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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.
News / Opinion / Columns

Rubin: History won’t forget GOP’s bow to Putin

By Trudy Rubin
Published: February 12, 2024, 6:01am

History will record it as the week the GOP formally kowtowed to Vladimir Putin.

Otherwise sane Republicans, who’d spent months drafting a bipartisan Senate bill that linked major border reforms to more military aid for Ukraine, last week threw in the towel.

These senators abandoned the bill under heavy pressure from Donald Trump, who prefers to keep the border boiling as an election issue. Far worse, Trump has shown he buys Putin’s rationale for crushing Ukraine.

What’s so disgusting about the cave-in is that most of these senators — unlike the mindless MAGA mob in the House or the blinkered Trump — understand the strategic risk of abandoning Kyiv.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged his colleagues to show strength by backing the bill — and Ukraine — because “our adversaries, Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran are working together to undermine us.” Yet, he and his colleagues suddenly decided to swallow an aid cutoff with hardly a dissenter.

“We cannot walk away from Ukraine now,” President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.” If we don’t stop Putin’s appetite for power … he won’t limit himself to Ukraine.”

Craven GOP senators effectively responded: “We don’t care. Drop dead, Ukraine.”

If you think I’m exaggerating the cost of the GOP’s kowtow, consider the following: Trump insists he can solve the Ukraine war directly with Putin in 24 hours. He has made clear he supports Russia keeping large parts of Ukraine that it acquired by invading and bombing its neighbor.

Putin has played Trump for a fool, praising Trump’s 24-hour pledge fulsomely last September. When asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether he welcomed Putin’s support, Trump said: “ Well, I like that he said that. Because that means what I’m saying is right.”

It’s no accident that Trump acolyte Tucker Carlson was roaming around Moscow last week, ahead of his interview with Putin. Carlson, as you will recall, frequently praises Putin and is often featured on Russian television.

No doubt, Putin is delighted at a prospective U.S. aid cutoff at a critical moment when Ukraine is running short of everything.

And yet, contrary to claims by Trump and MAGA acolytes, Ukraine is not losing. Its military has made amazing progress. Without a navy, it is pushing back Russia’s Black Sea fleet via missiles and Ukrainian-made sea drones.

Also contrary to MAGA disinformation, Europe already sends Ukraine twice as much aid as does the United States, but does not have the volume and many of the types of weapons that Kyiv desperately needs.

By dooming the bipartisan border-Ukraine bill (which also contains aid for Israel and Taiwan), the GOP is sinking the best chance for border reform in decades. The bill was endorsed by the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial board, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Border Patrol Council, and — until they were intimidated by Trump — many Republican legislators in Congress.

In letting Russia dismember Ukraine, the GOP has sent a message of profound weakness to Putin and his dictator cronies in Beijing, Tehran, and Pyongyang.

The lesson Putin learned last week will be absorbed by China, Iran, and North Korea. With his threats, Trump is capable of silencing those in his party who understand the dangers posed by dictators to America.

“History is watching,” Biden said Tuesday. “The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten.”

The question at hand is whether Biden can still find a way to funnel aid to Ukraine despite GOP blindness, before Trump has ensured Ukraine’s demise.