October 27, 2022

GOP and Progressives Going Munich on Ukraine?

by Hal Gershowitz

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It wasn’t quite Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time.” Still, Kevin McCarthy’s untimely and unseemly “additional aid for Ukraine would be difficult” wasn’t exactly signaling America’s resolve to stand by a determined but beleaguered Ukraine. Nor was the Democrat’s Progressive Caucus’s “…we also believe it is in the interests of Ukraine, the United States, and the world to avoid a prolonged conflict…”

These are terribly wrong signals by McCarthy and Progressive Caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal and at precisely the wrong time. McCarthy’s statement wasn’t about a belated Republican sense of fiscal responsibility. More likely, it was about putting the brakes on any further recognition of Biden’s quite deft handling of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Jayapal’s progressive caucus letter was just plain naïve.

To the discomfort of the Republicans, Biden has managed the western world’s (think NATO’s) response to the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine remarkably well. Biden’s decision to publicly release early and detailed intelligence on the protracted Russian arms and troop build-up on the Ukrainian border was precisely the right thing to do. He checkmated Putin’s planned false-flag excuse for attacking Ukraine. The President ensured the entire world was watching the Russian movement of men and munitions to the Ukrainian border. Biden’s aggressive supply of arms to Ukraine has also been the right thing to do. History will treat him well on his handling of the Russian aggression thus far.

A coalition of allies hasn’t pulled together like this since Desert Storm over thirty years ago. Indeed, even Sweden and Finland have taken steps to join NATO. With the United States leading the way, arms from all over NATO have been pouring into Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Zelensky stands very tall as he faces a belligerent, aggressive, and substantially diminished Vladimir Putin. What a strange time for the Republicans and the Progressives to be signaling, whoa, let’s reconsider our commitment.

Ukraine has not asked America or NATO to send troops. They’ve asked that we augment the Ukrainian arsenal of equipment and munitions to meet the Russian onslaught. And we have, and they have demonstrated, with our help, a great determination to protect their homeland.

So, just what is the Republican diminishing resolve to support Ukraine all about? It’s not so much about curtailing spending as it is about curtailing a possible groundswell of recognition that Ukraine, with the massive help of the NATO alliance led by President Biden, is successfully defending itself against Vladimir Putin and the Russians.

The now rescinded letter from Representative Jayapal’s group of ultra-progressives simply reflects old-fashioned pacifism in the face of criminal aggression by a despot.

Anyone with even a marginal sense of history understands that the fate of Ukraine very likely foretells the fate of other recently freed former soviet-bloc nations.

As long as Ukraine is prepared to fight for its freedom, what should our commitment be to provide the means? Whatever it takes.

Abandon Ukraine, and it will only be a matter of time before Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania will be in Russia’s crosshairs. The threat of hostilities involving Russia and the United States will only increase if our resolve to stand by Ukraine falters. Putin is focused like a laser on what is going on in our Congress, just as North Viet Nam’s Le Duc Tho was transfixed on our politics fifty years ago.

The far-left telegraphed that it was prepared to back away from Ukraine this week but hastily “withdrew” its naïve letter urging Biden to pursue negotiations with Russia to end the fighting. The naivete is staggering.

The extent of Putin’s miscalculation cannot be overstated. He has turned Ukrainian President Zelensky into a hero while transforming himself into a scorned thug. Putin and the Russian Federation he leads are now held in abysmally low regard throughout the developed world.

A Pew Research survey of 18 developed countries found that favorable views of Russia had plummeted to 10% or less. At the United Nations, the General Assembly voted 143 to five, with 35 abstentions, to reject the Russian annexation of Ukrainian territory. Putin, once an ever-present figure on the world stage, is today really welcome nowhere. He is reviled almost everywhere.

When Donald Trump left office, there was, according to PEW Research, a seventeen-point spread between Democrats and Republicans concerning their respective favorability views of Russia, with Republicans holding the more favorable view. That isn’t surprising, given Trump’s embarrassing swoon over Putin. “This is genius,” Trump gushed following Putin’s attack on Ukraine. “Putin declares a big portion of Ukraine as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful …I mean, he’s taking over a country for two dollars worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country—really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.” Trump called Putin’s approach to Ukraine genius. “Here’s a guy who’s very savvy…I know him very well…Putin is playing Biden like a drum, and it’s not pretty to watch,” said our former President.

Today, the spread between the Republican and Democratic negative ratings of Putin has disappeared, with the gap narrowing to only five points.

At the end of the Trump administration, only 48% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents saw Russia as a major threat compared to 68% of Democrats. Today, over 60% of both Republicans and Democrats see Russia as a major threat to the United States. A short time ago, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) tweeted and then deleted a horribly ill-advised message for Democrats to “end the gift-giving to Ukraine.

Far-right European politicians are scrambling to readdress their recent swoons over Vladimir Putin. Far-right Giorgia Meloni, Prime Minister of Italy, has rushed to jettison her recent warm words for Putin, vowing to continue sending weapons to Ukraine. Italy’s current Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini, who once described Putin as “the best statesman on earth,” now insists he supports Ukraine.

Support for Putin has plunged throughout the world. The latest Pew Research reveals that favorable opinions of Putin and the Russian Federation have collapsed, even among the far right, since Russia invaded Ukraine. Among Salvini’s followers in Italy, confidence in Putin regarding world affairs has imploded from 62% last year to 10% today.

France’s Marine Le Pen, whose own swoon with Putin is an embarrassment as she protests that the Putin we see today is “not the one” she met when she was promoting stronger ties with Russia. Actually, he is precisely the same man. Just a year ago, her National Rally Party members were overwhelmingly pro-Putin. Today just 21% admit to favorable views of him.

We don’t know how the Russian aggression against Ukraine will finally be resolved. However, assuming Ukraine remains free and independent and Putin is still at the helm of the Russian Federation when the fighting ceases, the Russian strongman will not have been chastened by the experience. He will not be a friendly neighbor to those free and independent nations that used to be old Soviet vassals. He will simply be better informed about what to do differently next time.

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One response to “GOP and Progressives Going Munich on Ukraine?”

  1. Juanita Swing says:

    I would like to know how anyone can support Putin. Money must be the reason.

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