- Bearing Drift - https://bearingdrift.com -

Amidst Chaos in Washington, Putin is Winning

I feared the worst when longtime Ukraine opponent Mike Johnson was elected [1] Speaker of the House. Three weeks later, those fears are coming true (WaPo [2]).

Ukraine is running out of money and time, its proponents say. But congressional interest in financing its fight against invading Russian forces has dipped lower than ever, and rising competition from other national security priorities…

Of course, President Biden addressed said priorities in his request for supplemental funding (for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and the border with Mexico), but Republicans in the House dropped everything but the Israel aid and passed it as a stand-alone. Never mind that a majority of House members easily support help for Ukraine. Speaker Johnson would rather keep his job than help Ukrainians keep their freedom.

This is exactly what Vladimir Putin was hoping for (The Atlantic [3]).

From the beginning, Putin hoped the war would demonstrate that American power and American alliances can be defeated, not only in Ukraine but everywhere else. He still does, and for this purpose the war remains useful to him.

The fighting creates food shortages in Africa, thereby generating more unrest and more demand for Russian mercenaries. The war stokes discontent in Europe as well, giving pro-Russian parties a boost. Americans and Europeans view turmoil in country after country as a series of isolated conflicts, but Putin doesn’t think that Ukraine and the Middle East belong to different, competing spheres. On the contrary, since the conflict in Gaza erupted, he has intensified his relationship with Iran, invited leaders of Hamas to Moscow, and attacked Israel because of its links with the U.S., hoping that the spread of violence will decrease Western support for Ukraine. Iranian drones have terrorized Ukrainian cities; Iran, in turn, distributes Russian weapons to its proxies. Hezbollah is thought to have Russian anti-ship missiles [4] that it could use against U.S. warships in the Mediterranean at any minute.

Right now, Putin’s bets are on the Republicans who repeat Russian propaganda—Senator J. D. Vance, for example, echoes Russian language [5] about the Ukraine war leading to “global disorder” and “escalation”; Representative Matt Gaetz cited a Chinese state-media source [6] as evidence while asking about alleged Ukrainian neo-Nazis at a congressional hearing; Vivek Ramaswamy, a GOP presidential candidate, has also called Zelensky, who is Jewish, a Nazi. [7] Putin will have been cheered by the new House speaker, Mike Johnson, who is knowingly delaying the military and financial aid [8] that Ukraine needs to keep fighting. The supplemental bill that he refuses to pass includes money that will keep Ukrainians supplied with the air-defense systems they need to protect their cities, as well as the fiscal support they need to sustain their economy and crucial infrastructure in the coming months.

The U.S. is supplying about a third of Ukraine’s financial needs—the rest comes from the European Union, global institutions, and the taxes paid and bonds purchased by the Ukrainians themselves—but without that help, Ukraine will have trouble surviving the winter.

Far too many Republicans seem to think (1) this is worth it to give Biden a black eye, or (2) Putin will be content with what he’s already stolen in Ukraine. As much as they would wish it, it just isn’t so (emphasis in original).

His goal remains the destruction of Ukraine—all of Ukraine—and his allies and propagandists are still talking about how, once they achieve this goal, they will expand their empire further. Just last week, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president, published an 8,000-word article calling Poland Russia’s “historical enemy” [9] and threatening Poles with the loss of their state too. The message was perfectly clear: We invaded Poland before, and we can do it again.

It’s time for Speaker Johnson to stop fiddling while Ukraine burns and let the bipartisan House majority fund Ukraine’s effort to defend itself. Otherwise, we will have good reason to presume the Kremlin really has seized control of the House of Representatives.