Prominent Republicans are digging in against American support for Ukraine despite Russia’s threats to use nuclear weapons and evidence of mass graves and war crimes facilitated by Moscow.
The Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday tweeted — and then hours later deleted — a message that called on Democrats to “end the gift-giving to Ukraine” while featuring a fluttering Russian flag. The tweet also referred to “Ukraine-occupied territories,” appearing to legitimize Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims to annex provinces based on a referendum that the U.S. and allies view as illegal.
CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp on Saturday said the tweet did not clear the normal approval process because he was traveling for a conference in Australia. “Due to my travel into a distant time zone it was never approved per usual,” he said in a text message.
In a statement, CPAC expressed support for Ukraine but maintained opposition to American aid for the embattled country.
“We must oppose Putin, but American taxpayers should not be shouldering the vast majority of the cost,” the statement said. “The tweet belittled the plight of the innocent Ukrainian people.”
CPAC has repeatedly flirted with pro-Putin views in recent years, including hosting pro-Russian Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban at a Dallas conference in August.
CPAC is not alone among American conservatives in opposing Ukrainian aid despite Putin’s invasion. Fox News host Tucker Carlson has alleged U.S. sabotage for leaks in a Russian gas pipeline to Europe, baseless claims that have earned him airtime on Russian state television. Former president Donald Trump also posted a message on his Truth Social platform offering himself as a negotiator for the conflict.
At a Trump rally in Michigan on Saturday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) reiterated her opposition to U.S. aid to Ukraine and said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should negotiate a peace settlement with Russia.
“We have so many problems here at home, I cannot even think about sending our money over to fund a proxy war with Russia,” she said in an interview. “Zelensky doesn’t run the United States government. He is not our president, but for some reason Joe Biden bends over every single time. … The American people don’t care about that war over there.”
At a rally in Warren, Mich., on Saturday night, Trump suggested he could have prevented Putin from invading Ukraine.
“That war would never ever have happened if I were president and it didn’t happen,’ Trump said.
Many Republicans have followed Trump’s lead in waffling on Putin, whom Trump avoided condemning and sided with over his own intelligence agencies in doubting Russian interference in the 2016 election. Relations with Ukraine became partisan during Trump’s first impeachment, after he tried to use U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in the country.