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May 15, 2023 1:23 pm

Jewish Republicans Urge Renewed Commitment to Ukraine Amid GOP Split Over Russian Invasion

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Firefighters work to extinguish fire amidst debris of a house destroyed by recent shelling in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict in the city of Khartsyzk in the Donetsk region, Russian-occupied Ukraine. Photo: Reuters/Pavel Klimov

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) on Monday issued a full-throated call for continued US support for Ukraine as it confronts the ongoing Russian invasion, amid growing cleavages within the Republican Party over the direction of American policy towards the war.

A statement issued by the RJC’s Board of Directors expressed pride in the claim that “[N]o country has done more to help Ukraine than our own. Millions of Americans have contributed to charities that provide relief to Ukrainians. Our elected leaders have provided billions of dollars in assistance to bolster Ukraine’s military.”

The group called on the US Congress “to renew that commitment, and we are pleased that key Republican leaders have pledged to do so.”

There has been a growing divide within the Republican Party over the last year regarding Ukraine, with supporters of former President Donald Trump and other figures on the party’s extreme right arguing against military assistance and pushing for negotiations with President Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow. Trump has insisted that US support for Ukraine’s democratic government is undermining US national security, claiming in a CNN Town Hall last week that “we’re giving away so much equipment, we don’t have ammunition for ourselves right now,” while his putative rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, sparked ire when he argued on a Fox News interview last March that while the US had many vital interests, “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”

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Other party figures, among them House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and far right congressional representative Marjorie Taylor Greene — who told a fringe gathering in Budapest last week that US President Joe Biden was risking “world war three” by backing Ukraine — have pushed similar positions. An Ipsos/Axios poll in March revealed that the GOP was deeply divided over Ukraine, with 79 percent of Democrats supporting continued aid against 42 percent of Republicans.

However, the RJC statement urged cementing the US commitment to Ukraine, arguing as well that “our commitment to Ukraine must be accompanied by a meaningful commitment to strengthening our military…In a dangerous world, it is essential to our national security that America prioritize military expenditures much more than we have in recent years, to ensure that we are prepared to counter the full range of threats we face.”

Lauding the people of Ukraine for having “fought bravely to defend their homeland,” the statement remarked that as “Jewish Americans, we emphatically believe that it is in America’s national interest to see Russia’s military might diminished and its malign strategic aims thwarted. ” Commenting on the strategic threat posed by Putin, the RJC warned that the Russian dictator had “made it clear that his territorial ambitions go beyond Ukraine and extend to other former Soviet republics that are now NATO members.” It stated further that “preventing a Russian victory will further American strategic aims in the Middle East by frustrating the designs of Russia’s regional ally, the terrorist regime in Iran.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been touring the capitals of key US allies, securing a commitment from the British government on Monday for hundreds of air defense missiles and armed drones. Zelensky also won a $7bn military aid package from Germany that includes anti-aircraft missiles and Leopard tanks following a visit to Berlin over the weekend.

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