After Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed members of the U.S. Congress yesterday, the overwhelming majority of American lawmakers responded by endorsing increased aid to the country trying to fend off Russia’s brutal invasion.
But members weren’t completely unanimous on this point. The Washington Post highlighted a video Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene released last night, in which the Georgia Republican pushed a very different kind of message.
“There is no doubt that Putin’s actions in Ukraine are despicable and evil. We weep when we see images of men, women and children wounded or killed,” she says. And then, later: “If we truly care about suffering and death on our television screens, we cannot fund more of it by sending money and weaponry to Ukraine to fight a war they cannot possibly win. The only effective, more arms and more money from America will be to prolong the war and magnify human suffering. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be responsible for creating even more refugees and orphans in an already traumatized and dysfunctional world.” And: “It’s not our responsibility to give Zelensky and the Ukrainian people false hope about a war they cannot win.”
In other words, as the right-wing congresswoman sees it, the United States should end its support for Ukraine so that our allies will lose and Russia will win the war faster.
The Georgia Republican proceeded to blame “both sides” — Ukrainians and Russians — for the “smoldering conflict,” before claiming the Obama administration is responsible for the current Ukrainian government’s existence.
This is, the Post’s analysis added, “precisely the propaganda that Russia has promoted.”
Greene had plenty more to say in the clip — apparently, we’re supposed to believe U.S. officials from both parties have corrupt motivations toward Ukraine — but there’s no real point in going claim by claim, marveling at the congresswoman’s errors of fact and judgment. Indeed, the video itself is a forgettable and unfortunate endeavor from a fringe politician.
So why take note of the nonsense at all? Because it serves as a reminder that the Republican Party has what Rep. Liz Cheney has referred to as a “Putin wing,” and it’s amazingly loud.
As regular readers know, Donald Trump praised Vladimir Putin’s efforts in Ukraine as “genius” and “very savvy.” Soon after, retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, a Pentagon official in the Trump administration, argued that the United States should “absolutely” just let Putin take what he wants in Ukraine.
On Capitol Hill a couple of weeks ago, a handful of GOP House members opposed a non-binding resolution in support of Ukraine, and soon after, 15 House Republicans opposed a bill to ban oil imports from Russia.
Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, on the heels of voting against the symbolic resolution in support of Ukraine, amplified false Russian claims about Ukrainian biological labs. Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina condemned Zelenskyy as a “thug” leading an “evil” government — comments that Russia’s state-run media was eager to share.
Responding to Cawthorn, Sen. Lindsey Graham told reporters last week, “[W]hen you see a member of Congress say things like this, the one thing I want you to know, they are outliers in the largest sense possible on our side.” The South Carolina Republican had a point: It would be unfair to say the GOP’s Putin wing represents a big chunk of the party.
But it would also be wrong to deny the wing’s existence, and the corrosive toll this might take in Republican politics in the near future.
As for Greene, let’s also not forget that she recently spoke at a white nationalist event where attendees, among other things, celebrated Putin and chanted the Russian’s name. Late yesterday, the Georgian pushed a message in line with the Kremlin’s talking points.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has rejected calls to punish Greene — for this and other examples of extremism — and might even reward her with new committee assignments in the new Congress if there’s a Republican majority next year.
It’s tempting to wonder whether the congresswoman’s newest video might lead the would-be House Speaker to reconsider, but I think we know it won’t.