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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Trump puppeteering to blame for war aid’s delay

The Columbian
Published: April 26, 2024, 6:03am

The signing of a bill providing aid to Ukraine reinforces the United States’ commitment to defending global democracy. It also demonstrates the dangerous, self-absorbed grasp that Donald Trump has on the Republican Party.

Once Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., allowed the House to vote on aid for the besieged European nation, the $61 billion package passed 311-112. All dissenters were Republicans, constituting a slim majority of GOP members; 101 Republicans voted in favor.

The measure then moved to the Senate. There, combined with assistance for Taiwan and Israel along with a bill that could ban TikTok in the United States, it was approved, 79-18. Two Democrats (including Oregon’s Jeff Merkley), one independent and 15 Republicans voted in opposition.

The clear majority in both chambers reflects public opinion polls that show strong support for Ukraine. It also leads to questions about why the process took so long, as the United States allowed an ally to languish while sowing doubt about our nation’s role in global security. Upon signing the legislation, President Joe Biden said, “It’s going to make the world safer. And it continues America’s leadership in the world, and everyone knows it.”

Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, said: “Across the globe, our allies and partners are facing increasing threats to freedom and democracy — and action is long overdue.”

For 26 months, Ukrainians have defended their nation against an unprovoked attack from Russia. European allies and the United States have provided funding and weaponry in an attempt to defend democracy, but a shortage of artillery has limited the Ukrainians’ ability to fend off their invaders.

As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this month: “If the Congress doesn’t help Ukraine, Ukraine will lose the war. If Ukraine loses this war, other countries will be attacked.”

Despite that plea and despite similar assessments from foreign policy experts, Trump pulled the reins on Republican members of Congress. Rather than defend a democratic nation, resist Russia and support American interests, the former and perhaps future president did Putin’s bidding. He sought revenge after Ukraine declined to investigate Biden during the 2020 campaign, a request that led to Trump’s first impeachment.

Trump emboldened far-right isolationists in the House, who now are threatening to replace Johnson as speaker. He consistently complained about U.S. foreign aid programs. He held sway over a political party in which a loud minority is willing to cede the United States’ position as a global leader.

In the process, Trump effectively bullied Johnson into delaying a vote on Ukraine aid, further risking that nation’s existence. After meeting this month with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Johnson brought to the floor a vote that should have taken place months ago.

Broad support for the legislation suggests that it would have passed last fall. That thousands of Ukrainian deaths could have been prevented. That a small number of GOP representatives wield inordinate power and embrace views that do not reflect the majority of Americans.

Since Republicans took control of the House in 2023, Congress has been marked by chaos and ineffectual leadership. That inability to govern has diminished U.S. standing in the world.

Trump is not currently in office and does not hold any official position of power. But considering that he frequently boasts of his control over the modern Republican Party, it is reasonable to blame him for the embarrassing spectacle that has been the GOP’s dickering over aid for Ukraine.