WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence, acknowledging the “chaos” in House leadership underway at the Capitol across town within his own party in part over military assistance to Ukraine, on Tuesday nevertheless urged his fellow Republicans to continue helping that nation repel Russia’s 19-month-old invasion.
“It’s in our national interest to do it,” the 2024 presidential hopeful told an audience of Georgetown University students, repeating his warning that if Russia succeeds in taking Ukraine, it would soon eye Poland or another U.S. military ally. “It will not be long before they cross the border of a NATO country where our young men and women in uniform will be required to fight.”
Pence blamed the removal of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — which was taking place as he took questions from students — on a small group of malcontents.
“I think what we’re witnessing is a handful of Republicans partnering with Democrats to create chaos,” he said. “I still believe the majority of Republicans and the strong majority of Americans understand America is the leader of the free world and want to continue military support to Ukraine.”
A former congressman from Indiana himself, he added: “I must tell you this is one of those days I don’t miss being in Congress.”
Pence’s remarks at the foreign policy discussion sponsored by Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy and The Associated Press came just days after Congress failed to include any money for Ukraine in its temporary spending measure.
Indeed, Pence and his fellow “mainstream” Republicans have been on the defensive since Donald Trump took over the party after he won the presidential nomination and then the presidency in 2016.
Trump solicited and then accepted Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s help winning that election. He then sided with Putin over his own intelligence agencies on the topic of Russia’s election interference. He repeatedly derided and undermined NATO, with a second-term goal of withdrawing from the alliance. He even discussed turning over to Putin a prominent American critic for interrogation.
The coup-attempting former president’s support for Putin continued even after he launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 that has been replete with the murder and rape of civilians and the kidnaping and trafficking of children back to Russia. In the immediate days after the invasion, Trump called Putin a “genius” for having done it.
As the GOP presidential primary has progressed, Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley have strongly criticized Putin and defended U.S. aid to Ukraine as vital to American interests, while entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have, to differing degrees, opposed more assistance to the embattled country.
On Tuesday, Pence repeated his defense of President Joe Biden’s policy of military assistance while blaming Biden for not successfully selling it. “President Biden has done a terrible job explaining what our interest is there. These gauzy speeches about democracy don’t connect with the American public,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said the United States had to continue its traditional role of supporting democracy. “If America is not leading the free world, the free world is not being led,” Pence said. “Ukraine is not our war, but freedom is our fight.”