Once upon a time, facing another Russian dictator and his ruthless aggression in Eastern Europe, the Republican Party in the United States stood together in a strongly bipartisan stance behind a Democratic president.

APTOPIX Russia Ukraine War

People cross an improvised path under a destroyed bridge while fleeing the town of Irpin close to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday. Donald Trump’s praise for Vladimir Putin has deep roots. Trump’s business has been dependent on investments by Russian oligarchs since the 1970s. Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

Josef Stalin got away with taking over several nations in the aftermath of World War II. Yet he mistakenly assumed disunity in the West and America would enable him to expand his Soviet empire.

A pivotal Republican leader of the post-World War II era, however, had to lot to say about Stalin’s naked ambition – not dissimilar to Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine today. Sen. Arthur Vandenberg, Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dramatically called for support for the Democratic president, Harry S. Truman, saying in a 1947 speech, “We must stop politics at the water’s edge.”

The Vandenberg Resolution, conceived by a potential rival to Truman in the 1948 election, set the stage for the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization a year later.

Sadly, in 2022, we have a putative leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, who has lavished praise on another Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin – calling him a “genius” after he sent 150,000 troops, tanks and planes to take over Ukraine in an invasion and the ruthless bombing of houses, hospitals and food stores. Worse, many obeisant Trump supporters, especially on the far-right, joined Trump in their disgraceful support for Putin and criticism of President Biden. The “water’s edge” doesn’t seem to lap around the shores of Mar-a Lago.

While Trump and his followers embrace a Russian dictator, many Republican leaders are adhering to the Vandenberg principle. And their stance in support of the United States and President Biden is shaping up as a defining moment for the future of the Republican party. The most stunning remarks came from Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, and Sen. Mitt Romney. R-Utah. Pence said, “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin.” Romney said Trump’s remarks are “almost treasonous.”


Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., a Trump supporter, called for “a sanctions regime from hell.” Graham berated Republican colleagues who criticized Biden: “We have one president at a time. President Biden is the president of the United States and, to the extent I can help him push back on Putin, I will.”

In effect, Vladimir Putin, whose goal has been to weaken the United States and get even for its leadership in his perception of the collapse of the Soviet Union, is hoping to sustain his brutal aggression by dividing American policy. Putin is fixated on America, but he fails to realize that it was the unity of NATO, with U.S. leadership, keeping the peace in Europe for 75 years, and internal failures of the Soviet-communist state that led to its downfall.

Trump’s praise for Putin has deep roots. Trump’s business has been dependent on investments by Russian oligarchs since the 1970s. Son Eric once bragged “we don’t rely on American banks; we have all the funds we need out of Russia.”

Trump benefited from Putin’s massive cyberattacks to support him in the 2016 election. Trump’s allies removed defense of Ukraine from the Republican platform. And Trump embraced the lie that Russia never interfered, accepting Putin’s word over his own intelligence community at the 2018 Helsinki summit. In office, Trump repeatedly sought to weaken NATO.

“Russia’s long-term investment in the Trump family business paid off,” observed Anne Applebaum, a close observer of authoritarian leaders. “In the Trump family, the Kremlin had something better than spies: cynical, nihilistic, indebted, long-term allies.”

Another false and unpatriotic chorus from the Trump clan is that President Biden is “weak.”


While legitimate criticism of the administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan lingers, Biden has not been weak. The United States has rallied the West in solidarity against Russia and in defense of the Ukrainian people. The Biden administration has played a key role in the united response of all 30 members of NATO. The alliance is more united than ever. Finland and Sweden, traditional neutrals, now consider joining.

In a series of stunning decisions, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany will stop the Nord Stream II pipeline, back sanctions via the SWIFT payments system and significantly increase German defense spending. Unprecedented sanctions continue to escalate. More weapons are reaching Ukraine from all over Europe and the United States.

That cohesion, and shrewd diplomatic and strategic leadership, should help lead to the failure of the worst, inhuman case of military aggression since Hitler’s blitzkrieg across Europe – starting with a claim similar to Putin’s, that the people in Ukraine are really all Russians. The bravery of Ukraine’s 44 million people is turning that claim upside down.

The Republican Party of today has a choice to make. It needs a new leader who respects the United States and does not let unprincipled ambition support now grave threats to international peace and freedom.

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