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Two years later, left and right unite to oppose an increase in American aid to Ukraine | Russia-Ukraine War

Two years later, left and right unite to oppose an increase in American aid to Ukraine |  Russia-Ukraine War


Two years after Russia invaded Ukraine, American support for the war is waning, creating a surprising alliance between left and right.

Three months ago, 41 percent of Americans told Gallup pollsters that the United States was spending too much to support Ukraine on the battlefield. That compares to 24% of Americans who felt the same way in August 2022, six months after the war began. Most surprising, however, is that the shift is more pronounced among Republicans, the political party historically known for its hawkishness.

As of March 2022, 9% of Republicans thought the United States was providing too much military aid to Ukraine; in December of last year, 48 percent of Republicans believed their government was spending too much on Ukraine, according to Pew Research Center surveys. The percentage of Democrats who view the Biden administration's spending on Ukraine as excessive is just 16%, according to the same December poll.

Certainly, partisan politics shapes the divide in Washington, with Republicans in the House of Representatives refusing to pass legislation providing $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson said the bill passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate does not do enough to protect the southern border from immigration, a position that strengthens Donald Trump's presidential campaign against outgoing President Joe Biden.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson opposes a bill providing more aid to Ukraine, saying it does not go far enough to impose restrictions on the U.S. border with Mexico. [File: Eric Gay/The Associated Press]

And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green leads a group of staunch conservatives in Congress who have consistently opposed U.S. funding for Ukraine. Yet a number of liberals, like writer Glen Greenwald and podcaster Jimmy Dore, have joined conservatives, like media anchor Tucker Carlson, in questioning the federal government's priorities in spending billions on a war distant when the United States has so many pressing problems. needs, including immigration, affordable housing, health care and student debt relief.

The motivations of the far left and the far right are very different, but what unites them is their arrival on Ukraine and also this anti-establishment populist tendency, said Dominik Stecula, assistant professor of political science at Colorado State University.

Republicans divided over Ukraine spending

While some members of the Republican Party, such as presidential candidate Nikki Haley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have a traditional focus on national security reminiscent of the Cold War, the faction of the party that identifies with the political movement Former President Trump's MAGA, short for his Make America Great Again campaign slogan, increasingly rejects Ukraine spending.

Isolationism has been a hallmark of Trump's political message since 2016, said Rachel Blum, an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Oklahoma. This is a common thread of the MAGA movement.

White working-class voters who make up the majority of Trump's supporters are driven by a sense that they are being left behind in a changing economy and that money that would be better spent on their families is going to people of color, to LGBTQ. the community and large businesses, including defense contractors. These feelings often converge with racist, homophobic and transphobic beliefs.

Blum told Al Jazeera that Trump's isolationism is of a particular type that does not necessarily transfer to other conflicts. Trump is much warmer toward Israel than toward Ukraine, she said. So I think a lot of it has to do with Trump's very personal animosity toward Ukraine and [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky and his past problems there and his affinity with [Russian President Vladimir] Poutine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, center, visits Washington, DC, in December 2023 and meets with U.S. Congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, right, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. [Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

As the MAGA movement has strengthened its grip on the Republican Party, she said, it's not surprising that these sentiments are starting to spread.

Republicans are divided between those who remember Cold War politics and view Putin, a former Soviet intelligence officer, as a threat, and those who are inclined to blindly follow Trump, she said. In a Venn diagram, these two groups do not overlap. It's hard for me to think of an example of a Republican who favored aid to Ukraine and was extremely supportive of Trump, Blum said.

As the November election nears, Blum said Trump's position as the presumptive nominee is prompting Republicans to oppose aid to Ukraine in order to curry favor with Trump if he returns to the House White.

Foreign policy and culture wars

A number of factors played a crucial role in the Republican turnaround against Ukraine aid, said David Hopkins, an associate professor of political science at Boston College.

The generational divide is part of the story. Older conservatives remember the Cold War alliance between the United States and Western Europe against the Soviet Union, while younger conservatives have no memory of tensions between the West and the Soviet bloc, he said.

Generally speaking, America's foreign policy worldview is likely to be influenced by authority figures they trust, including politicians and media figures, he said. And conservatives are reflexively skeptical of policies favored by Democrats, like Biden's support for Ukraine.

Moreover, Trump supporters' sense of American exceptionalism extends to unfavorable views of Europe, seen as not entirely sharing the same values ​​as the United States and, therefore, NATO.

They are open, on substance only, to the argument that the United States should seek ways to withdraw from involvement in European politics and in alliances with international allies and organizations like NATO and the UN, Hopkins said.

Trump supporters are also willing to view Putin as a traditionalist who shares the same values ​​as theirs. Under Putin, Russia has presented itself internationally as a bulwark of traditional Christianity, Hopkins said. I think there are elements of the populist right in the United States who respond very positively to this message and indeed view figures like Putin as ideological allies in the culture war and international politics.

The far right and the far left find common ground

In a July 2022 article for Foreign Policy, Stecula and co-author Jan Dutkiewicz argued that while the majority of Americans supported aid to Ukraine, many on the far right and far left argued that the United States should not intervene, an observation they explained with the horseshoe theory. .

The theory comes from French philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye, who believed that extreme political positions aligned like a horseshoe magnet, which widens in the middle before almost converging at its teeth, Stecula explained.

On the far right, there is some warmth toward authoritarianism, he said. I don't think this is a characteristic of conservatism, but it is a characteristic of the Republican Party currently under Trump.

Pro-Ukrainian protesters gather near the White House in March 2022 in Washington, DC [File: Alex Brandon/The Associated Press]

He agreed with Hopkins that the populist right is interested in Putin's agenda, including his anti-LGBTQ policies. He knows the American culture wars very well. He talks about cancel culture. He talks about woke-ism all the time, Stecula said.

Meanwhile, on the left, the argument is that Democrats have become progressively more hawkish since the Vietnam War, in an effort to thwart Republican efforts, particularly those of former President Ronald Reagan, to present the party as being soft and naive in the face of threats posed by the United States. Communism. It is not uncommon, for example, to hear progressives on popular podcasts express their view that Democrats have actually become even more hawkish than Republicans in order to reward their Wall Street donors with windfall profits. from investments in arms. suppliers such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics.

Left-wing writers and pundits say former President Barack Obama was the most interventionist and hawkish president in U.S. history, launching airstrikes or combat operations in at least seven countries (Libya , Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Somalia and Pakistan) and significantly expanding the Pentagon. military footprints in Africa. And while Trump has enthusiastically welcomed Obama's legacy wars, even progressives acknowledge that he has not started any new wars and has reduced the Pentagon's military presence in Africa.

In a 2023 interview with then-Fox News host Carlson, the progressive Greenwald said: I have been wondering since February, in what imaginable way will the lives of American citizens be materially improved? How will your life or that of your family be protected or benefited by sending tens of billions of dollars, now exceeding $100 billion, to the war in Ukraine?

Another popular progressive, YouTuber Dore, said at an anti-war rally last year: We could have spent this money saving lives through universal health care, but instead we're spending this money to kill lives abroad, which is our specialty.

And Robert F. Kennedy Jr., popular on both the left and right in the United States, announced his 2024 presidential campaign by comparing the $113 billion committed to Ukraine with Americans' 57%. [who] can't get their hands on $1,000 in an emergency and a quarter of Americans [who] go to bed on an empty stomach.

Stecula attributed the convergence of left and right on the Ukraine issue to a long-standing populist trend in American politics.

These are people on the fringes who reject the establishment, who are quite anti-elite. And it's a strange situation where people seemingly very different from each other can come to similar conclusions about what the United States should do regarding the conflict in Ukraine.




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