Top Republican lawmakers are calling for the Biden administration to send military aid to Ukraine amid reports of Russian troops amassing at the border between the two countries, but not all conservatives are on board with being entangled in the conflict.
Recent news of Russian tank and ground troop movement along the Ukrainian border sparked widespread speculation over Russia’s intentions, as well as calls for the United States to intervene if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to invade.
From think tanks to Capitol Hill, there’s a bipartisan consensus in Washington that the United States should assist Ukraine against Russia.
The Biden administration dispatched CIA Director William Burns to Moscow on Nov. 2 to express concern about the military buildup near Ukraine, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken followed up on Nov. 10 by warning Russia against making a “serious mistake” by acting aggressively against its neighbor.
The United States has committed more than $2.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.
Republicans want to do more. A total of 15 conservative lawmakers wrote a letter to President Joe Biden on the matter, urging him to send military aid to Ukraine.
“It is imperative that the U.S. fulfill its commitment to a key partner by increasing lethal aid to Ukraine in order to deter and repel a renewed Russian incursion,” reads the Nov. 5 letter, whose signers included Reps Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the ranking members of the House Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and the Committee on Armed Services, respectively.
“Additionally, we urge you to immediately consider an appropriate U.S. military presence and posture in the region and to initiate appropriate intelligence sharing activities between the U.S. and Ukraine to prevent the situation from escalating further.”
But not all conservatives share the sentiments expressed in the letter. Fox News host Tucker Carlson grilled Turner about the issue on his show on Nov. 10, asking the congressman why it’s in America’s interest to entangle itself in an Eastern European border dispute.
“I wonder why the emphasis on Ukraine’s borders and not ours?” Carlson asked.
Turner made the case that Ukraine is a NATO ally and deserves protection. Russia’s actions suggest that Putin wants to reassert Soviet-era influence in the region, he said.
“Ukraine is a democracy. Russia is an authoritarian regime that’s looking to impose its will upon validly elected democracy in Ukraine,” he said.
But Carlson wasn’t convinced. If anything, a friendship with Russia serves U.S. interests more than being allies with Ukraine, he suggested.
“If you’re looking from America’s perspective, I mean, who’s got the energy reserves? Who’s a major player in world affairs? Who is a potential counterbalance against China, which is the actual threat?” Carlson said. “Why would we take Ukraine’s side? Why not Russia’s?”
Carlson’s comments sparked outrage among national security commentators and pundits, who criticized him for siding with Russia over a NATO ally.
“GOP definitely NOT the Party of Reagan anymore,” Obama-era U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul wrote on Twitter.
But conservatives and others rode to Carlson’s defense, praising him for questioning U.S. national security dogma.
“We deserve a discussion about these most basic questions—exactly because they have been intentionally left unexamined for decades,” Claremont Institute senior fellow David Reaboi said.
Reaboi said he thinks that the Carlson–Turner interaction “illustrates the divide between the people who understand that our old foreign policy priorities are no longer operative, and those who want to live in a past that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“I’m not an ideological isolationist. I think it’s just as insane as the most absurd adventurism,” he said. “But a policy of non-intervention, right now, is the only sane one for the U.S. government. Our problems are within our own borders.”