Co-chair of Senate's Ukraine Caucus, the senator urged the Biden administration "to ensure a coordinated response against this unwarranted continued intrusion on sovereign territory of Ukraine."
However, one of the Republicans who ran to replace retiring Portman sent a completely different message.
J.D. Vance spoke in a podcast interview. "I am sick of Joe Biden focusing only on the border of a nation I don't care about, while he allows the border of his country to become a total warzone."
Divergent responses to Europe’s largest foreign policy crisis in decades reflect a divided and rapidly changing Republican Party. A largely Washington-based old guard that warned about Russian aggression for years is now facing an upsurge of conservatives who question why the U.S. should be concerned about Russia's actions.
Doug Heye, a veteran GOP strategist, stated that all of these people were part of a party that was committed to standing up against Russia. It shows how our politics have gone rogue over the past few years.
After Putin launched a military intervention in Ukraine, the GOP's approach towards foreign policy became more urgent. The party's division in the lead up to the action was a reminder that Donald Trump's lasting impact on the GOP even after he left the White House was evident.
He is still the most beloved figure in the GOP base. These races could produce similarly-minded Republicans, who will be positioned to succeed foreign policies traditionalists such as Portman in the fall campaign.
The annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which began in Florida on Thursday, offered a glimpse of what was to come. Leaders focused their anger on President Joe Biden’s foreign policy handling and Putin’s norm-breaking aggression.
K.T. stated, "We have a nation leadership that I believe at a certain stage is probably criminally incompetent." McFarland was Trump's former deputy national security advisor. "They cannot stop Vladimir Putin's actions."
She was not content to slam the American president but raised serious concerns about Russia’s leader.
"My concern is that it doesn't stop with Ukraine. McFarland stated that it continues. McFarland said, "Will he threaten NATO?" His ultimate goal has been to destroy NATO, to seperate the United States and Europe, and to rebuild the Soviet Union.
For the moment, the small but vocal group of conservatives who question why the U.S. should care for Ukraine security are still very influential. The majority of Congressional Republicans, particularly those in the Senate have been united in condemning Russian aggression. However, some senators, such as Sen. Tom Cotton from Arkansas, advocate a more aggressive posture and call Biden's response "timid” and "wholly unjust to this moment."
As tensions rise during the crucial midterm election year, almost all are becoming more critical of Biden.
However, those who dismiss American involvement have strong platforms. Tucker Carlson, Fox News' biggest star and reaches millions of viewers every night, repeatedly questions why Ukraine defense is so important. He even asks why the U.S. should support them instead of Putin.
Candace Owens is a well-known conservative commentator who has openly recited Putin's words.
"I suggest every American who wants to know what's (asterisk)actually(asterisk) going on in Russia and Ukraine, read this transcript of Putin's address. As I have repeatedly stated, NATO is expanding eastward and violating agreements that were previously in place. She tweeted Tuesday, "WE are at fault."
As explosions rang through Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other parts of Ukraine on Wednesday night, Trump called it a "terrible scene" and said that Putin would never have moved under his watch.
He sees the weakness, incompetence, and stupidity of this government. He said that he was an American and was angry at it. "It's very sad for the country and the world. It's also very sad for many people who will be killed.
This was a departure form his initial public reaction to Putin's escalation in which he did not condemn the Russian leader and repeatedly praised his intelligence in an interview with "The Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show."
Critics view this mindset as indicative of the party's greater drift towards authoritarianism, embrace of anti-democratic actions after Trump’s repeated attempts to reverse the results of his 2020 election.
"They are basically declaring their support of dictators and authoritarians, and they don’t seem to have any problem with that type ruling coming to America," Olivia Troye (a national security expert) said. She advised Vice President Mike Pence at the Trump White House. "I believe Americans can disagree on how to proceed. We should all be united in our support for freedom and democracy.
She added, "What happened to Republicans being anti Russia?" "That used to be the norm."
Trump has led a major overhaul of the GOP’s traditional foreign policy position since the beginning of his first presidential campaign. Trump won the 2016 election partly by opposing the "forever" wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying that the country had not gained much from the nation-building and interventionism of the George W. Bush era. Inward-looking "America First” doctrine was adopted by him. It aimed to use tough talk and unpredictable behavior to intimidate would-be aggressors.
Trump also embraced Putin and complimented him while denigring NATO, which is the foundation of U.S. foreign policies since its founding to counter Russia.
His allies tried to remove language from the GOP platform in 2016 that supported weapons for Ukraine. He sided with Putin repeatedly over U.S. intelligence agency's conclusions about Russia's meddling during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Russia watchers found the embrace so bizarre that they believed Putin had dirt on him. This speculation has never been confirmed.
Trump was impeached for his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden in advance of the 2020 election, while withholding military assistance.
His term coincided with a change in public opinion. Gallup revealed that the number of Republicans calling Russia a friend or an ally increased sharply under Trump's presidency. It rose from 22% in 2014, to 40% in 2018, and then fell to 22% again in 2014. The relationship was largely unchanged in the eyes of Democrats.
There is very little support from Americans today for the U.S. to play a significant role in the Russia-Ukraine war. This is even more true of Republicans. The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that only 22% of Republicans believe the U.S. should have a major role in the conflict. This compares to 32% for Democrats.
Republicans were less likely than Democrats, to state that they are very or extremely worried about Russia's influence in the world posing a threat to the U.S.
Adam Geller, a Republican strategist and pollster, said that although domestic issues have played a greater role in recent elections than foreign policy, this could change.
He stated that if there is going to be major war in Europe, it will quickly rise up in voters' minds.
He said that this would be bad news for Biden. However, it could also provide an opportunity for Republicans and independents to vote for Biden as he promised normalcy in the years before Trump.
Douglas Brinkley, Rice University's professor of history, stated that there were bigger issues at play and called it unprecedented for Republicans not to question the necessity to stand with Ukraine, and eventually NATO.
He said, "It is against the generations of foreign policymaking." "NATO is at the heart of all American foreign policies."
He said, "If you undermine NATO, there's no American presence anywhere in the world." "This isn’t a dispute about foreign policy."