IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

On aid to Ukraine, sharp Republican dividing lines take shape

The most basic of questions — “What is the GOP’s position on providing aid to Ukraine?” — is vastly more difficult to answer than it was a year ago.


A year ago, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine got underway, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley issued a statement that read in part, “Russia’s brutal assault on Ukraine and invasion of its territory must be met with strong American resolve.” The Missouri senator endorsed a U.S. policy of economic sanctions and military aid to “help arm the Ukrainians to defend themselves.”

Exactly one year to the day after the GOP lawmaker issued that statement, Hawley’s interest in “strong American resolve” appeared to waver. He published a tweet on Friday that read:

“The Republican Party can be the party of Ukraine and globalists or the party of East Palestine and working Americans. Not both.”

The missive was apparently well received by Fox News: Hawley was invited onto Tucker Carlson’s program on Friday night, where he repeated the message, practically word for word.

The GOP senator’s message came just two days after Donald Trump made a public appearance in East Palestine, Ohio, and appeared to criticize U.S. aid to Ukraine, saying he hopes, after we assist our allies against Russia’s invasion, that there’s “some money left over” to help East Palestine after its train derailment disaster.

As a substantive matter, as Hawley almost certainly understands, such rhetoric is nonsense. The United States remains the world’s wealthiest country, by a wide margin. We have the resources to assist Ukraine and the cause of democracy while simultaneously helping a community dealing with a derailment disaster.

When ABC News’ Martha Raddatz asked Texas Rep. Michael McCaul about Hawley’s quote yesterday, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said, “I think that’s a false choice.”

I think he’s right, but as prominent GOP lawmakers find it necessary to publicly denounce other prominent GOP lawmakers’ positions on Ukraine, there can be little doubt that the Republican Party is starting to fracture on this issue, and the fissure is growing wider and deeper.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has become increasingly vocal in his support for assisting Ukraine, as has former Vice President Mike Pence. “While some in my party have taken a somewhat different view, there can be no room in the leadership of the Republican Party for apologists for Putin,” the Hoosier said on Friday. “There can only be room for champions of freedom.”

Among their GOP allies are Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Ambassador Nikki Haley, who’s currently running for president. A handful of Republicans have even criticized the Biden White House for not doing more to help Ukraine defend itself.

But the rival contingent is loud and growing. What was largely a fringe faction of far-right GOP lawmakers — including Florida’s Matt Gaetz and Arizona’s Paul Gosar, among others — now features voices such as Hawley, Trump, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who apparently has little use for what he used to believe on the subject.

To be sure, some of this is likely the result of political opportunism: Some in the GOP have seen polls showing the Republican Party’s base turning against generous support for our Ukrainian allies, so they’re scrambling to keep up.

But whatever the motivation, the most basic of questions — “What is the GOP’s position on providing aid to Ukraine?” — is vastly more difficult to answer than it was when Hawley was still emphasizing “strong American resolve.”