March 30, 2023

WASHINGTON: Whether Russian leader Vladimir Putin breaks Ukraine or not, he has certainly caused fissures in the Republican Party in the US.
The establishment wing of the GOP on Friday joined Democrats in condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, leaving party supremo Donald Trump isolated in his praise of Putin. In remarks on radio and to party donors this week, Trump called Putin “smart” “savvy” and a “genius” for his invasion of Ukraine, although some of the comments appeared sarcastic and aimed at disparaging the Biden leadership.
Foreign policy traditionalists in the GOP however unloaded on Putin, calling him a bully who should be punished. Asked at a news conference about Trump’s praise for Putin, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who controls the party’s legislative agenda, appeared to reject the former President’s; characterisation, calling Putin a “bad guy” who needs to be stopped.
“The Republican Party is going to rally around the idea that Putin is a thug and a crook. I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of Republican senators see what’s happening to Ukraine is detrimental to our national security and well-being,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy heavyweight who is also close to Trump, told the Washington Post.
But hardcore Trump supporters of the MAGA genre are more charitable about Putin and his Ukraine invasions, some on grounds of race and religion. They regard Russia as a white Christian nation that ought to be on the same side as US to fight China and other adversaries. At least one pro-Trump Senator Josh Hawley has suggested blocking Ukraine from joining the NATO alliance, a key Putin demand.
At least one prominent talking head, Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, is accused of echoing Kremlin talking points so much that his broadcasts, translated into Russian, are being shown on state-controlled Russian television.
Revulsion in the establishment over the Trump-Putin equation runs so strong that a White House spokesperson chose unusually strong language to express the administration’s view.
“Two nauseating, fearful pigs who hate what America stands for and whose every action is driven by their their own weakness and insecurity, rubbing their snouts together and celebrating as innocent people lose their lives,” tweeted White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates.

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