On Monday, Russian authoritarian ruler Vladimir Putin moved additional Russian forces into Ukraine, declaring that two regions in eastern Ukraine were now “independent republics.” On Tuesday, Putin expanded the scope of the new nations he peremptorily formed out of the territory of a neighboring country, setting up an excuse to occupy a much larger area and engage in direct military conflict with Ukrainian government forces.
In response to Putin’s actions, both the United States and European nations took swift actions. Sanctions have been placed on Russia, making it extremely difficult to finance the country’s debt in international markets. Additional sanctions have been placed on Russian state banks. And, most importantly, completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline—a pipeline that would have carried 1.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from Russia to Germany each year—has been halted. This pipeline would have been a major source of revenue for Russia, which has an economy that is heavily dependent on export of fossil fuels.
But as the world unites in opposition to Russian aggression, there is one notable exception: Republicans. From Donald Trump to Mike Pompeo to Josh Hawley, the same people who were in a hurry to overthrow democracy in America are using this moment to support the destruction of a democratic ally.
Trump’s response came during an interview on Tuesday with Trump-supporting podcaster Buck Sexton.
Trump: "I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius, Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine, of Ukraine, Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. I said, 'How smart is that?'”
Genius. Wonderful. Smart. That’s what Donald Trump thinks of Putin’s open seizure of property from a U.S. ally. But Trump didn’t stop there. He expressed a wish that some of those Russian tanks should come here.
Trump: “And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper, That’s the strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy."
It’s almost as if Trump believes that the puppet show Putin put on for his state-run media fooled everyone. Oh, gee, golly, we have to let Russia go in there and keep the peace for those poor independent republicans, yup, yup, yup.
Putin’s attempt to excuse his actions is a sick joke. Much like Trump.
Also on Tuesday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hustled out to sing his praises of Putin and undercut the U.S. position. In fact, he’s doing it so well that Pompeo is getting repeat play on Russian state TV.
Pompeo: “Very shrewd. Very capable. I have enormous respect for him.”
And then there was Hawley. A column from Feb. 3 called Hawley “Putin’s new favorite pet” for adopting Russian talking points and urging the nation to turn its back on Ukraine. Or, as The Kansas-City Star puts it: “Insurrection, racism, appeasement: Call it the Hawley Trinity.”
Hawley’s position—if it can be called a position—can be summed up in these two self-contradictory statements:
Hawley: “We have a strong interest in deterring Russian adventurism. But these interests are not so great that we should commit ourselves to fight Russia over Ukraine’s future.”
Appeasement is the order of the day for most Republicans in both politics and media. Here’s Charlie Kirk to complain about Biden calling it “a peacekeeping operation and invasion” and following it up with what might be the Republican theme song of the day.
Kirk: “Who cares? This is a family dispute between two countries. One rather strong, and one very corrupt and weak.”
Sure. When has it ever been a good idea to stop the strong from beating up the weak? That’s certainly not in the Republican world view.
Tucker Carlson, who has been carrying Putin’s water so long that he has almost (almost) developed a muscle, was reliably there for him on Tuesday, insisting that because Putin didn’t call him a racist or start the pandemic, there’s no reason to be mad at him.
According to Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski, most Republicans in Congress started out “totally solid on Ukraine” and wanted to push back against Russia. However, “They’re beginning to feel this pressure percolating from their base because [Carlson] is the guy that speaks to more Republicans every day than anyone else in America.”
Carlson’s point is, of course, don’t hate Putin … hate Biden. It’s a point that the House Republicans underscored yesterday when they posted this response to Biden’s speech announcing an initial set of sanctions against Russia, with more to follow.
When they’re not spreading the news that Putin is strong, Biden is weak, and that the United States has no interest in promoting democracy, defending nations against aggressors, or upholding our word to allies, Republicans have taken some time out to make it clear that Ukraine totally deserves it. That “corrupt” that Kirk tossed into his statement was no coincidence. It’s how Republicans are describing Ukraine in statement after statement. And there’s this extraordinary claim from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
A day earlier, Greene declared that she wanted to impeach Biden for “threatening war with nuclear Russia.”
It’s not that Republicans don’t want a war. It’s that they’re already waging one—against democracy in the United States. This was what was on Steve Bannon’s mind on Tuesday as he grew concerned over how Russia’s invasion might interfere with issues of real importance.