Administration

GOP leaders blame Biden ‘weakness’ for Russian invasion of Ukraine

Republican leaders on Tuesday bashed President Biden as a frail leader on the global stage, saying it’s the “weakness” of their White House rival that’s emboldened Russian President Vladimir Putin — and led directly to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Weakness invites aggression. It’s a historic axiom. And it’s true,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

McCaul, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, compared Biden to Neville Chamberlain, the former British prime minister whose infamous appeasement policies of the 1930s offered a toehold for the Nazi expansionism that ultimately exploded into World War II.

“We have a weak president and he’s creating a very dangerous world,” McCaul said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) piled on, accusing Biden of sitting back while other global leaders take charge. Only the decision of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to remain in Kyiv, despite Biden’s evacuation offer, has prevented a Russian rout, he added.

“The sad part is, we’re watching Europe lead,” McCarthy said. “Thankfully President Zelensky didn’t take President Biden’s advice and leave the country, because we’d be talking today about a collapse.”

Congressional attacks on a president of the opposing party are, of course, routine in Washington. And GOP leaders have hammered Biden since Day 1 on his approach to issues as diverse as the economy, immigration and public health amid the COVID pandemic — attacks they amplified on Tuesday.

Still, the vilification of a sitting president amid a foreign policy crisis defies the long-held, if unwritten, precept that partisan disagreements should stop at the water’s edge. The friction is particularly glaring at a time when the United States is seeking to rally a united front — at home and abroad — to counter Putin’s aggression. And Biden’s Democratic allies are rushing to his defense, noting the broad coalition of countries now sending help to Ukraine, sanctioning Russia, or both.

“President Biden has done a remarkable job of working with our allies,” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said Tuesday in an interview with NewsNation. “This is the most unified approach to sanctions – the toughest sanctions that we have ever done as a world.”

Republicans have vastly different views, pointing to a number of policy decisions — foreign and domestic — they say Biden has botched to the advantage of Putin. That list includes Biden’s decision last year to waive sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany; his disapproval of the Keystone XL pipeline at home; and his reluctance to hit Russia with earlier sanctions, even as Putin was amassing nearly 200,000 troops at the Ukrainian border.

“The war on Ukraine represents one of the greatest foreign policy failures in modern history,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the third-ranking House Republican.

The GOP broadsides came hours before Biden will deliver his first State of the Union speech to a sharply divided country that’s on edge amid a spike in inflation, a war in Europe and a COVID-19 pandemic now in its third year.

Republican leaders are expecting to flip control of the House in November’s midterm elections, and they’re blaming Biden and the Democrats for each one of those crises.

Republicans are using the Ukraine crisis to bash Biden’s handling of the deadly U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer. McCarthy suggested that if the military equipment left behind in Afghanistan had been transferred to Ukrainian forces, Russia would never have invaded.

“Imagine if Ukraine had just half of the weapons that were left in Afghanistan,” he said. “If they’d had just half, I imagine Putin would not have entered.”

Rep. Victoria Spartz (Ind.), a first-term Republican who was born and raised in Ukraine, offered a tearful plea for the international community to step in with much more help for her native country.

“This is not a war. This is a genocide of the Ukrainian people by a crazy man,” she said.

She didn’t spare Biden, saying the president talks but “doesn’t do things.”

“What is he gonna [do], wait when millions die and then he’s going to do more?” she said. “This president needs to get his act together and exercise some leadership.”

Tags Cheri Bustos Elise Stefanik Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Michael McCaul Vladimir Putin

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