The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Even in war, the GOP’s search for ways to undermine Biden never ends

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), left, with Sen. James E. Risch (Idaho), the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, during a news conference on Capitol Hill on March 2. (Evan Vucci/AP)
4 min

Republicans’ undiminished backing of former president Donald Trump (Russia’s most effective propagandist) — and their acquittal of him for extorting the current international hero, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, by withholding military aid — must weigh heavily on them. Desperate not only to show they really are tough on Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but also that President Biden is weak, they somewhat comically keep complaining that Biden is not doing “enough” to aid Ukraine.

When the first tranche of sanctions against Russia came out, Republicans insisted this was insufficient — only to have both the European Union and the Biden administration layer on, day after day, the most crippling sanctions against a country of this size in history. Then the cry went up to knock Russia off SWIFT, the international bank-messaging system. Biden did one better, cutting off Russia’s central bank. (Certain banks were removed from SWIFT, but the silly obsession of the SWIFT chorus is illustrated by the plethora of workarounds available to Russia, including “bilateral systems using phones, faxes or messaging apps with an overseas partner,” as Reuters explained.)

Despite Republicans’ whining, the tightly coordinated E.U. and U.S. sanctions are bringing Russia’s economy to its knees. The ruble hits a new low practically every day, having lost as of Monday more than 80 percent of its value against the dollar. As the Financial Times reported, “Moscow’s equity markets are suspended, trading in many Russian companies listed abroad is halted, and bonds are almost impossible to trade.” Things are so awful, Russians are now pouring out of the country, and oligarchs are grumbling. (“Russians are fleeing the country as sanctions lead to closed borders, food rationing and the actual threat of a banking system collapse within days,” Forbes reports.)

Jennifer Rubin: The GOP is an unending display of toxic masculinity

Then, the Republicans — who just days ago were decrying rising fuel prices — decided that cutting off Russian oil imports would be the telltale sign we really were getting tough on Russia. Yet as former auto industry czar Steven Rattner explains: “That would be a noble — but utterly meaningless — gesture. In 2020, only 0.4% of our crude oil came from Russia (and our imports of oil constituted just 1% of Russia’s oil exports).”

At least for now, the European Union cannot align with the United States on a Russian oil import ban. There simply isn’t excess capacity to make up for the amount of oil and natural gas that Europe imports from Russia. (Sure enough, Germany has already said this is not happening.) However, sure, if a bipartisan group in Congress wants a ban on energy imports from Russia, the administration might go along — even knowing these same Republicans will skewer Biden for any additional increase in fuel prices.

Follow Jennifer Rubin's opinionsFollow

Republicans also insist we are not doing enough to arm Ukraine. Really? While we are still figuring out how to get fighter planes into Ukrainian hands, “In less than a week, the United States and NATO have pushed more than 17,000 antitank weapons, including Javelin missiles, over the borders of Poland and Romania, unloading them from giant military cargo planes so they can make the trip by land to Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and other major cities,” the New York Times reports. U.S. teams are also helping “to interfere with Russia’s digital attacks and communications.”

Fridays at noon: Chat with Jennifer Rubin about her columns and more

And the extent and speed of intelligence sharing is jaw-dropping. “In Washington and Germany,” the Times reports, “intelligence officials race to merge satellite photographs with electronic intercepts of Russian military units, strip them of hints of how they were gathered, and beam them to Ukrainian military units within an hour or two.”

Might it be that Biden is doing everything humanly possible short of starting World War III to help Ukraine, and Republicans have no real basis for complaint? Well, a few Republicans have given up complaining — or have at least reverted to another silly talking point that he should have done it sooner. (The war started on Feb. 24, less than two weeks ago.)

Most Republicans, certainly the right-wing pundits in their media bubble, find it impossible even in times of war to put aside any perceived partisan advantage. In a war critical for the defense of democracy, they’ll keep on searching for something to criticize. So don’t expect the disingenuous whining to stop.