MAGA Republicans make Putin (and Xi) smile

The extreme right wing of the Republican Party are opposed to supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia

by A. Altieri D’Angelo

Photo: Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, 2019. Courtesy of The Presidential Press and Information Office

On September 30, 2023, President Biden signed a Senate and House of Representatives (the House) approved Continuing Resolution (C.R.) that prevented a U.S. government shutdown.

The measure also provided the Senate and House a 45-day grace period to negotiate a final budget package. The bill included funding for disaster relief and, due to Democratic Party pressure, no deep cuts to U.S. government social programs. The final version of the C.R. was a victory for Democrats, and the Republican majority avoided being blamed for a shutdown.

Unfortunately, the price to be paid by the country was the elimination of a $6.0 Billion Ukrainian aid package. The package was intended to provide military aid to cover Ukraine for a few months (until new assistance is approved in 2024).

MAGA Republicans (the extreme right wing of the Republican Party) are opposed to supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia. President Biden and the Senate leaders of the two main political parties, Chuck Schumer (Democrat) and Mitch McConnell, stated that the aid package will be authorized before the 45-day negotiating period ends. However, the fact that it was necessary to trade the aid for the C.R. created doubt about the U.S. commitment to freedom.

The U.S. budget battles have become soap operas over the last several decades. There have been 21 funding gaps (also known as shutdowns) since 1976. Americans despair at the inability of its politicians to negotiate a budget calmly and professionally.

We have come to expect drama and a near-financial panic. But this latest episode has added a new and destabilizing element. The budget standoff has impacted U.S. foreign policy at a time when the U.S. must show leadership. The elimination of Ukraine’s military aid from the C.R. sent a message to the world that the U.S. may not fully support the fight against authoritarianism; it may not be a faithful supporter of Ukraine. Although the compromise was needed to satisfy the MAGA demands, it must have caused Putin and Xi to smile; the MAGAs gave them a huge propaganda victory. Most people expect the House to restore the aid package, but the damage has been done. 

At this moment, Putin, XI, and other anti-democratic leaders must be telling every nonaligned nation that they were right to claim that the U.S. could not be a trusted ally. Putin has believed for many months that the U.S. and its allies would tire of the war and cause Ukraine to seek a negotiated settlement. The MAGAs just reinforced that view.

The U.S. budget battle has given Putin ample reasons not to enter any negotiations before the November 2024 election. He will feel emboldened due to his strengthened belief that U.S. support will decline and that Donald Trump could be the next President. China’s Premier will also seize on the apparent turmoil to proclaim that the “Chinese governing model ” is superior. The U.S. shot itself (and Ukraine) in the foot.

The blame for this should not only fall on the MAGAs. The Republican extreme right wing does not represent the majority of House Republicans, but their influence is more significant than their numbers suggest. They also have Donald Trump’s support.

Trump is vehemently opposed to Ukraine receiving aid. He has never forgiven the Ukrainian government for not supplying information on Hunter and Joe Biden. The former President has, in fact, recently stated that aid should be only provided once Ukraine releases the much sought-after Biden data; of course, this assumes such data exists. Trump is only interested in regaining the presidency and is prepared to sacrifice Ukraine to win. He is focused on appealing to MAGAs, which means having the U.S. turn its back on the fight for democracy.

Republican’s declining support for democracy is yet another sign of the incredible change in its view of the world. The Republican Party historically was the party that wanted to confront Russia and all forms of communism. They were not isolationists. But times have changed. They do not see that it is the role of the U.S. to fight for worldwide democracy. They have forgotten that history has taught us that we must stand up to people like Putin. Unfortunately, the MAGAs and its leader, Trump, dominate the moderate wing of the Republican Party.

A majority of Americans support giving aid to Ukraine. However, the assistance will become a significant 2024 election issue. A vote for Biden will be a vote for Ukraine and vice versa. The American people will ultimately decide to fight for democracy. And a Biden victory should cause Putin to enter peace talks or be beaten on the battlefield. In the meantime, the world will doubt U.S. support now that we did not authorize the aid package.

The U.S. can restore most of its lost trust by authorizing the aid package and sending more advanced weapons. But in the meantime, Putin (and Xi) will keep smiling.

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