Newsweek: How to solve Ukraine's GOP problem?

11:31 20.11.2023 •

Ukraine has a Republican problem, Newsweek stresses. With primary season well underway, three of five GOP front runners for the presidential nomination are openly denigrating American support for the war-torn nation.

During Wednesday's debate, Florida Govenor Ron DeSantis dismissed President Joe Biden's latest request for billions in Ukraine funding and declared: "We need to bring this war to an end." Tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, meanwhile, dismissed Kyiv as corrupt and added: "To frame this because some kind of battle of good versus evil: Don't buy it."

Both men are trailing far behind former President Donald Trump. Once impeached for trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's government into meddling in the 2020 U.S. election, Trump shows no sign of dropping his frostiness with Ukraine, nor his apparent admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The former president — who has repeatedly suggested Ukraine should offer Russia territorial concessions to end the war — this week declined Zelensky's invitation to visit Ukraine, suggesting it would be "inappropriate" to do so while Kyiv is working so closely with Biden's White House.

American bipartisan support for Ukraine remains strong more than 18 months into the war, though it is notably down from the initial groundswell of horror over Russia's full-scale invasion. From August 2022 to October 2023, the share of Americans who say their country is helping Ukraine "too much" rose from 24 to 41 percent, per Gallup data.

The erosion of public support for Kyiv is more notable on the right. The share of Republican voters believing the U.S. is doing too much for Ukraine increased from 43 to 62 percent between August 2022 and October 2023, compared with a 9 to 14 percent jump among Democrats, and a 28 to 44 percent surge among independents.

"I think you're seeing it not just among Republicans but all voters" who are becoming more concerned with the economy and "their own pocketbooks," veteran GOP pollster Neil Newhouse, co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, told Newsweek.

"The Republican Party has changed over the past 20 years, a lot of it due to Donald Trump," Newhouse said. "We are, as a party, more inward looking."

Trump's take on Ukraine is only exacerbating Republicans' gradual isolationist transition.

"I think there is a problem, and I expect the problem will grow," one congressional staffer — who spoke with Newsweek on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly — said.

As 2023 draws to a close, Ukraine is pushing for more financial and military support while its long-awaited counteroffensive flounders. Kyiv has repeatedly warned of a long war, but it is unclear how many of its Western partners are prepared for one.

“Let's face it, the war in Ukraine is not going well,” the congressional staffer said. “For Ukraine to win this in a way that is obviously a win and not us just trying to pretend it's a win, the United States not only needs to stay the course — we need to step it up an order of magnitude. Unfortunately, that's not something I see us doing.”

The Republican commotion over Zelensky's decision to postpone Ukraine's 2024 presidential election is one example of the White House being outmaneuvered on a sensitive issue.

Battlefield success is the most surefire way for Ukraine to reinvigorate its American partners. But the clock is ticking…

"We're talking about whether we will even stay the course in Ukraine," the congressional staffer said. "What Ukraine needs to really win is for us to step it up a notch in a pretty big way. The numbers and time are not really on their side."


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