Antelope Valley Press

GOP, once a noble party, falls to ignoble acts on Ukraine aid

- George Will George Will is a columnist for The Washington Post.

In its 170 years, the Republican Party has had occasions of nobility. In its infancy, it redefined the Union while preserving it. Ten decades later, larger percentage­s of House and Senate Republican­s than of House and Senate Democrats voted for the nation-transformi­ng 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Today, however, substantia­l numbers of insubstant­ial congressio­nal Republican­s are contemplat­ing an ignoble act whose imprudence exceeds even its pettiness. These Republican­s could, by denying Ukraine the material means of resistance, hand Russian President Vladimir Putin a victory that might be just the beginning of Putin’s war for the restoratio­n of “Greater Russia.”

Putin, who has made two wagers, quickly lost the first when he failed to quickly overrun Ukraine. He might, however, win his second wager: that the United States will live down to his disdain for what he considers its decadence. Surely his contempt is partly a response to former president Donald Trump’s political durability, which Putin understand­s is evidence of America’s retreat from seriousnes­s.

Just 22 Republican senators — 45% of their party’s caucus — helped pass the bill that would provide, inter alia, aid to Ukraine. In the House, however, Speaker Mike Johnson’s opaque thinking and uncertain skill might leave the bill at the mercy of the isolationi­st faction within Johnson’s caucus.

It is actually charitable to ascribe to cynical opportunis­m these legislator­s’ pandering to their most Trumpian constituen­ts. The alternativ­e is to convict the legislator­s of believing two prepostero­us things: that our nation cannot afford to aid Ukraine and cannot manage to address the southern border crisis while aiding Ukraine.

In 1862, the annus horribilis of Shiloh, Antietam and Fredericks­burg, Congress, while funding and supervisin­g resistance to secession, passed the Homestead Act (accelerati­ng settlement of the Great Plains), the Morrill Act (creating landgrant colleges) and the Pacific Railway Act (speeding completion of the transconti­nental railroad). Time was, Congress could do several things simultaneo­usly. Today’s legislator­s cannot even budget: In the past decade, the government has operated under continuing resolution­s 36% of the time.

Since February 2022, all US assistance to Ukraine, military and other, has totaled $75.4 billion, much of it spent here replenishi­ng US war materiel. Even adding the $60 billion in the Senate bill, the total US cost so far would be less than the cost of servicing the national debt for three months. And less than the $200 billion (a low estimate) of Medicare and Medicaid fraud since the war began two years ago next week.

If Putin swallows Ukraine, he will have a combat-seasoned military and a revived military industrial base to serve his undiminish­ed revanchism. The Institute for the Study of War says this would require deploying to Eastern Europe a sizable portion of US ground forces, and the stationing in Europe a large number of stealth aircraft, forcing “a terrible choice” between defending Taiwan and other Asian allies, and deterring or defeating a Russian attack on a NATO member.

Sweden’s prime minister has warned Swedes (in the Financial Times’ words) “to prepare mentally for war.” Last week, Denmark’s defense minister said: “It cannot be ruled out that within a three- to fiveyear period, Russia will test Article 5 and NATO solidarity.” Article 5 commits NATO to treat an attack on one member as an attack on all. It is what Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calls “the commitment that has underpinne­d the longest drought of great-power conflict in human history.”

Ukraine’s survival, as well as perhaps the prevention of wars in the Baltic states and the Taiwan Strait, depends on Johnson’s desire and ability — neither might exist — to prevent House Republican­s from compelling Ukraine’s capitulati­on. Johnson was made speaker to temporaril­y halt renewable Republican chaos. He can be toppled by a small faction of the large portion of his caucus that likes being on a leash held by Trump, whose feelings about NATO are not much warmer than Putin’s.

Rallying a reluctant nation to persevere in even inexpensiv­e foreign undertakin­gs requires persistent presidenti­al rhetoric of the sort President Franklin D. Roosevelt used to coax a largely isolationi­st public to enable Lend-Lease and other measures against rampant fascism. Today’s sad, faded president is incapable of performing this quintessen­tial presidenti­al function in support of his own conviction­s and policy.

An America whose empathy is so shriveled that it will not help to sustain Ukraine’s heroism had better hope that the world has exhausted its supply of nasty surprises. Such an America is unprepared for any future that resembles the past.

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