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Where the U.S. midterm elections and Putin’s interest intersect

A significant chunk of the GOP wants to curtail aid to Ukraine. If Republicans win a House majority, they'll be able to act on that position.


For the most part, congressional Republicans and their cohorts have stood with the Biden administration and U.S. allies in support of Ukraine. There are, however, a growing number of exceptions.

Take CPAC, for example.

Late last week, the Conservative Political Action Conference — a prominent force in Republican politics — published a missive via social media that pushed a surprisingly pro-Kremlin message.

“Vladimir Putin announces the annexation of 4 Ukrainian-occupied territories,” CPAC wrote via Twitter, before complaining about Democratic support for Ukrainian aid. “When will Democrats put #AmericaFirst and end the gift-giving to Ukraine?”

A Politico report noted, “The tweet also featured an image of a Russian flag and described the annexation as ‘official’ in an accompanying image that listed the territories.”

The fact CPAC referred to parts of Ukraine as “Ukrainian-occupied territories” was astonishing — it was no different from rhetoric we might hear from Vladimir Putin himself — and the tweet was eventually deleted. On Saturday, CPAC’s Twitter account added, “We must oppose Putin, but American taxpayers should not be shouldering the vast majority of the cost.”

The incident was embarrassing, but it was also emblematic of a larger trend in far-right American politics. Indeed, the day before the CPAC tweet, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene published a related message, explaining her opposition to a stopgap spending bill that prevented a government shutdown.

“Today, I’m voting NO on the continuing resolution to fund America’s 50 states, plus America’s 51st state: Ukraine,” the right-wing Georgian wrote. One of her allies, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, similarly complained over the weekend about U.S. aid to Ukraine in response to the Russian invasion.

It’s an underappreciated angle to the U.S. midterm elections that are five weeks from tomorrow: As a separate Politico report recently explained, the course of U.S. aid to Ukraine “could hinge on” whether Republicans take back a majority in the House.

Congress is poised to approve billions more in military aid next week as part of a deal to keep the government open past the Nov. 8 elections, but future deals may be caught up in Republican infighting over federal spending that’s emerged in recent months, primarily in the House, if they win in November.

It was in May when Congress first approved a massive aid package for Ukraine, which passed both chambers with relative ease. But the tallies were hardly unanimous: 68 lawmakers — 57 House Republicans and 11 Senate Republicans — balked. Skepticism on the right has grown since.

One of those 68 members said two weeks ago, “A lot of Republicans said, ‘I voted for that one, I’m not going to vote for anymore.’”

Gaetz, in particular, has suggested that a GOP majority in the House would halt aid to Ukraine from the United States altogether.

At least publicly, the Kremlin hasn’t made any endorsements in congressional races, but given the circumstances, there’s no great mystery as to which party Putin will be rooting for on Nov. 8.