Putin’s D.C. Waiting Game

Photo: Contributor/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
May 31, 2022

In an op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times, the conservative journalist and Claremont Institute fellow Cristopher Caldwell argued that, by arming Ukraine, the U.S. was extending the war while also risking a bigger and more direct confrontation with Russia itself. “Thousands of Ukrainians have died who likely would not have if the United States had stood aside,” Caldwell wrote, adding that “the huge import of deadly weaponry, including that from the newly authorized $40 billion allocation, could take the war to a different level.” 

Caldwell’s argument is only the most recent in a growing chorus of Republicans who are raising questions about American military support for Ukraine. When Congress voted on the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, 57 House Republicans voted against it—more than a quarter of all Republicans in that chamber. When the bill advanced to the Senate, where it passed with wide, bipartisan support, 11 Republican senators voted against it. That’s fully one-fifth of the Senate’s G.O.P. contingent. Texas’s Chip Roy, one of the House Republicans who voted against the bill, went on Tucker Carlson’s show to complain. “It’s indefensible to fund $40 billion, unpaid for, at a time of rampant inflation,” Roy said, comparing it to “pouring $5 gasoline on the runaway fire of inflation.” 

Carlson, who has frequently made the case that Russia was a more natural American ally than Ukraine, also connected U.S. support for Ukraine’s war effort to domestic U.S. concerns. The military spending, Carlson contended, was a statement of the Biden administration’s priorities, which he felt were warped: why spend $40 billion on foreigners in a country far away when Americans at home were hurting? Why spend it on securing Ukraine’s borders, rather than our own? “Ukraine’s borders are not just more important than our borders,” Carlson complained. “They’re so much more important that they’re spending 10x protecting Ukraine than what they’re spending protecting this country from fentanyl pouring in and human trafficking, because that’s what they care about.”