Former President Donald Trump issued a plea for peace last week. “It doesn’t make sense that Russia and Ukraine aren’t sitting down and working out some kind of an agreement,” Trump said in a statement on the war in Ukraine.
“If they don’t do it soon, there will be nothing left but death, destruction, and carnage,” he added. “This is a war that never should have happened, but it did. The solution can never be as good as it would have been before the shooting started, but there is a solution, and it should be figured out now—not later—when everyone will be DEAD!”
It’s not unusual for prominent American figures to call for peace in an ongoing war. But few politicians dare to do so when it comes to the Ukraine war. Most politicians want the war to continue, even expand. Many demand a no-fly zone that could provoke World War III. Others want to send as much hardware as possible to Ukraine. And the consensus among the political elite is that the Ukrainian government should make no deal with the Russians. They need to fight until “victory” is achieved.
Trump’s comments are out of sync with what most Republicans say about the conflict. They are especially out of sync with what the mainstream media says about the conflict. New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait mocked Trump’s plea for peace as seeing “very fine people on both sides of the Ukraine War.”
“The banal truth remains that Trump has a persistent sympathy for Putin and Russia that places him well outside the mainstream of either party,” Chait concludes. The liberal journalist also nitpicked the language of more hawkish Republicans for not being anti-Russian enough. The only acceptable response to the war is hysteric warmongering and deranged Russophobia.
But that’s what most Republicans have embraced. With the exception of Trump, Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and a few others, the GOP is in war hawk mode. Several Republicans demand the United States impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine. “President Biden needs to make a decision TODAY: either give Ukraine access to the planes and anti-aircraft defense systems it needs to defend itself, or enforce a no-fly zone to close Ukrainian skies to Russian attacks,” Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in a March statement. “If President Biden does not do this NOW, President Biden will show himself to be absolutely heartless and ignorant of the deaths of innocent Ukrainian children and families.
“Clearly, in the absence of a U.N. resolution, which Russia would veto, a strong coalition of like-minded nations should step in and seriously consider [a no-fly zone],” declared Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last month. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other powerful GOP lawmakers have also sympathized with the idea. Two competitive Senate candidates in Ohio—Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandel—fully endorsed a no-fly zone on the campaign trail.
A no-fly zone would require America and its allies to shoot Russian planes out of the sky. That could lead to World War III. Most humans would agree that this would be a terrible thing. But many Republicans prefer to ignore the consequences and push ahead, endorsing this reckless venture.
Not every Republican wants a no-fly zone, of course. But the majority want the conflict to carry on for as long as possible. They want to deliver an unending supply of weapons and supplies to Ukraine, and they refuse to consider the idea that maybe it would be best if Ukraine tried to make a peace deal. It’s unlikely the Eastern European state will completely push out the invader or regain all of its lost territories.
The GOP consensus on Ukraine comes from Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.): “Vladimir Putin must pay for this unprovoked, naked war of aggression. Joe Biden won’t make him pay, the Republican Party must.” Translation: “Republicans must push for war just to stick it to Biden in the upcoming midterms.” The hawkery is all done for crass political gain.
If ever cooler heads needed to prevail, it’s right now. A forever war in Ukraine benefits no one. Tens of thousands will die, and Ukraine will be a ruined husk of a nation. Not every war ends with the “bad guy” agreeing to an unconditional surrender. But to many politicians, that’s the only acceptable end to every war. That’s not going to happen. We should push for Ukraine to make a deal that will lead to lasting peace and avert the chance of World War III.
Trump gets this. When will the rest of the GOP follow?