From a domestic perspective, the Republican Party’s embarrassing failure to follow through on its Fox News-goaded attempt to impeach Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas proved to be a blessing. It was wholly performative theater, without any legitimacy. The party’s abrupt, equally embarrassing turnabout on immigration—an issue that Republicans had planned on wielding against Democrats going into 2024—was just more evidence of the GOP’s terminal dysfunction.
As schadenfreude-y as it may have been for Democrats to watch as the Republicans immolated themselves on the altar of immigration, the rest of the world was far more concerned about how the U.S. would follow through on its prior strategic commitments to Ukraine and Israel. By Wednesday morning, aid packages to both nations were hopelessly consigned to the quicksand of GOP intransigence and finger-pointing. Since aid to those countries was tied—at Republicans’ insistence—to border legislation, the Republicans’ pathetic submission of their much-vaunted immigration concerns to Donald Trump’s electoral whims may have doomed the prospects of further aid to Ukraine and Israel for the remainder of the fiscal year.
(Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is now crafting separate packages, without immigration reform included, but their likelihood of success appears murky.)
From the perspective of our allies, however, what occurred this week is seen less as habitual Republican dysfunction and more as the total abandonment of American resolve. In a week’s time, we have proved ourselves, as Anne Applebaum presciently warned last month in The Atlantic, worse than an unreliable ally: We’ve become “a silly ally”—one that can no longer be taken seriously by the rest of the world.
Applebaum isn’t alone in that assessment. Tom Friedman’s Tuesday opinion piece in The New York Times, acidly titled “The G.O.P. Bumper Sticker: Trump First. Putin Second. America Third,” explains just how damaging and consequential the Republicans’ actions this week have been to the nation.
As Friedman wrote, even before the immigration and foreign aid bill collapsed under the weight of Republican cowardice:
There are hinges in history, and this is one of them. What Washington does — or does not do — this year to support its allies and secure our border will say so much about our approach to security and stability in this new post-post-Cold War era. Will America carry the red, white and blue flag into the future or just a white flag? Given the pessimistic talk coming out of the Capitol, it is looking more and more like the white flag, autographed by Donald Trump.
There is no serious doubt that House Republicans rejected the Senate’s painstakingly crafted immigration legislation, which satisfied nearly all prior GOP demands for border enforcement, at the behest of Donald Trump. Trump prefers to do nothing, effectively maintaining the status quo at the border for another full year so he can use it as a campaign talking point, assuming he's still eligible to hold public office.
Fearing Trump's wrath, House Republicans swiftly pronounced the immigration and foreign aid package "dead on arrival" before most had even read it. Meanwhile, Republican senators began to quaver at the prospect of being primaried by Trump-chosen challengers for the audacity of trying to actually pass meaningful legislation. Faced with Trump’s continued vise-like grip on their party, upper chamber Republicans opted to jettison the legislation altogether.
But, as Friedman observes, there’s another key player in the mix: Vladimir Putin. Putin is well-aware that Trump will abandon Ukraine—and likely NATO—the instant he returns to power. Friedman recognizes that Trump’s interests—and thus the interests of a supine Republican Party intent on enabling Trump’s dictatorial ambitions—now necessarily dovetail with Putin’s.
After Ukraine inflicted a terrible defeat on the Russian Army — thanks to U.S. and NATO funding and weapons — without costing a single American soldier’s life, Putin now has to be licking his chops at the thought that we will walk away from Ukraine, leaving him surely counting the days until Kyiv’s missile stocks run out and he will own the skies. Then it’s bombs away.
This week, one of Putin’s primary assets, the propagandist and “useful idiot” Tucker Carlson, is purportedly being wined and dined in Moscow so he can provide cover for Republicans to gut Ukrainian aid. Carlson’s paywalled, one-on-one interview with Putin, and how it might enable the murderous dictator’s “outreach” to Republicans, is already the talk of Russian state television.
As reported Wednesday by The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova:
State television propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, one of the Kremlin’s anti-Western attack dogs, seemed to suggest that Carlson’s interview would torpedo any last hope for approval of new American military aid for Ukraine.
Solovyov said Carlson’s visit came “at the worst possible time for the West,” and he begged Carlson to join the Russian Union of Journalists, which Solovyov heads.
As Friedman points out, this eagerness of Republicans to betray American strategic interests in order to satisfy both Trump and Putin transforms America’s credibility with our allies into a mere afterthought.
If this is the future and our friends from Europe to the Middle East to Asia sense that we are going into hibernation, they will all start to cut deals — European allies with Putin, Arab allies with Iran, Asian allies with China. We won’t feel the change overnight, but, unless we pass this bill or something close to it, we will feel it over time.
America’s ability to assemble alliances against the probes of Russia, China and Iran will gradually be diminished. Our ability to sustain sanctions on pariah nations like North Korea will erode. The rules governing trade, banking and the sanctity of borders being violated by force — rules that America set, enforced and benefited from since World War II — will increasingly be set by others and by their interests.
The saddest fact is that no one should really be surprised by Republicans’ behavior. For a substantial segment of their caucus, their order of loyalty really is “Trump first, Putin second, America third.” Evidently they feel that the risk of betraying their own constituents on the immigration issue is well worth the effort and impact, if it means pleasing their two masters. And if they have so small a regard for their own constituents, there’s little doubt they feel even less toward the American republic writ large.