Top Republicans condemn Russian invasion of Ukraine – days after Trump called Putin a ‘genius’

A few senior GOP figures criticise Biden during the invasion, but most refrain from taking same tack as Trump

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Friday 25 February 2022 15:37 GMT
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Few Republican politicians criticised President Joe Biden as Russia invaded Ukraine, breaking with former president Donald Trump, who has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy squarely placed the blame for the invasion on Mr Putin’s shoulders and did not even mention the Democratic president.

“Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is reckless and evil,” he said. “The United States stands with the people of Ukraine and prays for their safety and resolve. Putin’s actions must be met with serious consequence. This act of war is intended to rewrite history and more concerning, upend the balance of power in Europe. Putin must be held accountable for his actions.”

On Tuesday, ahead of the invasion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday condemned Mr Putin and urged President Biden to take necessary action.

“As he escalates his war against Ukraine, Putin must be made to pay a far heavier price than he paid for his previous invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. This should begin, but not end, with devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and its enablers. The President should waste no time in using his extensive existing authorities to impose these costs.”

Mr McConnell, who worked with Mr Biden for years when the current president was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he wanted to see the United States lead the charge.

“America and its partners are strongest when we act together, but the collective response to these threats must be led by Washington, by President Biden and his Administration,” he said in a statement.

House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking Republican Rep Michael McCaul of Texas, House Armed Services Committee ranking Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ranking Republican Mike Turner of Ohio all mentioned the failures not just of the Obama administration in its response to Ukraine in 2014 but also the Bush administration’s response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.

“Today, we stand resolute with the Ukrainian people and resolve to provide them with the tools they need to withstand and repel this unprovoked attack. Every drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood spilled in this conflict is on Putin’s hands, and his alone,” the three members said.

Mr McCaul called for a unified front in an interview with Fox Business.

“It’s absolutely critical that we rally together as Americans, both Republican and Democrat. The first thing we’ll be doing when we get back up there is work on a sanctions package – we are working on that right now. Really tough sanctions that would cripple Russia,” he told host Stuart Varney.

Republicans’ words break from Mr Trump, who still looms large in the Republican Party. On Thursday, many conservatives convened for the Conservative Political Action Conference, also known as CPAC. Mr Trump is slated to give a major speech on Saturday evening.

As the invasion began, Mr Trump spoke on Laura Ingraham’s show and he praised Mr Putin.

“He [Mr Putin] was going to be satisfied with a piece and now he sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration,” he said on Fox News. On Tuesday, he called Mr Putin’s move to recognise two regions of Ukraine as independent “genius”.

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