The Pew Research Center finds that the number of Republicans expressing confidence in the Russian tyrant has thankfully fallen from 37% in 2006 to just 7% today. But some of the loudest and most influential voices in the MAGA movement still refuse to support Ukraine or stop pushing Russian propaganda. Many take an anti-anti-Putin stance, criticizing the Ukrainians for resisting the invasion, insisting that the United States has no interest in the conflict, and focusing their anger on the “neocons” and the “globalists” (which, to my ears, sounds a bit like “Jews”) who are supposedly trying to drag the United States into a war with Russia.
Here, for example, is a manifesto published on March 31 by isolationists on the left and right – including Sohrab Ahmari, Michael Anton, Glenn Greenwald and Christopher Rufo – blaming “the main interventionists in the United States and Europe”, rather than Putin , for “bringing the West into an abyss of war and suffering.” Here is what Rep. Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.) said a few weeks ago: “Remember Zelensky is a thug. Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies. Right here is Candace Owens of the Daily Wire on March 17: “President Zelensky is a very bad character who works with the globalists against the interests of his own people. Right here is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) March 15: “NATO provided neo-Nazis in Ukraine with powerful weapons and extensive training in how to use them.” Right here is Republican Senate candidate from Ohio, JD Vance, on February 19: “I don’t care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.”
The worst offenders are also the most influential: former President Donald Trump and Fox “News” host Tucker Carlson. Hey, Tucker, are you still rooting for Russia over Ukraine – like you said you were in 2019? Do you still think there’s no reason to “hate Putin” because he doesn’t ship “all the middle-class jobs in your town to Russia” or “teach your kids to accept racial discrimination” – as you said February 22? Hey Trump, do you still consider Putin’s invasion of Ukraine an act of ‘genius’ and do you still consider Putin a ‘very savvy’ guy who ‘loves his country’ – as you said February 22?
More broadly, will the pro-Putin wing of the GOP stick with Bucha’s Butcher as new evidence of his crimes emerges? Early indications are not promising.
In recent weeks, Carlson has pushed a bogus Kremlin claim that Russia had to invade because Ukraine was building bioweapons labs with the help of…Hunter Biden. This heinous lie could be framed as a “false flag” operation to justify Russia’s use of chemical weapons. Yet Carlson, the consummate “useful idiot,” continues to peddle this repugnant propaganda under the guise of simply asking questions.
As for Trump, he plunged into new depths of unpatriotic brazenness when he last week called on Putin to come clean about any dirt he might have on Hunter Biden’s business dealings. This is the follow-up to Trump’s 2016 demand that Putin find Hillary Clinton’s emails: ‘Russia, if you listen…’ The Kremlin has been eavesdropping: he attempted to break into Clinton’s mail servers the same day. Now the Kremlin has responded to Trump’s latest request with a disinformation dump about Hunter Biden.
What made Trump’s demand even more appalling was his explanation of why Putin should comply: “As long as Putin isn’t exactly a fan of our country…I think Putin would now ready to give that answer.” As my colleague Philip Bump has noted, this is “truly staggering wording” that implies that Putin should retaliate against Biden’s support for Ukraine by helping Trump win back the presidency.
At least the original America First Committee had the good grace to disband after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The current America Firsters, on the other hand, continue to cling to their discredited ideology after the Russian attack on Ukraine. If the Republican Party had an iota of self-respect left, it would break away from these Putin apologists and return to its Reagan roots. (Start by ordering William Inboden’s important and upcoming story on Reagan’s foreign policy.) Alas, that’s probably wishful thinking: Trump remains the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2024 and, if elected , would destroy NATO unity in the face of Russian aggression.