Trumpʼs allies launched an advertising campaign “Republicans for Ukraine” — this is good news. The bad thing is that there are fewer and fewer such enthusiasts. Hereʼs how the war with Russia split the conservatives

Dmytro Rayevskyi
Kateryna Kobernyk
Trumpʼs allies launched an advertising campaign “Republicans for Ukraine” — this is good news. The bad thing is that there are fewer and fewer such enthusiasts. Hereʼs how the war with Russia split the conservatives

A woman with a Ukrainian flag holds a placard that says "Stop Putinʼs War" to show support for the Ukrainian people in their fight against the Russian invaders. Washington, USA, April 21, 2022.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

In August 2023, a group of members of the US Republican Party from the organization "Protect Democracy Together" launched the "Republicans for Ukraine" advertising campaign. Pro-Ukrainian advertising will appear on social networks, on American television, on billboards, and even during the upcoming debates in the party primaries — a total of $2 million will be spent on this. Campaign organizers, political strategist Sarah Longwell and political scientist William Kristol, say the main goal is to convince Republicans in Congress and their constituents that support for Ukraine in the war with Russia should only grow. Longwell notes that over the past year, the number of supporters of Ukraine among Republicans has significantly decreased, and this is a worrying trend that must be fought against. "Babel" tells how the topic of Ukraine became a point of division between pro-Ukrainian republicans and Trumpists, and what American voters think about support for Kyiv.

The campaign Republicans for Ukraine is 50 voters and members of the Republican Party from different states, of different ages and genders, who support Ukraine in the war with Russia and call on fellow party members to do the same. Among the campaign participants, there are especially many seasoned Republicans — some have been members of the party for 40-50 years.

According to Sarah Longwell, the campaign was launched after a focus group among Republican voters, which she conducts as a political strategist, to get their opinions on key domestic and foreign policy issues.

"It was alarming that many Republican voters spoke disparagingly of Ukraine or Zelenskyi. But we also learned that there are many people who still believe that we should support Ukraine and that it is important to resist the invading forces," Longwell told The Washington Post.

At the beginning of August, CNN published a survey among Americans, according to which 51% believe that the United States has already done enough to support Ukraine, 48% say that Congress should provide additional assistance. The position on this issue often depends on party sympathies. Among Republican voters, the overwhelming majority — 71% — are skeptical about aid. Among Democratic voters, on the contrary, 62% stand for additional assistance.

Sarah Longwell.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

According to another survey conducted by Quinnipiac University, 66% of Americans still believe that supporting Ukraine is generally in the interests of the United States. But the question is its volume. For example, on August 10, Joe Biden announced that he will ask Congress to allocate $20.6 billion in additional aid, in addition to what is already provided for in the budget. These additional funds are the main topic of discussion.

The Washington Post analyst Aaron Blake writes that among Republicans, the idea of excessive support for Ukraine has been growing in popularity almost since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. At the beginning of March 2022, only 9% of party members believed so, and in January 2023, 40% already believed so. In the summer, this trend stopped at 44%. Blake believes that this was influenced by the Wagnerʼs PMC rebellion in Russia — many Republicans respect "strong leaders", and when Putin showed weakness, sympathy for him shrank.

All this time, supporters of Donald Trump and popular conservative political commentators such as Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson actively opposed aid to Ukraine. Moreover, Carlson used many platforms for this. For example, in July 2023, he spoke at the Iowa Conference of Evangelicals. Carlson did not touch on religious issues, instead he gave a pro-Russian speech.

"The death toll at the hands of Russia in the United States is close to zero. I donʼt know anyone who would be killed by Russia. I personally know people who have been killed by Mexico. Why is Mexico less of a threat than Russia?" ― he asked the evangelists.

Trumpists in Congress continue to push the same theses. For example, on August 16, one of them, active Trumpist Marjorie Taylor Green, congresswoman from Georgia, said that the sanctions against the Russian Federation had failed. And it is Ukraine that is to blame for the fact that Russia is getting richer, and the USA is getting poorer.

The Ukrainian issue actually split the Republicans — 4 out of 10 support Ukraine, the same number are against, the rest are undecided. Now the Trumpists have a significant influence on the position of the Republican Party in general. In June, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would not support additional aid for Ukraine.

It is for the opinions of the Republicans, who do not have a clear position on Ukraine, that Sarah Longwell and her colleagues from Protect Democracy Together are going to fight. She says that opponents of Ukraine in the party express themselves often and loudly, so it is necessary to enlighten those Republicans who think the opposite.

"We want to pressure the Republicans to do the right thing about Ukraine," she says.

Overall, Longwell believes that Trumpʼs leadership is having a negative impact on the party. According to her, in recent years, the Republican Party began to resort to populism more often and pay less attention to the rule of law. But the issue of Ukraine itself has become the main battleground between the part of the party that follows Trump and other Republicans.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is now the leading Republican presidential candidate, and his support is only growing. In April 2023, he was supported by 55% of party members, now it is 63%. The intra-party rating of his main competitor in the primaries, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is 17%, other candidates are 3% or less.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before his speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, March 4, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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