Politics: GOP Blames Biden for Russian Aggression. Don’t Forget About Trump.

EXPLAINER: What are US military options to help Ukraine?

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Former President Donald Trump slammed President Biden on Thursday for allegedly giving Russia the “green light” to invade Ukraine during his chaotic press conference — and suggested something wasn’ t “normal” with the commander-in-chief. The White House repeatedly attempted to walk back Biden ’s comment over the following 24 hours, beginning with a hastily issued statement by press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday evening and ending with the president himself insisting Thursday that any movement of Russian forces into Ukraine would be “met with [a] severe and coordinated economic

US President Joe Biden 's admission that Western allies are not entirely united on how they would respond to a "minor" Russian incursion into Ukraine has sparked an uproar in Kiev.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin lays the groundwork for an invasion into Ukraine, Republicans in Congress have been laying the groundwork to blame President Joe Biden for failing to prevent an attack.

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/Getty © Provided by The Daily Beast Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero/The Daily Beast/Getty

But it’s former President Donald Trump, recently retired military officials and diplomats told The Daily Beast, who may bear more responsibility for the looming crisis with Russia than Biden.

Trump, whose relationship with Russia has been famously complicated, pushed back on providing aid to Ukraine in 2017. Trump was reportedly resistant to providing the security aid, in part, because he wanted Ukraine to pay the United States back. That year, Putin made his case to Trump during a 2017 meeting that Russia had sovereignty claims over Ukraine.

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Did President Joe Biden just tell Russian President Vladimir Putin that it might be OK to launch a “minor incursion” into Ukraine? Toward the end of his nearly two-hour news conference late Wednesday afternoon, Biden was asked why sanctioning Putin for invading Ukraine would work, given that previous sanctions haven’ t had much effect on Russian behavior. At first, Biden gave a by-the-book response. “Because he’s never seen sanctions like the one I’ve promised,” he replied.

Trump has also parroted and played into Putin’s rhetorical arguments on territorial expansion. Trump told world leaders during a private dinner in 2018 that Crimea—the peninsula of land in the Black Sea between Russia and Ukraine that Russia annexed by force in 2014—actually did belong to Russia because everyone there speaks Russian.

In a more hard power sense, Trump also withheld military aid to Ukraine in 2019, conditioning the aid on a political “favor.” In withholding the funds, which had been appropriated by Congress for security assistance to Ukraine, the Trump administration violated the law, the Government Accountability Office later determined.

During the infamous July 2019 phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump, Zelensky was still asking for Javelin anti-tank weapons. And while Trump held the security aid back, Ukraine became more susceptible. Ukraine was deprived of weapons, artillery, training, and advisers, leaving them weak and in the lurch. Ukrainian soldiers eventually began resorting to stuffing straw in empty uniforms and carrying around logs to make it seem like they had anti-tank missiles on their shoulders, The New York Times reported in 2019.

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Biden 's news conference will be remembered for a gaffe in which he suggested the full weight of sanctions against Russia might not be imposed if Putin engineered only a "minor incursion," a statement the President rowed back Thursday. One of the most curious aspects of the US approach to the Ukraine crisis has been the alarmist US rhetoric about an imminent invasion, and leaking of intelligence reports about the Russian buildup. It's hard to say whether the administration is providing political cover for itself to show it's not been caught by surprise if Russian tanks cross the border.

GOP blames Biden for [insert fucking anything]Step 6. Voters. No idea.Step 7. GOP probably wins control of congress. I say probably despite the voter suppression and pretty bleak House redistricting because some of the provisions in the Reconciliation bill are pretty fucking outstanding for the “Let’s pretend we care about the deficit and actively sabotage the country / try to shut down the government because the other party is in control; we know the idiots in this country will blame Biden for it and we’ll get more votes in the midterm”. GOP aren’ t fiscal conservatives they’re legislative arsonists.

Even when Trump eventually relented and did provide aid, he made it conditional that the equipment not be used for war.

The delays in supplying Ukraine with top military equipment—as well as Trump’s overall dismissiveness of the security realities on the ground in Ukraine—has had lasting consequences, strengthening the Kremlin’s resolve to take further action in Ukraine today, according to Gen. Ben Hodges, the former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe.

”He absolutely did not appreciate and understand the significance of what was happening,” Hodges said of Trump. “And that’s what I think was most valuable to the Kremlin is that they see the American government didn’t appreciate or understand or frankly even care that much in that administration what was going on.”

Hodges told The Daily Beast that Trump’s disregard emboldened Putin and caused damage that’s now ratcheting tensions up.

Budowsky: President Biden leads NATO against Russian aggression

  Budowsky: President Biden leads NATO against Russian aggression I would suggest Biden organize a presentation to the United Nations Security Council and present evidence similar to what Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis — and explore a vote in the General Assembly to mobilize not just European but worldwide support for Ukraine for Ukrainians — opposing a new Russian colonialism today. Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives.

Biden blamed the border situation on Trump and argued he knows better why the migrants are coming to the US, brushing off reporters literally quoting the reasons given by migrants they interviewed. He also denied any of it could be his fault, saying he makes “no apology” for revoking all of Trump ’s border policies. He would not directly commit to eliminating the Senate filibuster – the rule requiring 60 votes to pass major legislation, even as he agreed with a CNN reporter that it was racist. He claimed most Republicans support his policies even if no GOP members of Congress do, citing mainstream media

While the political blowback of any bloodshed or catastrophe in Ukraine in the coming weeks will no doubt fall on Biden—tanking his approval ratings further just as the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan did—it is the lingering rot from the Trump administration that created much of the conditions ripe for an attack.

“There is no comparison to President Trump and President Biden when it comes to Putin—one showers him with compliments and one calls him what he is: a killer,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who led a trip of senators to Ukraine in recent days, told The Daily Beast.

Hodges agreed that Biden had taken a considerably different—and considerably better—approach to Putin and Zelensky.

”It is ridiculous for anybody to say that somehow the Trump administration was better on Ukraine or better on Russia than the current administration,” said Hodges, who also previously served as the head of NATO’s Allied Land Command.

Of course, Republicans see the situation very differently. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) has already laid the blame for an attack that hasn’t happened yet at Biden’s feet.

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”It is a result of a year of Joe Biden’s impotence and incompetence towards Russia in particular and in foreign policy more generally,” Cotton said during a press conference this week, calling out decisions he thinks Biden has made, like when he was allegedly “looking the other way at the Colonial Pipeline hack.”

Even those off handed remarks reek of major revisionism. Russian hackers hit Colonial Pipeline with a ransomware attack last year, after which Biden responded by calling out Russian actors, warning the United States could respond with a cyberattack of its own against Russia—a marked departure from Trump, who frequently looked the other way at Russian cyber and information operations. Biden also told Putin himself to cut it out.

But Republicans believe the developing crisis with Russia and Ukraine is proof that Biden has been soft.

“Many of my Democratic colleagues were quick to criticize President Trump, claiming that he didn’t do enough initially to push back harder on Russian aggression,” Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday. “And then now they realize how much more he did.”

But Steve Pifer, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, said that’s just invented political garble.

”It’s just political BS if you have Republicans saying, ‘Well the Trump administration was tougher,’” Pifer told The Daily Beast. “There was a total disconnect between the administration and Trump. I’m not sure the way that Trump talked about Russia, I’m not sure he fully understood what his policy was.”

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Still, Republicans have either forgotten or are recreating Trump’s role in the current standoff. Some are bizarrely blaming the Democrats’ legislative agenda for an impending invasion. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said the left’s “election takeover hysteria” had “overshadowed what’s happening right now between Russia and Ukraine.”

But there are lawmakers who are trying to avoid this kind of blame game to show a unified resolve against Russia. A bipartisan group of senators who went to Ukraine this past week have purposely been trying to avoid letting the Russia situation devolve into the familiar partisan lines.

“That was the purpose of the trip, to have Republicans and Democrats there, showing Ukraine—showing Russia more importantly—that despite the sort of divisions you see in Washington between Republicans and Democrats on other issues, we’re going to be together,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who just returned from the trip, said on CNN Tuesday.

“We are all in agreement on the need to forge a path forward that imposes severe consequences on Putin if he acts out,” Shaheen also told The Daily Beast, emphasizing there is bipartisan agreement on that.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who went on the trip to Ukraine as well, stressed during a GOP press conference on Wednesday that lawmakers and the Biden administration were indeed unified.

Those messages are perhaps more important than many Republicans believe.

Bret Schafer—who, as the head of the information manipulation team at Alliance for Security Democracy, tracks Russian information operations—said Russian state media actually does pick up on this kind of partisan infighting in the United States.

”You do see this direct amplification when a senator essentially says Biden’s policies to Russia have backfired—that gets picked up,” Schafer told The Daily Beast. “Even if at times the statement is: ‘He’s been too weak on Russia,’ it’ll just get picked up.”

“What they’re looking for,” Schafer continued, “is a fractured response. The division is the key.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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