NEW YORK – When Russia stepped up its aggression against neighboring Ukraine earlier this week, Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio called President Vladimir Putin’s provocations “a clear violation of international law.”
The co-chair of the Ukrainian Senate commission called on the Biden administration to work with allies to “ensure a coordinated response to this unwarranted further invasion of Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”
But one Republican is running for a replacement Portman is retired there was a completely different message.
“I have to be honest with you, I don’t care what happens to Ukraine one way or another,” J.D. Vance said in a podcast interview. “I’m sick of Joe Biden focusing on a country’s border that I don’t care about, while he allows his country’s borders to become a zone of total hostilities.”
Different reactions to Europe’s most significant foreign policy crisis in generations reflect the divided – and rapidly changing – Republican Party. The old guard, mostly centered in Washington, which has long warned of Russian aggression, is facing a growing generation of conservatives who openly question why the U.S. should care about Russia’s steps at all.
“All of these people joined a party where fierce opposition to Russia was the main directive,” said Doug Hay, a longtime Republican strategist. – It shows how stubborn our policy has become over the past few years. ”
The Republican Party’s approach to foreign policy has gained new relevance after Putin launched it on Thursday military operation in Ukraine. In the run-up to the rally, a party branch was a reminder of Donald Trump’s lasting influence on the Republican Republic long after he left the White House.
The former president remains the most popular figure among the Republican base and already has his influence intermediate primaries which will begin next week when he teases the next presidential candidate. These races could lead Republicans in the same mood to embark on an autumn campaign to change foreign traditionalists such as Portman.
The Conservatives’ annual conference on political action, which began in Florida on Thursday, gave an overview of what will happen, as leaders focused their anger on both President Joe Biden’s foreign policy and Putin’s violating aggression.
“We have a national leadership that, in my opinion, at some point is probably criminally incompetent,” said K. T. McFarland, a former deputy national security adviser to Trump. what Vladimir Putin is doing. “
Giving a slap to the American president, she expressed more serious concerns about the Russian leader.
“I am worried that it does not stop only in Ukraine. It continues, ”McFarland said. “Will he next threaten NATO? His lifelong goal was to dismantle NATO, separate the United States from Europe, and rebuild the Soviet Union. ”
So far, those wondering why the United States should care about Ukrainian security remain a small, albeit very influential and vocal segment of the conservative movement. Republicans in Congress, especially in the Senate, have been largely united in speaking out against Russian aggression, and some, like Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have called for a more aggressive stance, calling Biden’s reaction “timid” and “completely unequal.”
Almost everyone became critical of Biden as tensions escalated in the crucial year of the by-elections.
But those who refuse to participate in America have powerful platforms. Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson, the network’s biggest star, who gains millions of viewers every night, has repeatedly asked why Ukraine’s defense is important, and even asked why the United States should side with them and not Putin.
Candice Owens, a well-known conservative commentator, went even further, openly imitating Putin’s views.
“I suggest that every American who wants to know what (the star) is really happening in Russia and Ukraine, read this transcript of Putin’s address. As I have said for a month, NATO (led by the United States) is violating previous agreements and expanding to the east. WE are to blame, ”she tweeted on Tuesday.
On Wednesday night, when the sounds of explosions were heard in Kiev, Kharkiv and other parts of Ukraine, Trump called the scene a “terrible situation” and insisted that Putin would never move.
“He sees the weakness, the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration. And as an American, I’m angry about it and upset about it, ”he said, calling on Lori Ingram’s show on Fox News. “It’s very sad for the world, for the country, and it’s certainly very sad for many people who will be needlessly killed.”
It was a departure from his initial public reaction to Putin’s escalation, in which he did not express clear condemnation and repeatedly praised the Russian leader’s intelligence in an interview with the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.
Critics see such thinking as a symptom of the party’s greater drift towards authoritarianism and anti-democratic action after Trump’s repeated efforts to undo the results 2020 elections stay in power.
“They are essentially declaring their support for authoritarians and dictators, and they don’t seem to have a problem with this type of decree coming to America,” said Olivia Troy, a national security expert who advised Vice President Mike Pence in Trump. White. Home. “I think Americans can disagree on how best to proceed. But we must be a united front in support of freedom and democracy. “
“What happened to Republicans who oppose Russia?” She added. “It used to be that way.”
From the first days of his first presidential campaign, Trump witnessed a sharp restructuring of the Republican Party’s traditional foreign policy stance. He won in 2016, in part by fighting the “eternal wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing that the country had benefited little from interventionism and nation-building in the era of neoconservative George W. Bush. He took a look inside The doctrine of “America first.” who sought to use a combination of harsh talk and unpredictability to scare away potential aggressors.
At the same time, Trump received Putin, complimenting him and denigrating NATO, the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since its founding to confront Russia.
In 2016, his associates worked to strip the Republican Party, which advocated arms transfers to Ukraine, of the platform. He has repeatedly sided with Putin over US intelligence reports of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. These embraces have so embarrassed observers of Russia that some have come to believe that the only plausible explanation was that Putin was wearing some dirt, speculation that has never been confirmed.
Trump was impeachment announced for the first time for putting pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden in the run-up to the 2020 election, while refusing military assistance.
His tenure coincided with a corresponding change in public opinion. Gallup found percentage of Republicans who called Russia a friend or ally rose sharply during Trump’s presidency, rising from 22% in 2014 to 40% in 2018.
Today, the important role of the United States in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is little supported by Americans, and even less so by Republicans. A a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC’s Public Relations Research Center found that only 22% of Republicans believe the U.S. should play an important role in the conflict, compared to 32% of Democrats.
Republicans are also somewhat less likely than Democrats to say they are very, very concerned that Russia’s influence around the world poses a direct threat to the United States.
Adam Geller, a Republican political strategist and questionnaire, warned that while domestic issues in general have played a more crucial role than foreign policy in the last election, that may change.
“If there is a major war in Europe, it will soon come to the minds of voters,” he said.
That would mean bad news for Biden, he said, activating both Republicans and independents who voted for Biden because he promised to return to normal life before Trump.
But Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University, said there were more serious problems, calling it unprecedented when Republicans questioned the need to stand with Ukraine and, ultimately, with NATO.
“It goes against generations of foreign policy,” he said. “NATO is the heart and soul of all American foreign policy.”
“You are undermining NATO, there is no American presence in the world,” he added. “This is not a quarrel over foreign policy.”
___ Associated Press writers Emily Swanson of Washington and Steve Peoples of Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report.
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