Since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the world has seen many of the old “Cold War” fears resurface. So far, the Russian invasion has left over 200,000 casualties and over 8 million refugees. Unable to compete with Russia’s monumental war machinery, Ukraine has been forced to request military and humanitarian aid from the United States, the European Union, and many other democracies worldwide.
And naturally, this aid quickly turned political. For some, the conflict in Ukraine is an unfair war-by-proxy where NATO is overreaching its mandate. For others, it is the West’s responsibility to halt Russia’s aggressive expansionism. In the United States, opinions have largely been defined by party affiliation, yet there is no shortage of dissenting voices within the G.O.P.
Why is the George W. Bush Presidential Center Supporting More War Funds?
On January 18th, 2023, David J. Kramer, the Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute, released its policy recommendations on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In this report, they advocate for increased military aid to Ukraine and call victory over Russia a “matter of national security interest.”
For Kramer, the Russian invasion constitutes Europe’s biggest crisis since the last World War. The destabilizing effect of 8 million refugees will carry repercussions beyond the region and put the world at risk of a deep food and energy crisis.
However, rather than pushing for a quick peace treaty (which would, at least now, result in Ukraine ceding some of its territories), the report states that the United States’ long-term interests will be better served by a total Ukrainian victory. Should Putin’s aggression go unpunished, Kramer states, it may encourage other authoritarian regimes.
Finally, Kramer’s report gives four recommendations to guide the U.S.’s foreign policy when it comes to Ukraine:
To increase the amount of military support given to the Ukrainian military
To tighten the sanctions against Putin and key members of his regime
To provide massive financial assistance for Ukraine’s reconstruction after the war, funded partially by seizing Russian assets overseas.
To hold Russia accountable for the invasion and deter other nations (such as China) from attempting similar moves.
Is the G.O.P. at Large on the Same Page?
Although George W. Bush was a Republican president, and the Bush Center is widely regarded as a Conservative think-tank, the recommendations in Kramer’s report are not shared by the Republican Party at large.
The debate around military support for Ukraine Has turned into a partisan issue. By and large, Republican voters and politicians believe the United States is providing Ukraine with “excessive assistance.” In addition, less than 30% of Republican voters now see Russia as a major threat to the United States. By contrast, nearly 50% of Democrats consider Russia’s invasion a threat.
How is this debate playing in the House?
Throughout 2022, Republican Senators and Representatives have been hardening their own positions on Ukraine. Soon after the invasion began, approximately half of all Republican representatives called for “spending less” on Ukraine. In addition, over the past three months, key Republican figures, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump Jr., have called for a completely “hands-off” approach that would cut off aid completely.
And yet, the Bush Center is not alone in its position. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell believes that helping Ukraine should be the Party’s “number one priority”.
What This Division Spells for the Future
For many among the younger “MAGA” wing of the Republican Party, America’s priority should be America first. For them, taxpayer’s money should not be spent overseas but rather on domestic issues such as safety or patrolling the southern border. But behind this apparent fiscal responsibility, it is easy to see an isolationist posture emerging.
Meanwhile, some traditional, old-school G.O.P. leaders are still greatly indebted to Reagan-era foreign policy. For them, ensuring Russia’s defeat is part of a larger mission to keep the United States as the leader of the free world, neutralizing possible international rivals.
But which one of these two postures will define the Republican Party for the next election cycle? It may still be too soon to know.
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