But within the GOP, a small but vocal minority has bucked this consensus, effectively calling for less internationalism and splintering consensus on the idea of Russia as a geopolitical adversary of the U.S. Their actions illustrate the enduring power of former President Donald Trump’s "America First" ethos, which could spread over time if the nationalist wing of the party continues to grow.
On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would revive a World War II-era measure to allow the Biden administration to more easily lease military equipment to Ukraine, effectively expediting the ability of the U.S. to send security assistance to the country. Only 10 lawmakers voted against it — and they were all Republicans. Among that group are prominent Trump-wing pols like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Andy Biggs of Arizona.
The objections from this set of lawmakers to the bill were varied, as Insider reported in a helpful roundup. Some said they voted against it because they said more aggressive aid to Ukraine would draw the U.S. and Russia closer to war, while another said they didn’t trust Biden with more latitude to send aid. A spokesperson for Gaetz told Insider the lawmaker "supports weapons for Ukraine" but "opposes waiving America's future rights for repayment." Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who voted against the measure, told Insider in a statement that “sending more weapons of war is counter to peace and will extend the death and destruction." (Yes, this is the same Gosar who put out an animated video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.)
The language of these lawmakers is broadly in line with the "America First" outlook. It describes the United States' relationship with other countries as transactional, exhibits an aversion to intervention and sees Russia as less of a threat to U.S. interests than most Republicans and Democrats do. My read on Gosar’s statement about “peace” is not that he favors peace per se but that he’d rather not have the U.S. get involved in a protracted conflict, and he thinks the U.S. should instead use its leverage over the war to push harder for a diplomatic solution, without particular concern about Russian or Ukrainian interests. And, of course, the hardcore Trump set may share Trump’s affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian political style and have a less hawkish position for that reason.
This is only the latest in a pattern of internal Republican disagreements on Russia policy. Earlier this month, Gosar, Greene and others broke with their party and voted against a measure that would require the State Department to document evidence of Russian war crimes. And 63 Republicans voted against a symbolic House bill meant to demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO. Some Republican lawmakers said the reason they declined to back that bill was because of language in the provision about the threat of “illiberalism” that they viewed as objectionable, but it was still striking that such a large number took issue with what was a nonbinding resolution focused on solidarity with NATO.
While Russia’s invasion has generated some rare moments of bipartisan cooperation in Washington, it’s also exposed fissures on the right. If Trump or a Trump-like politician were to win the White House in 2024, it would likely dramatically accelerate this split within the right and further scramble norms in Washington regarding who is considered a friend and who is considered an enemy in the international arena.