Russian President Vladimir Putin is an autocrat with a near unilateral control of his country and what little freedom of expression its people have. Yet, his popularity in the Republican Party has grown unimpeded for years.
Russia’s sudden invasion of Ukraine and the mounting allegations of war crimes leveled against it — including accusations of repeated rape, unprovoked executions, and looting, among other crimes — have not dampened support for Russian amongst GOP leaders and lawmakers, including former President Trump..
Trump — as a candidate for president, president, and twice-impeached former president — has heaped praise on Putin, calling him, amongst other things, “savvy,” “strong,” and a “genius.”
“[Putin] is taking over a country for two dollars worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart,” Trump said in February at a Mar-a-Lago event. “Now they laugh at us. That’s why you have Ukraine, that’s why you’re going to have China. Taiwan is next, and you’re going to see the same thing,” Trump later added.
Taking a cue from Trump, some Republican voters now view Putin more positively than they do President Biden, Vice President Harris, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to a January YouGov poll.
But it doesn’t end there. In early April, 63 GOP lawmakers voted against a resolution to express support for NATO. A subsequent vote simply asking President Biden to collect evidence of Russian war crimes was, shockingly, rejected by six House Republicans: Reps Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Warren Davidson (R-OH), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Scott Perry (R-PA), and, to no one’s surprise, Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Greene, who played a prominent role in inciting the January 6 riot, has publicly voiced her support for Russia’s invasion. “You see, Ukraine just kept poking the bear, and poking the bear, which is Russia, and Russia invaded,” Greene said on a far-right radio show. “There is no win for Ukraine here. Russia is being successful in their invasion.”
The Georgian congresswoman isn’t the only Republican lawmaker to make controversial statements about Ukraine. After Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed both chambers of Congress in March, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), who arrived late and missed a large portion of the speech, called Zelensky a “thug.” He added, “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and it is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”
But that’s still not all the Putin-loving GOP members of Congress. In a heated exchange with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at a congressional hearing Tuesday, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blamed Russia’s invasion on the United States’s support for Ukraine to join NATO.
Paul said the United States has for many years, and under Democratic and Republican leadership, been calling for Ukraine to join NATO, a move Moscow has long since labeled a “red line.”
““You could also argue that the countries that [Russia] has attacked were … part of the Soviet Union,” Paul said to Blinken during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, according to the Washington Post.
Blinken rejected Paul’s argument, noting that the United States had tried to assuage Russia’s national security concerns, but the country had invaded Ukraine, anyway. Blinken said that Putin had invaded because he believed “Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign nation,” per the Post.
Blinken also defended the United States’s continued support for Ukraine, saying, “We, senators, are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians. Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.”
Paul, a self-proclaimed libertarian, has been shilling for authoritarian Russia for years. In 2018, disregarding evidence that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Paul headed a delegation of Americans to meet in Moscow with the Federation Council, Russia's Senate. Before that he was accused of "working for Putin" by the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) after :Paul blocked a vote on a treaty ratifying Montenegro's accession to NATO.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, has called described the Putin supporters in his party as “lonely voices,” according to the Guardian. But McConnell has repeatedly dodged invitations to say if such Republicans should be booted from the party or, in the absence of party leadership spine, face disciplinary measures.
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