Eric Sondermann

Eric Sondermann

An unprovoked war cunningly waged by a military superpower ought to be a unifying moment for those who value peace and freedom along with democratic aims and international norms. For the most part, that has been the case as much of the world, including the vast number of Americans, have come to the support of Ukrainians, spiritedly fighting to resist their invaders and save their proud nation.

But such moments can also be revealing. For some Republicans, mindlessly led by our dearly departed president, a couple of weeks of war and the lead-up to it have exposed a shameful affinity for the antithesis of such norms, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Of course, Donald Trump has tried to dodge and weave, and duck and cover, and walk back his original remarks about his good friend, Vlad.

However, those comments continue to sting. Even with the ever-forgiving loyalty of his acolytes, his words leave a stain that will not soon disappear. Alluding to Putin as “wonderful” and “genius” shows Trump’s true mind and hollow core.

Through the fog of war, those plaudits hardly seem apt as very few now attest to Putin’s character and many, including more than a few cautiously so at home in Mother Russia, question his wisdom.

Taking their cue from Trump, assorted sycophants who should know better have followed suit.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to Putin as “talented” and “savvy” and spoke of his “enormous respect” for this “statesman.”

Fist-pumping Senator Josh Hawley, as if intent on providing further reason he should be disqualified from serious circles, spent the weeks in advance of the war playing footsy with the Russian autocrat.

The Kansas City Star editorially blasted the Missouri senator for being “a disgraceful voice of appeasement.” On the other side of the state, the editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Hawley “parroted the Kremlin’s own talking points in the run-up to Russia’s invasion.”

While in Ohio, senatorial candidate J.D. Vance, celebrated author of “Hillbilly Elegy” before he opted for Trumpism over any claim to intellectual chops or self-respect, declared pitifully, “I really don’t care what happens to Ukraine.”

One cannot help but wonder how a chunk of one major American political party came to this point. To be clear, this view is held by a minority of Republicans. But it is a vocal contingent with a growing penchant for cozying up to dictators hither and yon. It is as if their mission in life is to grant sympathetic aid and comfort to Putin and his ilk among the world’s worst authoritarians.

Predictably, Trump’s favorite provocateur, Tucker Carlson, added his dripping voice to the mix, referring to the conflict as but a “border dispute” and to Ukraine as nothing more than a “pure client state of the U.S. State Department.”

You think Putin’s operatives failed to milk those comments for all of their propaganda value?

Carlson is at the front of this cohort in singing the praises of Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban as a new model for a kind of far-right, muscular nationalism. Trump even took it upon himself to give Orban an endorsement for reelection next month. Though that presumes meaningful election contests in a country that has turned its back on most democratic ideals.

The exaltation of Orban’s Hungary among too many on the American right has become quite the telling sight. Such praise is heaped on a country with increasing suppression of opposition parties and state control of media on top of a weakened judiciary and widespread corruption.

Of course, no embarrassment would be complete without that dynamic heckling duo of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert.

Taylor Greene commemorated the invasion by giving the keynote speech at a conference hosted by avowed white supremacist and Putin fanboy, Nick Fuentes.

As for Colorado’s Boebert, she made the analogy of Putin’s all-out attack to the plight of Canadian truckers. In her words, “We also have neighbors to the north who need to be liberated.”

Whatever you make of Canada’s Covid policies and even an extra dose of north country political correctness, discerning minds get the difference between Canada’s domestic debates and the Kremlin’s baseless, unjustified, full scale military invasion of a sovereign nation.

Some may consider Mitt Romney a “RINO,” God forbid, or, worse, a “loser.” But that does not take anything away from the accuracy of his comment: “I’ve got morons on my team.”

There is much wrong here.

For one, while the trajectory of this war is not yet clear, there is certainly the potential that Putin may have badly miscalculated. He may turn out to be much less than the strategic genius some have extolled. If this war drags on or goes at all badly for Russia, forces at home may turn on him ruthlessly. In such a case, Trump, Pompeo and others among Putin’s “useful idiots” will have compounded their idiocy by betting on the wrong horse.

For decades, American politicians of both parties shared the conviction that partisan politics stopped at the water’s edge. First expressed in 1945 by Michigan Senator Arthur Vandenberg, this sentiment stressed that partisan gamesmanship would not extend to critical issues of foreign policy.

Such bipartisanship was in decline long before Trump walked onto the scene. Still, given the scale and stakes of this Russian aggression, many among us might have hoped for better.

In a time of growing complexity, some choices should be easy. It should not be that tough to pick between adherence to international rules and outlaw force without precedent since World War II. Same for choosing up sides between an aspiring democracy and an autocratic thug.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky is providing the world a lesson in leadership and courage. Those on the other side, given open or tacit solace by some in our country, have served up an example of appeasement and cowardice.

In this case, figuring out right from wrong and good guys from bad guys is not that complicated, folks.

Eric Sondermann is a Colorado-based independent political commentator. He writes regularly for ColoradoPolitics and the Gazette newspapers. Reach him at; follow him at @EricSondermann

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