Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

If they win, MAGA Republicans will push to abandon Ukraine and harm U.S. security.

GOP candidates, along with Musk and Trump, echo Kremlin talking points in pushing to end Ukraine aid and force Kyiv to negotiate with genocidal Putin

Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks up as he addresses guests at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 meeting in Stavanger, Norway, on Aug. 29, 2022. (Carina Johansen/NTB/AFP/Getty Images/TNS) **Norway OUT**
Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks up as he addresses guests at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 meeting in Stavanger, Norway, on Aug. 29, 2022. (Carina Johansen/NTB/AFP/Getty Images/TNS) **Norway OUT**Read moreCARINA JOHANSEN/NTB/AFP / MCT

The ad during the first World Series game between the Phillies and the Houston Astros was terrifying — and totally misleading.

It denounced Joe Biden for sending billions in aid and weapons to Ukraine while U.S. cities were awash in crime and undocumented immigrants. “Joe Biden says his fight in Ukraine could lead to nuclear Armageddon. World War III,” the ad’s narrator intoned. “I say no mas.”

More than 1.1 million viewers “liked” the ad when it surfaced on Twitter.

The ad’s sponsor was a virulently anti-immigrant, dark money group called Citizens for Sanity, which is linked to Steven Miller, former President Donald Trump’s close White House aide and anti-immigration tsar. Yet the attack on U.S. aid to Ukraine — in language that could have been taken from the Kremlin’s own playbook — was especially disturbing.

The advertisement is a preview of what to expect if Tuesday’s elections return a MAGA-heavy GOP majority to the House of Representatives, let alone the Senate. And it is a gift to Vladimir Putin, who hopes his battlefield losses in Ukraine will be offset by MAGA victories in the U.S.A.

» READ MORE: Putin's nuclear threats and strikes on civilians rule out negotiations or a ceasefire.

The GOP’s anti-Ukraine rhetoric is rising, from the next likely House speaker, Rep. Kevin McCathy, to 57 current GOP House members, to Trump-backed picks for the next Congress. (Last month, 30 liberal Democrats naively wrote to Biden urging him to pursue a cease-fire, then withdrew the letter, but at least they never called for an end to aiding Ukraine.)

Meanwhile, Twitter’s new boss, Elon Musk, put forward a supremely dumb, four-point “peace plan” that would effectively destroy Ukraine. And Trump himself has announced on the Truth social media platform that — no surprise — he is the man to get “a negotiated deal done NOW.”

Traditional Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who calls for more aid to Ukraine, may be hard-pressed to stem a GOP tide that lifts up Putin’s war plans. Trump-backed venture capitalist J.D. Vance claims, in his Ohio race for the Senate, “We’ve given enough money in Ukraine.” Arizona MAGA Senate nominee Blake Masters argues that the aid money should go to building a border wall.

These America Firsters blithely ignore the threat Moscow’s war poses to the United States.

Putin believes that he can annex Ukraine by force in Europe because the West is too weak to stop him. Never mind that this is a practice that supposedly ended after World War II.

The Russian leader claims the right to invade Ukraine because it was once part of historic Russia, and then of the Soviet Union. By that illogic, he could seize and annex Alaska, or grab pieces of other European countries that were formerly ruled by Moscow.

As for a nuclear World War III, the United States and our allies are more likely to face Armageddon if we abandon Ukraine.

Putin and his minions are constantly threatening to use nukes to see if they can scare the West into abandoning Kyiv. If this nuclear blackmail succeeds, Putin will be encouraged to try the tactic again within Europe or against the United States in a future conflict. In reality, U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies see no sign that Putin is ready to use a tactical nuclear weapon.

The Russian leader also claims that Ukraine plans to explode a dirty bomb (conventional explosives laced with some radioactive materiel) in order to blame Russia and escalate the war. That is ludicrous. It is Putin who keeps escalating this war.

Putin’s army is creating nuclear risk by ignoring the pleas of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency to withdraw from occupied Ukrainian nuclear power plants. Russia is targeting Ukrainian civilians daily, with missiles that destroy heating and water systems in major Ukrainian cities — a blatant war crime.

But why not dialogue with Putin about ending the war, as Trump imagines himself doing? Why not press Kyiv to swap land for peace, as Musk has proposed?

The reason is simple: Ukraine is winning on the ground and Russia is losing. So Putin promotes the idea of talks (to any leader he thinks is gullible enough to say yes) in order to rescue his faltering war effort. A cease-fire and/or negotiations would only buy time for Putin to rebuild his broken army and then renew the war.

“Putin only wants negotiations because he badly needs a break to regroup,” explains Yevgenia Albats, one of Russia’s foremost investigative journalists, who left Moscow in August after the Kremlin had shut down the last independent news outlets.

“The idea that Ukraine could get peace if it gave up some of its land is ridiculous,” she told me Tuesday. “Putin is not going to stop. He cannot afford to stop, because his power is based on the belief by the people around him that he is capable of delivering what he has promised. His plan is to restore the territory of the Soviet Union. He believes Ukraine has no right to exist as a state.”

Indeed, Russia has already “annexed” four Ukrainian provinces it partly occupies, after holding sham referendums there. Putin has made clear he won’t relinquish those provinces — unless he is forced out militarily. So long as Putin holds this territory — giving him control of Ukraine’s entire coastline — Ukraine will remain an economic basket case, unable to recover. That is Putin’s goal.

Yet Musk’s brain-dead plan calls for Putin to keep Crimea, while the U.N. monitors new referendums in the four occupied provinces. Does Musk really believe the Russian military would allow “fair” elections after torturing and murdering residents of these territories, and forcing out half their population? Or has Putin bedazzled Musk in a private conversation?

The pro-“peace talks” crowd ignores Putin’s history of breaking key agreements. Ukraine voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons — left over from Soviet times — in a 1994 deal called the Budapest Memorandum, in which Russia pledged to respect Ukrainian sovereignty. We see how well that deal worked.

Moreover, Putin totally twisted the Minsk agreements that Kyiv reluctantly signed with Moscow after Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Had Kyiv accepted Putin’s terms, the Ukrainian government would have lost control over its borders and its national affairs.

In other words, Putin sees peace talks as a way station toward achieving his imperial goals.

Putin sees peace talks as a way station towards achieving his imperial goals.

When it comes to U.N. help in achieving peace, Putin has repeatedly shown his disdain for the world body. He regularly toys with a U.N.-backed deal, signed in July, to lift the illegal Russian Black Sea blockade of Ukraine’s grain exports.

Ukrainian officials told me in July, when I was in Odesa, that the Kremlin would inevitably use the grain deal to bludgeon Kyiv. To make that point clear, Russia attacked the Odesa port with missiles the day after the accord was enacted. And, a few days later, Russia assassinated Ukraine’s largest private grain dealer and his wife by firing a missile into their bedroom in the port city of Mykolaiv.

Moscow has continued to limit grain exports, causing food shortages in Africa and blaming Ukraine for the crisis. Over the weekend, Moscow suspended participation in the deal — and blamed Kyiv for the spike in global wheat prices. Then Russia announced on Tuesday that it was resuming participation.

Who can take Putin’s signed promises seriously? For him, signed accords are malleable tools that are meant to serve his own political purposes. But with the grain deal, Putin also plays hunger games with the world’s poor.

» READ MORE: In Ukraine, no one is surprised that Russia bombed Odesa the day after the grain deal.

Yet the bottom line, when it comes to negotiations with Putin, is that the West has no right to force a democracy to surrender to a dictator who will create a police state in Ukraine. “Peace talks” can only come if Putin surrenders his plan for conquest, and Ukraine’s sovereignty is guaranteed by Western nations.

Ukrainians are fighting and dying for their freedom, as Americans did against a far less brutal enemy in the 1770s.

“I think this is making us stronger,” my former interpreter Lena recently texted me from Kyiv. She described searching for water and doing without heat after Russian missiles struck the city’s infrastructure last month. “We are looking for ways to help each other,” she told me.

The test for America after Nov. 8 is whether sane Republicans and the Biden White House can constrain the MAGA extremists — and warn the U.S. public about why it is essential to support Kyiv: Ukrainians are fighting Putin’s effort to destroy their country so that we don’t have to fight him a few years down the road.