The GOP Split on Ukraine Aid Isn’t Really About Ukraine

“it’s worth noting what the anti-Ukraine aid crowd in Congress generally doesn’t support: ending U.S. weapons transfers and military funding to other countries.

Hawley, for example, has connected his opposition to Ukraine aid to his enthusiasm for Taiwan aid. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation to fast-track U.S. arms sales to Taipei. He’s also repeatedly voted against resolutions stopping weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, and he likewise voted against ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

Similarly, Vance has suggested that until semiconductor production is ramped up domestically, the U.S. would need to defend Taiwan against Chinese attack. Gaetz has a more mixed record—he’s willing to cut off U.S. backing for Saudi Arabia in Yemen—but he’s uniquely targeted Ukraine aid for slashing. Cutting aid to Israel is certainly off the table. Indeed, none of the representatives I’ve named here voted against $1 billion in funding for Israel’s Iron Dome last year, and Hawley and Vance are as effusive in their pledges of support for Israel as congressional Republicans tend to be.

The fuller picture, then, doesn’t show a GOP pivot to America as “well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all” but “champion and vindicator only of her own.” A better explanation is simple partisan reaction: Many Democrats believe Trump is in bed with Moscow and made investigating his alleged ties to the Kremlin a major theme of his four years in office. That has translated to a broader Democratic focus on Russia as the primary threat to the United States and, by extension, on Ukraine as a pseudo-ally particularly deserving of our support. 

In response, some Republicans have—well, not quite embraced Russia, but certainly deemphasized it as a security risk compared to what they likely would have said without the recent history of Russiagate. They’ve cast China as the primary threat instead and, by extension, made Taiwan the pseudo-ally deserving support. And insofar as backing Ukraine is a Democratic cause—insofar as Ukrainian flags flutter over “In this house we believe” signs, as they reliably do in my neighborhood—GOP opposition to Ukraine aid naturally follows, despite the obvious sympathy of the Ukrainian cause.”

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