Politically, the United States has changed profoundly with Donald Trump. One important victim is Republican policy on Ukraine. As the eminent Financial Times columnist Edward Luce summed it up: “The Republican right treats Ukraine as an enemy and Russia as a friend. Defining that stance as isolationist is lazy and wrong. It is actively pro-Russian.”

In 2017, one single Republican senator, Rand Paul, voted against the Combating American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which introduced harsher sanctions on Russia. Rand Paul has consistently favored Trump and Putin, but the rightwing extremists have now expanded to a slight majority among the Republicans in the House of Representatives.

Several of them repeat blatant Russian disinformation. The possibly most obnoxious, Marjorie Taylor Greene, stated: “The Ukrainian government is executing priests. Russia is not doing that. They are not attacking Christianity.” Just retired GOP Representative Ken Buck retorted, “Moscow Marjorie is focused now on this Ukraine issue and getting her talking points from the Kremlin and making sure that she is popular and she is getting a lot of coverage.”

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Her colleagues are repeating equally false claims that President Zelensky is massively corrupt and owns multiple yachts. Sensibly, GOP Congressman Mike Turner criticizes his Republican colleagues without naming them: “It is absolutely true we see, directly coming from Russia, attempts to mask communications that are anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor.”

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GOP [Republican party] extremists draw far-reaching pro-Russian policy conclusions. Matt Gaetz stated: “We must suspend all foreign aid for the War in Ukraine and demand that all combatants in this conflict reach a peace agreement immediately.” Sadly, these characters have far too great impact.

The United States ended up in this deplorable situation because the Supreme Court legalized unlimited amounts of dark money in US politics in 2010 and the Republicans’ acceptance of allowing one single congressman to oust (“vacate”) a Republican speaker. But the underlying explanation is that Trump supports Putin and his authoritarian kleptocracy.

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These conditions often lead to the end of democracy. Is the US system strong enough to persist?

The Supreme Court legalized dark money in US politics through its verdict Citizens United in 2010. In the last elections, both parties received hundreds of millions of dollars of unidentified money. It may come from foreign-owned companies in the United States.

When Mike Johnson was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2018, he received $37,000 from a firm, American Ethane. It turned out to be owned 88 percent by three Russian nationals belonging to the Kremlin elite. We know that thanks to brave Newsweek journalists.

When this was revealed, Johnson returned these funds, but he had already been elected. His prior acceptance of these funds was not deemed illegal because how could he know of their illegal foreign ownership? Why is he still in Congress? How can he be the Speaker? Why is this not a scandal?

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The GOP faction in the US House of Representatives has decided that one single member has a veto over the appointment of speaker. Thus, Matt Gaetz ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy single-handedly and Marjorie Taylor-Greene threatens to do the same to the hapless Mike Johnson if he provides funding to Ukraine.

The historical precedents for single-mandate veto are terrible. In Poland in the 18th Century, one single member of the Sejm could veto any decision. It was called liberum veto. Since Russia tended to buy a few deputies, the Sejm made few decisions. When Poland tried to abolish liberum veto, Russia protested claiming to protect old Polish rights and liberties. The result was the demise of Poland through its partitions in 1772, 1793, and 1795.

In the 18th Century, Sweden was in a similar situation, ruled by corrupt aristocrats that we would call oligarchs today. In a coup d'état in 1772, King Gustav III seized power from them and the parliament, restoring royal autocracy. Sweden survived but ended up with inept foreign policy under his son.

In Sweden, as in Poland, a major concern was massive bribery by the Russian and French ambassadors. The British ambassador in Stockholm wrote to London, begging for more funds to be able to compete in this profoundly corrupt society. Sweden solved this problem through extreme transparency since 1766 that has kept Sweden one of the least corrupt countries in the world.

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Today the US House of Representatives is as dysfunctional as the Polish Sejm or the Swedish Riksdag in the 18th Century. As in Poland and Sweden then, any single member of the US Congress may be bought secretly by an unknown since unlimited amounts of dark money are legal in US politics. One single Republican member can repeat Kremlin disinformation, like Gaetz and Taylor Greene, and block the decision of a body of 435 members. This is unacceptable. Change the rules!

The ultimate problem is that we don’t know how Donald Trump is financed. Thanks to Craig Unger’s excellent book “House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia,” we know that he has received plenty of funding from Russians, but Robert Mueller or the FBI have not been allowed to investigate Trump’s finances. Still in 2016, Republican congressman Kevin McCarthy said in a private meeting with GOP leaders, “There’s two people, I think, Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump…”

US democracy may not survive unless the United States opts for great transparency and the GOP sorts itself out.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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