Trump turns to Russia, Ukraine to catch up with other Republicans: NPR

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., on February 26.

Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images

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Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla., on February 26.

Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty Images

ONE “perfect“call, it was not.

Back then, President Donald Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Ukraine’s defense when he asked the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 rival, Joe Biden, and his son. Mr. Hunter Biden.

That 2019 call got Trump impeached. But the Senate pardon himand he dismissed the controversy as a politically motivated business – and his establishment followed suit.

Now, with Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and Zelenskyy hailed around the world as a hero for his determination, that call is cast in a very different light.

“There is a lot of evidence that Trump is wrong on this issue [Ukraine] and that in many ways we weaken the NATO alliance and we weaken Zelenskyy’s standing in the eyes of Russia and Putin,” said Kevin Madden, Republican strategist and former senior adviser on war Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign said.

Trump has changed his stance on the war in Ukraine. Not long before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, Trump called Putin “clever” and “savvy” because Putin has declared parts of Ukraine “independent”, which Putin has no right to do.

After the invasion began, Trump defended saying Putin was “smart,” then called President Biden “weak” and described the NATO countries as “not so smart.”

“It’s not that Putin is smart – he’s smart, of course,” Trump told a crowd at the Conservative Party Political Action Conference. “But the real problem is that our leaders are stupid. They’re stupid. They’re stupid.”

As scenes of war and death in Ukraine at the hands of Russia played out for the world to see on television screens all day for days on end, Trump changed his tune.

In recent days, Mr called what’s going on there a “holocaust”; said many times that war would never have happened if he had remained president; and even called on the US to attack Russia but make it look like it really is China – by having American planes fly the Chinese flag on the side.

“And then we said, ‘China did it,'” Trump told Republican donors Saturday in New Orleans, according to an audio recording obtained by washington articles. “We didn’t do it – China did it,” and then they start fighting each other and we sit back and watch. “

It’s the kind of simple-sounding amateur solution that Trump has adopted throughout his political life, one that’s impossible in a complicated world.

A pro-Ukrainian protester demonstrates outside the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, on Monday.

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Stephen Hayes, editor of conservative magazine The Dispatch, said: “Trump is on the wrong side of the matter, I think that’s fair. “I don’t think he is capable of bringing a lot of people back to a pro-Putin stance. If anything, we could see hostility towards Putin and an increase in this brutal aggression, according to reports. quite important way, as it becomes more and more clear what Putin is actually doing.”

Unlike other issues, from Medicare to trade, in which Trump has included Republicans in his views, he has struggled to take the lead on his stance on Putin and Ukraine.

“I think this is a situation where it’s going to be more difficult for Trump to bring that base along,” Hayes said. “And maybe that’s one of the reasons that we’re starting to see him soften that position.”

Trump’s approach to the world faces a test

Whether that matters to Republican voters, as Trump continues to aggressively agitate for the 2024 presidential run, is harder to say.

“I think it’s a risk,” Madden said. “But if the question is, how motivated are our basic Republican voters on matters of national security and foreign policy or the threat of Russia? That’s not it? big issue like some other cultural issues where there is a closer association with Trump.”

The culture wars, tax cuts, and wanting the government to do less really seem to be the unifying axis right now for the Republican Party. But if Ukraine continues to get attention, that could change everything, says Hayes.

“Reality matters after all, doesn’t it?” he say. “If we just see this kind of destruction continue to attract media attention, it will change everything. It will change everything in our country. And I think people will not support it. for that. I really do.”

However, some Republicans have called out Trump for his friendliness towards Russia and his initial softer stance towards Putin. Instead, they are being more explicit in denouncing Putin but accusing Biden of spoiling the response.

Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, reported skewered Trump during a speech to GOP donors on Friday.

“There’s no place at this party for people who apologize to Putin,” Pence said. “There is only room for the champions of freedom.”

He also praised NATO, which Trump has repeatedly criticized.

“Where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they didn’t join NATO?” Pence said. “Where would today’s Russian tanks be if NATO did not expand its borders freely?”

The problem, Madden said, is that this kind of message isn’t delivered over and over again within the Republican Party and is done explicitly.

“It’s one of the things about any kind of stance on Trump in the Republican Party right now that those efforts have never been really widespread,” Madden said. “They’ve never really been sustained. They’ve never been methodical. They’ve always been just passing shots. And that’s why he still holds such strong command over the apparatus. party.”

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