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Aid to Ukraine: A New Battleground in the Culture War

Almost 10 years after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the West is determined to internalize the conflict.

In recent years, the Ukraine war has gone from being a geopolitical struggle over Ukrainian autonomy to being a new frontline in the culture war, pitting socially conservative values against liberal democracy. This has led to a polarization of perspectives, especially in the US, where support for Ukraine has increasingly become a partisan issue.

For Ukraine, this has been disastrous. Almost two years after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the beleaguered nation is currently fighting off a Russian offensive while it waits for Western aid to arrive.

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kreminna and in Western Zaporizhia Oblast, as well as west of Bakhmut, amid continued positional fighting in the area. Avdiivka has also seen fierce fighting, with Russian troops closing in on the city.

Military analysts have predicted that Ukraine will soon lose control over Avdiivka, severely limiting its capacity to launch counter-offensive operations against Russian-held positions. Were Russia to capture the city, it would give them control over the highway between nearby Donetsk and Kramatorsk and improve Russia’s logistical capabilities in the region.

Other experts, such as Leon Hartwell, a senior associate at the LSE IDEAS think tank, have warned that Ukraine losing Avdiivka might strengthen the resolve of Western politicians skeptical about further aid handouts to Ukraine.

Indeed, in the US, this seems to have already happened with House Speaker Mike Jonson refusing to bring into consideration a bill on funding assistance to Ukraine. This means that the House of Representatives will be unable to discuss and vote on the bill.

In a comment to journalist Jake Sherman, he said, "We're dealing with the appropriations process. We have immediate deadlines upon us, and that's where the attention of the House is at this moment."

Previously, the Republicans had refused to support further aid to Ukraine unless proper measures were taken to address the southern border crisis. Now that money and border control measures have been introduced into the aid bill, however, the Republicans are still blocking the legislation because it supposedly doesn’t go far enough.

For many Republicans in the US, the issue of aid to Ukraine has become a proxy for the current southern border crisis, with many arguing that Ukraine’s security is being prioritized over American security.

This attitude is strongly influenced by former President Donald Trump’s “America First” ideology, which blends culturally conservative views with economic nationalism and an isolationist foreign policy.

With the Republicans adopting a more nationalist conservative stance under Trump, it is unsurprising that they have warmed towards Putin. As conservative analyst Jacob Heilbrunn said in an interview, many on the extreme right of the Republican Party “see Putin as a defender of traditional Christian values and an opponent of LGBTQ, an opponent of transgender, and an opponent of the weakening of masculine virtues that were responsible for the rise of the west.”

Even more mainstream Republicans, such as Senator Ted Cruz, seem to admire Russia. In 2021, he retweeted a video comparing a Russian recruitment ad showing muscular men training and parachuting out of planes with a US recruitment ad featuring a cartoon of a female soldier with two mothers. In the tweet, he mused, “Perhaps a woke, emasculated military is not the best idea.”

In some ways, Putin has played into this, accusing the West of “moving towards Satanism” and “teaching sexual deviation to children.”. For many conservatives in America, the Russian president is more in line with their beliefs than their own president, Joe Biden, who in 2022 controversially ordered his health agency to ban conversion therapy and expand access to gender-affirming care for children.

Conservative TV host Tucker Carlson even admitted this in 2022, saying, “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”

The increasing Republican affinity with Russia has confused allies in Europe who do not share the same hyper-partisan attitudes as their American counterparts. Recently, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron sparked anger by comparing efforts by Republicans to restrict aid to Ukraine with appeasing Hitler prior to World War Two.

Polish President Donald Tusk also raged against Republicans for blocking aid to Ukraine, tweeting, “Shame on you.”

It says a lot about the polarized state of the US that a hyper-partisan culture war has gone so far as to infiltrate even foreign policy, stymying critical decisions over military aid that is so desperately needed in Ukraine. By internalizing the Russia-Ukraine War and even weaponizing the issue of aid to Ukraine, the Republicans have severely weakened the hand of the US in challenging Russian aggression and defending its allies.

If this refusal to unite, even over issues of global security, continues, then Russia will continue to make gains in Ukraine and may even be emboldened to attack other neighboring countries as well.

Rather than the Russia-Ukraine War being a geopolitical struggle over the sovereignty of Ukraine, the Americans have made the war about themselves, with the right-wing of the Republican Party cynically using the issue of aid to score political points over illegal immigration and the culture wars. Nobody has benefited from this except Vladimir Putin.

A recent report by Norway’s Intelligence Service claims that Russia will soon achieve the “military upper hand” in part because of its alliances with China, Iran, Belarus, and North Korea. 

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s allies are either unable or unwilling to supply it with the economic and military aid required to defend itself. The Ukrainian military is already struggling with ammo shortages and manpower constraints. Without a decisive breakthrough or negotiations, the conflict looks set to continue throughout 2024.

According to the report, "Russia's position in the war is stronger than it was a year ago, and the country is in the process of seizing the initiative and gaining the upper hand militarily." Because of Russia’s immense size, it can mobilize around three times more troops than Ukraine, giving it a major advantage. Russia has troops to spare. Ukraine does not.


Unless Americans can unite under a common set of ideas and stop making the war about themselves, then Ukraine will likely lose, and America will be to blame.

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