Trump and other top conservatives rally to Putin's side as he threatens Ukraine
Trump and top conservatives have showered Putin with praise during a Ukraine crisis he's triggered. The GOP is split over Putin's aggression and what to do about it. But the party is largely unified behind one idea — that Biden is to blame for the crisis. Former President Donald Trump and many leading conservative figures have been praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as he threatens Ukraine with war. While it's not unusual for former presidents to disagree with their successors on policy, it is unorthodox for them to shower a US adversary like Putin with flattery — particularly given the Russian leader is poised to launch a major military offensive on a US ally. But this hasn't stopped Trump and some of his close allies from expressing admiration for Putin, including over the Russian president's misleading justifications to use force against Ukraine. In an appearance on the "Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show," Trump said Putin's justification for invading Ukraine was "savvy" and "genius.
"I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius. The former president has also ripped into Biden's approach to the situation, suggesting that the sanctions he imposed were "weak" while claiming that the crisis never would have happened if he were in office. Trump has conveniently left out that his first impeachment was, in part, due to the fact he withheld roughly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine while pressuring it to launch an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter over bogus allegations of corruption. Trump's former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has also routinely praised Putin in recent weeks — even as Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's border. In an interview with the Center for the National Interest last week, Pompeo described Putin as "very shrewd" and "very capable. Pompeo also expressed "enormous respect" for Putin, an authoritarian who has ruled over Russia for 20 years. But Trump, Pompeo, and other conservatives like them apparently don't find these trends especially problematic.
Fox News' Tucker Carlson, the most-watched cable-news host and perhaps the most influential voice on the right beyond Trump, has repeatedly defended Putin on his show in recent months. "It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?" Carlson said on his show on Tuesday night. Carlson has echoed Putin's propaganda on Ukraine, characterizing it as a puppet of the US while bashing NATO. But the GOP has also splintered in many directions over Ukraine, which is perhaps a byproduct of the ways in which Trump has challenged the party's traditional stances on an array of issues — especially foreign policy. A decade ago, it would've been unthinkable to see Republicans questioning support for NATO. "Europe is on the verge of war because of the weakness, the fecklessness of Joe Biden," Cruz recently told Fox News. Indeed, beyond outliers like Kinzinger, the GOP's only consistent position on the Ukraine crisis so far has been to blame Biden.
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