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Finally, a glimmer of hope on aid to Ukraine perhaps

Finally, a glimmer of hope on aid to Ukraine perhaps


This phrase is widely, but incorrectly, attributed to Winston Churchill. In truth, this is probably a modification of a remark made by 20th-century Israeli statesman Abba Eban. But no matter where it comes from, crack captures this week's mood perfectly: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing after trying everything else.

After more twists and turns than a goat's trail through the mountains, the Senate is poised to finally approve this week an often-troubled $95 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel, more a little bit for Taiwan.

While we've come a long way from Ronald Reagan's hawkish Republican Party, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., clinging to the remnants of his power, managed to win over 18 Republicans in a vote key procedural Sunday.

Nothing about the House is easy to predict, with its creaky Republican majority and speaker who can't count votes. But for the first time in months, it seems plausible that the Senate's emergency foreign aid bill could eventually win House approval.

Only the most foolhardy would dare predict exactly how House approval will occur.

Maybe so, of course, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., will defy the far-right wing of his caucus and immediately introduce the Senate bill. Perhaps a heavy discharge request will be necessary. Or, most likely, there will be threats and theatrics, feints and fireworks before the Ukraine-Israel legislation is finally approved.

But that’s where the good news ends.

At a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday night, Donald Trump once again loudly declared the secret part.

Presenting a scenario in which Russia would attack a NATO ally that had not paid enough (according to Trump) for its own defense, the oft-indicted former president said he would tell them: “No, I wouldn’t protect you.” In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever they want. You have to pay. You have to pay your bills.

Of course, it's comical that Trump, who built his career on dodging bills, stiffing entrepreneurs and lawyers, and taking refuge in corporate bankruptcies, is suddenly the moralistic apostle of fiscal responsibility.

But beyond the obvious jokes lies a chilling message: A second-term President Trump would likely withdraw from NATO and give Russian President Vladimir Putin carte blanche to impose a 21st-century version of the Iron Curtain.

The best way to earn Trump's praise is to be an authoritarian leader or a true dictator.

Of course, we heard about Trump's favorite correspondent while he was in the White House: Kim Jong Un, the brutal leader of North Korea.

And earlier this month, in an interview with Fox News, Trump exclaimed about Chinese President Xi Jinping: Look, I want China to do well, I do. And I really like President Xi, he was a very good friend during my term.

During Trump's first and hopefully only term in office, too many Democrats embraced unproven or debunked conspiracy theories to explain the then-president's obvious affection for Putin. But the answer may be simpler than it seems: Trump likes thugs.

In fact, with Trump in the White House for the second time, it is possible to imagine a new axis of evil: Russia, China, North Korea and America.

What has become fascinating is the cult of Putin on the far right of the Republican Party. Tucker Carlson, who not long ago was Fox News' highest-rated host, just made a pilgrimage to Moscow for a sycophantic interview.

Films like Oppenheimer remind us that in the late 1930s (and after), many left-wing Americans were enamored of the Soviet Union and willfully blinded themselves to Joseph Stalin's brutality and mass murder.

Today, encouraged by Trump, many Republicans have become equally gullible about Putin.

According to them, Putin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in 2022 was of no concern to America. This ostrich attitude is reminiscent of what British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said in 1938 during a radio broadcast from Munich about a quarrel in a distant country between people about whom we know nothing.

There is, of course, no need to raise the stakes in the next presidential election. With Trump clearly stating that he is seeking revenge and signaling his continued disregard for the rule of law, it is not difficult to argue that democracy will be on the ballot in 2024.

But the future of NATO and the Americas' alliance with Europe is also at stake, as Trump made clear over the weekend.

It is worth remembering that NATO itself would probably never have been created if an ailing Franklin D. Roosevelt had not falsely switched vice presidents to vice presidents at the 1944 convention.

FDR's vice president at the convention was Henry Wallace, an ardent New Dealer who had a fuzzy and naive view of the Soviet Union. Ostensibly leaving the choice of candidate to the Democratic convention, Roosevelt orchestrated the nomination of a senator from Missouri named Harry Truman.

After Roosevelt's death in April 1945, less than three months after his inauguration for a fourth term, Truman became the president who boldly opposed Soviet expansionism in Europe with NATO and the Marshall Plan.

The record prosperity of the Americas for nearly 80 years is closely linked to our alliances. Rather than being played for fools, we benefit greatly from global stability in Europe and most of Asia.

With Ukraine in desperate need of munitions and suffering from war weariness, the U.S. aid plan, assuming it is ultimately approved, will bring welcome relief to kyiv.

Walter Shapiro is a staff writer for The New Republic and a lecturer in political science at Yale. He is a veteran of USA Today, Time, Newsweek and the Washington Post.




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