The tone of a cadre of Republican lawmakers, who oppose crucial aid to Ukraine is growing more pugilistic – well beyond the realms of what their constituents report in U.S. public opinion polls.
They constitute a minority in Congress and within their own party, yet their messages are receiving inflated media attention and are beginning to resonate with ordinary citizens, who are beginning to question how and where the $34 billion of committed government security assistance is going.
Overall, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has directed more than $100 billion of overall aid in various forms since Feb. 24, 2022, when Kremlin autocrat Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in an ongoing war against the neighboring country that is entering its tenth year.
Congressionally approved funding for Ukraine in the previous year ,accounted for only 5.6 percent of total defense funding and 2 percent of the U.S. budget, or $0.25 per day for every citizen.
Republican House of Representatives speaker Kevin McCarthy’s recent insistence that aid to Ukraine “can’t be a blank check” has been frequently repeated by other Republicans, some of whom still don’t recognize the legitimacy of Biden’s election and publicly repeat Kremlin narratives concerning the war.
This rogue unit seemingly refuses to see how the aid bolsters U.S. interests and promotes a rules-based international order.
“But Russia is a primary adversary of the U.S. A top-tier rival not too far behind China, its number one strategic challenger,” the National Review wrote in November. “In cold, geopolitical terms, this war provides a prime opportunity for the U.S. to erode and degrade Russia’s conventional defense capability, with no boots on the ground and little risk to U.S. lives.”
Contrarians and conspiracy-mongers
Still, House representatives such as, Marjorie Taylor Greene, from Georgia – an apostle of QAnon conspiracy theories, who questions the legitimacy of Biden’s election – are pushing for more oversight on how money intended for Ukraine is being spent.
“Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine,” Taylor Green said in November.
In March of last year, just a month into the full-on onslaught, she said: “You see Ukraine just kept poking the bear…which is Russia, and Russia invaded. And the hard truth is… there is no win for Ukraine here. Russia is being very successful in their invasion.”
Although, she and other colleagues who continue to question the reason for why the U.S. is the world’s largest aid provider to Kyiv in monetary terms – not per capita GDP – they also want to cut it off.
Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, firmly questioned Pentagon officials at a House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 28 after they said audits found no “systemic” wrongdoing with the billions of dollars that Washington has provided.
He furthermore in February introduced a “Ukraine Fatigue Resolution” in the House that seeks to end “military financial aid to Ukraine.”
On his personal website, Gaetz stated on Feb. 9 that “we must suspend all foreign aid for the War in Ukraine and demand that all combatants in this conflict reach a peace agreement immediately.”
He also challenged the Defense Department’s Inspector General Robert Storch on Feb. 28 during the same committee hearing: “You cannot testify that everything is complying with the law in end-use monitoring.”
The U.S. and the EU have instigated tracing and scanning systems for the funds they are providing to Ukraine as it defends itself in Europe’s bloodiest war since World War II.
Recent U.S. polls dating from late last year to this month show a disconnect between what Republicans think about Ukraine and what a minority of their representatives on Capitol Hill express.
A survey, conducted by pollster YouGov on behalf of The Economist magazine, found only 6 percent of respondents who identified as Republican “sympathize” with Russia over Ukraine in the war.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs found, in a nationwide survey published in December, that a “solid majority” of Americans continue to support “supplying Ukraine with arms (65 percent) and economic aid (66 percent), accepting Ukrainian refugees (73 percent) and sanctioning Russia (75 percent).
The “most vocal critics” of providing aid to Ukraine “are among Republicans… who are still a minority on the Hill,” said Emily Sullivan, research assistance on public opinion and a member of the U.S. foreign policy team at the think tank.
In an audio interview with the Kyiv Post, she said that “claims that support is slipping are overblown.”
Regarding the “speed with which aid is being provided to Ukraine, it is no surprise that questions are being raised as to what is the end marker here… I don’t see there is a reason to be concerned yet.”
Yet public opinion is pivoting among those who think that the U.S. is providing “too much support to Ukraine,” a survey released in January by the Pew Research Center found:
“The share of adults who say the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine has increased 6 percentage points since last September and 19 points since shortly after Russia launched its [repeat] invasion of Ukraine last year,” the pollster said.
Starkly, Pew concluded that “this shift in opinion is mostly attributable to the growing share of Republicans who say the U.S. is providing too much support to Ukraine. Today, 40 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents hold this view, up from 32 percent in the fall and much higher than the 9 percent who held this view in March of last year.”
Other Republican lawmakers remain undecided or on the fence.
“Ukraine is not our friend, and Russia is not our enemy,” Representative Paul Gosar from Arizona tweeted last month.
One of the news platforms that has amplified the principal detractors of Ukraine on Capitol Hill is Fox News and one of its chief television hosts, Tucker Carlson.
As recently as February, he said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “is not a hero… He is an instrument of total destruction.”
And as far back as 2019, before the all-out invasion, Carlson said that “I think we should probably take the side of Russia, if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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