"


 

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