WASHINGTON -- Former GOP President Donald Trump has been applauding the Russian leader's style and power as he presses Joe Biden, the Republican leader in Congress, to punish Vladimir Putin more for sending troops into Ukraine.
These fissures indicate a growing division in the Republican Party between traditional foreign policy hawks, who advocate for a more confrontational U.S. position to the Russian dictator, and a Trump-aligned faction called "MAGA", which has expressed some sympathy with Putin's tactics or described them to be effective.
"I went into yesterday and there was television screen. I said, "This is genius." Putin declares large portions of Ukraine independent. In an interview, Trump said that it was wonderful.
"I said, "How smart is that?" He's going to go in and be peacekeeper. ... That could be used on our southern border," Putin said. He described Putin as "very savvy" and who he "very, very well" knows.
The Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was speaking the same day, struck a different tone, slamming "Putin’s aggression" and exhorting Biden to quickly and aggressively take action. He warned of "catastrophic” consequences if the West fails to confront Putin.
"This should start, but not end with severe sanctions against the Kremlin, its enablers, and other foreign governments. "The President should not waste any time using his vast existing powers to impose these cost," the Kentucky Republican stated in a statement.
A recent Yahoo News/YouGov survey found that 62 percent of Republicans, and 25 percent of GOP-leading Independents, said Putin was "a stronger leader than Biden." Another 25% declined to pick between the American or Russian presidents.
Ambitious Republican politicians are now in a difficult position due to shifting sentiments to the right. This has revealed divisions in their approach to the crisis. While some are clearly anti-Putin, others praise his capabilities. Some GOP candidates for the 2022 election try to avoid the controversy by claiming that they are not concerned about Ukraine.
"I don't really care"
Biden had announced sanctions against Russia's banks, sovereign debt and banks. Senator Ben Sasse (Republican from Nebraska) said that the president's actions were too little and too late. He argued that sanctions should have been in effect before Putin deployed troops. Sasse also criticised Putin's "flagrant disregard" for the rule of the law.
Top House Republicans, including Kevin McCarthy, called Putin’s actions "reprehensible" and blamed it on "appeasement” and "lack of "strong action" from the administration.
They stated that the U.S. and its allies should now make the Putin regime pay for their aggression.
GOP candidates will be all over the place in the 2022 elections.
J.D. J.D. "I have to be truthful with you. I don't care what happens in Ukraine one way or the other."
Jane Timken, his rival, decided to take a different approach and issued a statement Monday calling on Russia to "crush economic sanctions against Russia" and for Ukraine's vital military assistance.
Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania Senate, sided with the pro Ukraine wing of the party. He said: "Putin has violated sovereignty of a country free from any interference, and Biden’s weak position on the international stage invites further aggressions. We must immediately take action to stop his regime, both the U.S. as well as our allies.
Rep. Liz Cheney (Republican from Wyoming), a Trump critic, who he is targeting to defeat this fall. replied Tuesday. "Former President Trump’s adulation today of Putin -- including calling him an 'genius,' -- aids our adversaries. Trump's interests do not seem to align with those of the United States of America.
'Not Russian talking points'
The conservative media is equally divided.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board warned that Putin's ambitions could "topple the U.S.-led International Order" if the West does not rally to its defense.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson is leading the charge against Russia's actions, while some of his colleagues are attacking Biden's inaction to deter Moscow.
Bannon and Jack Posobiec , pro-Trump commentator, praised Putin’s pugilistic speech, while Gateway Pundit downplayed Russia’s aggression. The site stated that Ukraine was part of Russia for over 300 years. This is not Russian talk points.
Candace Owens, a right-wing personality, urged her 3,000,000 Twitter followers to read Putin’s speech if she wanted to know "what’s *actually* happening in Russia and Ukraine". She also blamed the U.S. She tweeted, "WE are at fault."
Trump sent a statement Tuesday to his email list with a link to RT.com, a website owned by the Kremlin and backed by Russia's television network.
Parts of the conservative movement are beginning to sympathize with Putin's style, which could impact how ambitious Republicans position themselves for the White House.
Last month, Trump's ex-secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who is believed to have presidential ambitions. stated that Putin is "a very gifted statesman" with many gifts.
He knows how to use power. He said, "We should respect that."