One of several identity crises in the Republican Party jumped to front page last week when Ron DeSantis (pictured below), the leading challenger to Donald Trump, became a mini-Trump with a soft-on-Putin’s stance on Ukraine.
The Republican Party has historically been the more hawkish of the two major U. S. parties, which makes the Trump/DeSantis strategic posture on defense of Ukraine a contradiction of its historical identity. In contrast, Democratic President Joe Biden had hung tough on supporting the heroic defense of Ukrainians fighting for their freedom.
Sending arms to curtail the brutal invasion of a western democracy should line up as a bi partisan issue between the Biden call-to-arms of America’s NATO allies and the Republican Party’s natural opposition to outright military aggression and terrorism.
Blessedly, though, most Republican leaders have rallied to the cause of stopping Vladimir Putin’s mega maniacal use of power to gain territory.
But, as he always does, Trump has thrown a wrench into traditional Republican policy by going soft on Putin’s Stalinesque ambitions for empire.
Trump, an all-time GOP loser who has gone off the rails in his self-defense against a half dozen prosecutors, still deep in his heart thinks Putin is, as he once described him, “a genius” and “savvy.”
The Republican establishment pushed back hard against DeSantis when he labeled Russia’s war (that’s the right word) a “territorial dispute.” It is anything but a dispute. More accurately, it could be described as ethnocide when the Russian military literally leveled Ukrainian cities like Mariupol and Bakhmut.
DeSantis came off as muddled when he tried to walk back his blunder on foreign policy. He said it was a “good thing” that the Ukrainian government is still standing. But, added, “I just don’t think there is a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement.”
That obviously opens the door for less support for Ukraine just as the war enters crunch time.
We all know that Trump is not a student of anything. He never reads books. As president, he seldom listened to briefings. He has a span of attention of a gnat on serious issues. His recent rants define him as a CRACKPOT. (He uses capital letters in his rants.)
But DeSantis is a man with degrees from Yale and Harvard and was a Navy officer. He should have learned, as Republicans have long understood, that tyrants only understand the language of power. The Western allies in the NATO alliance that has lasted more than 70 years learned the hard way in two world wars that despots have to be confronted with force when they trample other countries and innocent civilians. It is that hard-won lesson of history that is in play in Ukraine.
The Ukrainians know well the historic proportions of their defense of their freedom. They know that if they acquiesce to Putin, as they were forced to do in his absorption of Crimea in 2014, that his lust for territory will only be heightened if he succeeds on the battlefield in the eastern and southern Ukraine.
So to DeSantis and other Republicans who are wavering toward capitulation in the name of peace, I ask, “Do you really think that Putin will stop further aggression after any kind of a truce?”
Ironically, Putin had the opportunity to guide Russia to a high performing and respected nation state. The GDP of Russia was expanding to the benefit of the Russian people before he decided to revert to 20th century warfare so he could raise his flag over more acreage.
In today’s world, acreage doesn’t count for much; the power of a country lies in the brain power of its people and the effectiveness of its institutions and businesses. Openness to innovation of products and services has advanced the human condition and national stature of many countries.
It is Putin’s “genius” that has relegated Russia to a much-weakened pariah state.
In short, Putin is really stupid when it comes to real power in the modern world. He, like Trump, is an anachronism. That reality raises the question of why the far right of the Republican Party is enamored with his military, political and economic model for the 21st century.
The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Putin and other Kremlin officials for war crimes. He will never personally face a trial outside Russia, but the Republicans could call for a trial in absentia to make a clear point about how not to conduct a nation’s affairs.
Trump will never say that, but DeSantis, a history major could. He could call up The Budapest Memorandum and Security Assurances of 1994. In return for Ukraine’s surrender of its nuclear arsenal to Russia, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the U.S. agreed to respect existing borders and to refrain from the threat or use of force against each other.
That agreement meant nothing to Trump’s buddy Putin.