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Why Do So Many MAGA Politicians Oppose Aid to Ukraine?

A surprising number of prominent MAGA, (the new name of the Former GOP or FGOP) politicians advocate stopping aid to Ukraine. That number includes not only Donald Trump but his only serious competition (so far) for the MAGA nomination, Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis. DeSantis (who apparently never took history in school and wants to make certain that no other students do) dismissed the war as a ‘territorial dispute’. Senator Mario Rubio (R-FL) voted against aid for Ukraine immediately before a speech declaring he ‘stood for Ukraine’. Vivek Ramaswamy, a tech billionaire and upcoming young MAGA star asserted that he would end the war by requiring Ukraine to give up the territory Russia occupied. As of this writing 70 members of the MAGA House caucus of the FGOP have declared themselves opposed to further aid to Ukraine. They offer varying, wildly unjustifiable, arguments to justify their position: Ukraine is corrupt, we need to balance the budget, my baby needs shoes, and (from one pro-MAGA interlocutor) “Biden is rewarding Ukraine for the money they gave Hunter.”

Unfortunately, the poison seems to be spreading. Adam Kinzinger, one of a dwindling band of FGOP politicians who still put country above re-election, noted in recent article that, according to a recent CNN poll, not only do 71% of MAGA/FGOP partisans want to stop assisting Ukraine (and as a consequence assist Russia achieve its war aims), but a small but growing number of Democrats and Independents do so as well.

They seem ignorant of the fact that cutting off Ukraine would have horribly bad consequences for the United States. Russia would quickly defeat Ukraine, NATO would crater, an emboldened Putin would seek to settle scores elsewhere, and countries whose existential national interests (i.e, Israel, Greece, Taiwan) depend on U.S. support would find themselves adrift in new and much more dangerous waters. Such a stance would have been unthinkable to Ronald Reagan, whose name MAGA politicians cynically cite as their inspiration, let alone every other Republican President from Dwight Eisenhower on.

The MAGA/FGOP politicians also demonstrate a woeful ignorance of history. In the years preceding World War II, the so-called ‘isolationists’ controlled the Congress, and tried to block every attempt by President Franklin Roosevelt to help the early victims of Nazi aggression. A coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats had passed a series of ‘Neutrality Acts’ between 1935 and 1939 that, among other provisions, prevented U.S. arms sales to ’belligerent powers’, i.e., any country at war. Although FDR opposed the Acts, he dared not veto for fear of alienating isolationist public opinion and southern Democrats whose support he needed to pass vital legislation to deal with the Great Depression.

The Acts were conceived to punish the ‘Axis Powers’, Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy for their aggressions against Czechoslovakia and Ethiopia, respectively. Unfortunately, the Acts had unforeseen consequences. Britain, France and Greece, had placed orders for American fighter aircraft before their entry into World War II. Before the orders could be completed and delivered, Germany attacked Britain and France, and Italy attacked Greece. This action legally transformed the victim countries into belligerents and froze American deliveries, leaving them at a huge disadvantage against overwhelming Axis airpower.

The case of Greece was particularly tragic. Greece had ordered French fighter planes in 1938. When Germany attacked France only 5 of 25 airplanes ordered had reached Greece. Greece consequently turned to the U.S. and ordered and paid for 30 F4F Wildcats, America’s then best interceptor, with delivery scheduled for December, 1940. Unfortunately, Mussolini attacked Greece on October 28, 1940, and the Neutrality Acts froze the now-completed airplanes in dockside warehouses. The Lend-Lease Act of March 1941, which ended the Neutrality Acts, allowed their release. Sadly, before the ship carrying the planes could reach Greece, Hitler had overrun the country. Thirty American Wildcats, vastly superior to any plane in the Italian Air Force and piloted by proven superb pilots, could have denied the Italians air superiority over the battlefront. More importantly, had it not been for the Neutrality Laws, Greece could have procured a great deal more American weapons to face down the German assault in 1941.

The MAGA politicians are (mostly) not ignorant. Why would they embark on such a reckless course of action? The answer always lies in politics. This is a potential win-win for them. Pushing an aid cutoff gives them a political wedge issue that might decide some congressional elections. If they succeed, and Ukraine collapses, it will become Biden’s defeat; after all, it will be on his watch when the Russians win; TRUMP will surely remind us in November, 2024. Never mind that they will have caused the debacle; the incumbent always takes the blame. Trump’s surrender agreement with the Taliban had as much to do with the Afghanistan debacle as did Biden’s unwise decision to implement it, but Biden owns it. Unfortunately, MAGA politicians seem to have put electoral politics above the interests of their country.

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