Ukraine is surviving its war with Russia in large part because of the U.S. Washington has supplied Kyiv with billions of dollars of weaponry, and it has done so with the support of both Democrats and Republicans.
In the U.S. capital, it is a rare example of bipartisanship.
But this bipartisan approach may be coming to an end. Republicans are questioning the amount of money going to the war. And some so-called progressive Democrats are urging U.S. President Joe Biden to forgo war and seek a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
In the background is Donald Trump. Ukraine has been an embarrassment to the former president. His mishandling of the Ukraine file was one of the factors leading to his impeachment. Now he is in a position where Ukraine could serve as his path to political salvation.
When he offered in September to work out a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin that would end the war, Trump was not taken seriously.
“Be strategic; be smart,” he wrote on social media. “Get a negotiated deal done NOW. Both sides need and want it … The entire world is at stake.”
His critics laughed then. But now that position does not seem so outlandish.
Senior Republican legislator Kevin McCarthy has warned that his party will no longer support giving unlimited military aid to Ukraine. “They’re not going to write a blank cheque,” he told Punchbowl News, adding that as the economy weakens Americans face their own problems.
This comes as a group of left-leaning Democratic legislators penned a letter to Biden urging him to seek a negotiated solution to end the war.
When the 30 were accused of aiding Russia, they withdrew their letter. But the point had already been made: among both Democrats and Republicans, pressure is growing to end the standoff with Russia over Ukraine.
Partly, it is the cost. America has devoted billions to the war and is Ukraine’s main funder.
But partly it reflects the fact that many Americans don’t see the point of the war. They don’t buy the argument that an independent Ukraine is vital for western democracy. Rather, they see the conflict with Russia as just another military adventure waged abroad by U.S. security elites.
Enter Donald Trump.
Trump has not covered himself with glory in Ukraine. As president, he famously refused to pass on military aid to Ukraine until Kyiv investigated the alleged wrongdoings of Hunter Biden, the son of Trump rival Joe Biden.
This, combined with other political crimes, ended up with Trump being impeached.
But those events were a lifetime ago. If the polls can be believed, those who support Trump (and most Republicans do) care little about how he did in the past in Ukraine. Rather, they are interested in what he would do now.
And for those supporters, Trump offers a familiar remedy: ditch the elites and go with the people.
Trump’s son Donald Jr. articulated this position last month, after a tropical storm devastated Florida. The government, Trump Jr. said, should hold back on military aid to Ukraine until Florida no longer needed hurricane relief.
America First. It is classic Trump. It has worked for him before — and as a recipe to end the Ukraine war, it could work for him again.