ORLANDO (Florida) -- This week's annual meeting of the Republican Party’s most conservative members took place 9000 miles away from Kyiv, Ukraine. But for some, it wasn't enough.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), speakers repeatedly ignored or downplayed any reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin , whose invasion of Ukraine days earlier launched a war which drew wide condemnation from the international community because it cost innocent lives without justification.
CPAC speakers blasted Justin Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister, for violating his country's restrictions on public health as Moscow launched missiles against Ukraine. One breakout session was dedicated to China, but there were none on Russia. China was often cited as a greater problem for the United States.
Republicans who brought up Russia used this opportunity to test-drive an attack on Democrats, who face a difficult battle to defend their small majority in Congress in the midterm elections. However, this message may be complicated by the praises heaped on Putin by former President Donald Trump.
In an interview last week , former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Putin "very smart, very shrewd"and "elegantly intelligent." At CPAC, he tested-droved a message in which he blamed Biden for the conflict.
Pompeo stated Friday that a Russian dictator is terrorizing the Ukrainian people as America failed to show the same resolve for the past four years.
Pompeo, however, was less confident offstage and refused to answer NBC News' questions about his praise for Putin last week.
Instead, Pompeo changed the subject to reflect his longstanding commitment against communists. Russia and Ukraine are not communist nations. Pompeo refused to address the matter when pressed. His security detail physically pulled a reporter aside, while another guard grabbed him and yanked his body away.
Some Republicans believe that showing any respect for Putin could make them look foolish and divert attention from Biden.
A conservative podcast featured Trump's ex-president. He also called Putin "savvy" and described his decision to recognize eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions as an act of genius.
Trump spoke to the audience Wednesday at his Mar-a-Lago home, claiming that Putin was "taking control of a country for $2 worth sanctions ....
Senator Lindsey Graham attended the event, and said he spoke with Trump at breakfast the next day. NBC News reported that he urged Trump be more cautious.
"Mr. "Mr. Let's not forget about the people who are causing this problem. It's Putin."
Some Republicans suggested that a promising strategy for GOP candidate would be to frame war in Europe as part a series of debacles. This would start with the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan last summer, which Biden was unable to manage.
Graham stated, "It just continues to be a narrative that [Biden] has lost control here." "The border is broken. Afghanistan was a disaster. Now it's the Ukraine. His policies don't seem to be working and it seems that all the bad guys are moving in the wrong direction.
Caleb Heimlich is Washington's Republican chairman.
He stated that there will be an effect on the election if people reflect on our position on the world stage, and also think back to what happened last year with the withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was disastrous and may have set the stage for this," in an interview.
They also blamed Biden's indecisiveness over sanctions. The U.S. began imposing harsh sanctions on Russia only after the invasion, rather than during the time the Kremlin was building troops at the border with Ukraine. CPAC Republicans focused their attention on energy policy. They claimed that the United States' climate change policy had resulted in a decrease in fossil fuel production. This was a benefit to Putin who has benefited from the higher prices of oil and natural gas Russia produces.
One speaker criticised the idea of sending U.S. soldiers to Ukraine, something Biden repeatedly stated was not on the table. This is a sign that noninterventionist doves are in a GOP once considered the party of hawks with regard to Russia.
While CPAC speakers condemned Russia's invasion, those speaking at CPAC said that China was a greater threat to U.S. interests.
Missouri Senator Josh Hawley stated that "let's be clear, there are two major geo-strategic rivals: China is number one and Russia is number second in terms rank-priority or." He spoke to reporters at CPAC. Hawley stated that he would introduce legislation Monday to increase U.S. energy production.
Hawley stated to reporters that Biden had "botched" his approach to Russia and blamed Putin for the invasion. Hawley answered reporters' questions about Trump's comments calling Putin "smart" and said that Putin thinks he is smart.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis briefly spoke about foreign governments during his Thursday speech. He criticised Covid lockdowns in Canada, Australia and the invasion of Ukraine. The crowd roared when Sen. Ted Cruz mentioned Canada's Trudeau, but did not mention Putin.
On Friday, Sen. Marco Rubio spoke out in support of the people of Ukraine.
Rubio stated, "Regardless of your position on the Ukraine-Russia situation -- What we should have done before, and what we should now -- there is one thing that I believe everyone can agree upon: The people of Ukraine inspire the world."
Events overseas are unlikely to move voters unless U.S. forces are involved directly in fighting. The Ukraine crisis may be an exception. It has the potential to increase gas prices and sink financial markets, putting at risk the life savings Americans have saved in 401(k).
According to Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster and reporter, "This is different." This brings back memories from World War II. The economic implications for the U.S. will be significant. Even if the U.S. does not send troops, people will feel the effects of this. It has significant political implications for America.
Corey Lewandowski is a Republican strategist and Trump confidant. He predicted that Republican Senate candidates could win victories in competitive states by making Ukraine the "determinative" issue.
Lewandowski stated that "these four incumbent Democrat Senators now have to defend the Joe Biden Administration's policies in Ukraine" in an interview. He was referring to Democratic senators running in Nevada, Arizona and New Hampshire for re-election.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, suggested earlier this week that a partisan reaction to the invasion of Ukraine is not consistent with a long tradition showing unity in the face an unprovoked attack by a U.S. enemy.
Psaki stated that there is a long tradition of the United States standing up against any country's attempts to seize territory from another country. He also supported efforts by the United States for global support to stop illegal and inappropriate actions by other countries.