If you are like a lot of us here at RedState, the Trump team’s intervening at the GOP convention to, by all appearances give Ukraine to Russia was disquieting. While no one really wants to go to war over Ukraine, they didn’t want to go to war over Belgium (1914) or Poland (1939) either. Often the war you have is not the one you would have wished to have had, to paraphrase Don Rumsfeld. There is a line, however, between actively courting war and supporting a weak nation against the overt aggression of a more powerful neighbor.
While throwing Ukraine under the bus was something that would have been expected from the Pat Buchanan/Rand Paul/isolationist/libertarian wing of the GOP, Trump’s team doing it left the taste of and old jock strap in your mouth because of the degree to which his inner circle was peopled with Putin love-slaves and money launderers for the Russian mob. Whatever its merits as policy, the political opening it gives Trump’s opponents and the albatross it hangs about the neck of the GOP in regards to Russia is substantial.
Now John McCain is effectively tossing down a challenge to the Trump administration on our policy towards Russian aggression in the Ukraine, in particular, and its bullying of smaller nations, in general.
Sen. John McCain met with Ukrainian soldiers in the war-torn east of the country on Saturday, along with senators Lindsay Graham and Amy Klobuchar. McCain, who has been outspoken in his criticism of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in recent weeks, met with troops in the Ukrainian village of Shyrokyne, one of the towns worst hit by the ongoing conflict with Russia. “I saw that the cooperation between our countries is essential to ensuring the security of the borders of Ukraine. In 2017, we will defeat the invaders and send them back to where they came from. And I would like to tell Putin that he will never be able to deprive Ukrainians of freedom and independence,” McCain was cited as saying in the Ukrainian press. “Your struggle is our struggle,” he told Ukrainian troops. McCain’s words of support come as many Ukrainians fear Trump will shift all loyalty to Russia and drastically reduce aid to Ukraine, something his team already reportedly signaled it was preparing to do. Both McCain and Graham have pushed for harsher sanctions against Russia in recent days, even as Trump praises Putin for being “very smart.”
This is setting the stage for an open fight between Trump and Congress over Ukraine and Russia policy. In this fight, Trump, himself, could find himself in opposition to his own Defense and State Departments and because of Trump’s coziness with Russia he doesn’t have the same maneuver room as someone else. In fact, if one looks at the strange relationship of Trump and Ted Cruz during the primary as a metaphor for what can happen, you can easily see the current bromance between the two turning very nasty if Trump feels like Putin is making him look weak. In that case, John McCain may find that he’s created much more than he bargained for.