Bill Clark/Pool via AP Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., speaks during a hearing on July 28, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Bill Clark/Pool via AP

In attacking Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, Putin has begun what could be a potentially catastrophic chain of events for Europe, the US, and the entire world order.

Dictator and Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine on Wednesday, an attack predicated on his unwarranted belief that Ukraine has no right to exist as a sovereign nation. 

The US and its global allies have already begun enacting harsh sanctions on Russia, and President Joe Biden—along with several Arizona Democrats—have been adamant that Russia and Putin will be held accountable for their “unprovoked and unjustified attack” on Ukraine. 

While Biden has said that American troops will not be sent to fight in Ukraine, the US and its allies in NATO—a post World War II military alliance between the US, Canada, and 28 European countries that aims to keep the global peace—are considering a host of other options to push back against Putin. 

“It’s up to the US and all those who believe in democracy to support our Ukrainian partners and surrounding NATO allies. Putin must experience swift and serious consequences for his actions,” US Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said in a statement. “I strongly support the President’s announcement of these sanctions and his plan to bolster US troop presence in NATO countries, including the Baltic states.”

A Divided GOP

But among the Republican Party, the reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been much more split. Knowing an invasion was possible, US Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona tweeted last month that “We have no dog in the Ukraine fight,” even though the invasion could lead to the death and displacement of millions of Ukrainian citizens, create a refugee crisis, destabilize Europe and Asia, send US gas prices even higher, and rattle stock markets.

Gosar also wrote an op-ed for the Prescott eNews attacking Biden for his stance on Russia’s invasion, stating that the “US has no interests in this area” and should instead focus on migrant crossings at the Southern border. 

And in another tweet from last week, Gosar seemed to attack NATO—an alliance Putin loathes and wants to see collapse—and again try to redirect attention to issues at the US border: “We should just call ourselves Ukraine and then maybe we can get NATO to engage and protect our border.” 

‘Putin Puts Russia First

This isn’t the first time Gosar has given Putin a pass and poked a thumb in NATO’s eye. 

“Putin puts Russia first as he should,” Gosar tweeted last August. “Biden should put America first but instead he will let in terrorists and welfare seekers.”

In 2019, Gosar and fellow Arizona Republican US Rep. Andy Biggs were two of only 22 ‘no’ votes against the NATO Support Act, a bill that would have prevented former President Donald Trump—who repeatedly criticized America’s NATO allies—from using federal funds to withdraw from NATO. 

Biggs also spent the Trump presidency defending Trump’s deference to and close relationship with Putin, only to recently turn around and write an op-ed attacking Biden for being weak on Russia.

GOP’s Shift on Putin is Years in the Making

The GOP’s soft stance of Putin doesn’t end with Trump or members of the Arizona GOP: It’s a shift consuming a significant portion of the Republican Party. 

The Republican Party’s current position on Russia was once-unthinkable, but appears to stem largely from Trump’s refusal to admit Russian interference in the 2016 election and his deference to Putin during his administration. Like their party’s leader, Gosar, Biggs, and fellow Republican Reps. Debbie Lesko and David Schweikert remained largely silent on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

While some Republicans have consistently taken a harsh stance on Putin, Trump has continued to embrace the tyrant since leaving office. Just this week, Trump repeatedly praised Putin as being “smart” for deciding to attack Ukraine. 

From Culture War to Real War

Erik Prince, the wealthy Republican donor and founder of private military contractor Blackwater, appeared on Trump ally and alt-right figurehead Steve Bannon’s radio show on Wednesday, where the men praised Putin as being “anti-woke.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, has spent much of the past month excusing Putin’s aggression, injecting Russian propaganda straight into the bloodstream of his viewers, and even admitting that he’s rooting for Russia—a country led by a man who has poisoned and assassinated his political opponents, imprisoned dissenters, and brutally cracked down on journalists and LGBTQ Russians.

It’s unclear what will happen next. Biggs, Gosar, and Schweikert were among a group of 43 lawmakers from both parties who wrote Biden a letter on Tuesday urging him to seek congressional approval before potentially sending any troops to Ukraine—something Biden has said he will not do.

But what’s happening now is already devastating: Ukrainians are dying at the hands of a “gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator.” 

Those are the words of a Republican congresswoman from New York—Elise Stefanik. Arizona’s Republicans, however, have not yet made such a declaration. 

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