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The GOP’s Ukraine evolution

Josh Kraushaar AXIOS Piece
Thought Leader: Josh Kraushaar
July 30, 2023
Source: AXIOS
Written by: Josh Kraushaar

Many of the GOP’s leading Senate recruits are speaking out against U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia — sounding a downright isolationist note and breaking from the views of party leaders.

Why it matters: The emerging Republican rhetoric from up-and-coming candidates on Ukraine is a signal on where the party’s foreign policy views are headed.

The latest: Trump yesterday called on Republicans in Congress to “refuse to authorize a single additional shipment” of weapons to Ukraine until “the FBI, DOJ and IRS hand over” evidence in the House’s Biden family investigation.

Zoom out: Former Vice President Mike Pence, who recently returned from Ukraine, was booed at an evengalical event in Iowa — moderated by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson — over his support for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

Driving the news: Former Navy SEAL and businessman Tim Sheehy, the party-backed candidate challenging Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), raised eyebrows in a statement issued to a local conservative radio host this month.

Between the lines: That’s a sharp reversal from Sheehy’s position before he jumped in the race. Just last year, Sheehy wrote on his LinkedIn page: “Sweden and Finland are next? We’ve seen this movie before … stop him now before the price tag for putting [Russian President Vladimir] Putin down will be a lot higher,” he wrote.

Go deeper: Sam Brown, the party’s favored candidate in the Nevada Senate race, is a decorated military veteran whose injuries in Afghanistan have turned him deeply skeptical of American military engagement abroad.

Zoom in: Businessman Bernie Moreno, running in a competitive Ohio Senate primary, also sounded a skeptical note on Ukraine funding in a recent interview with Breitbart News.

By the numbers: A June Pew Research poll found 44% of Republican or GOP-leaning voters believe the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine, while just 34% believe it’s “about right” or “not enough.” That’s the highest level of GOP skepticism for Ukraine aid since the war began.

The bottom line: Republican leadership is still solidly behind supporting Ukraine, but the grassroots of the party are moving in the opposite direction.

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