Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took on two Republicans who are favorites among supporters of former President Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda regarding their positions on the war between Russia and Ukraine.
In an interview with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan on Sunday’s “Face the Nation” program, the Kentucky Republican first expressed ongoing support for Ukraine and said he hoped the country would eventually be victorious.
“President Biden heads to Europe this week to meet with NATO allies. You helped give him about 13 billion in urgent support along with the rest of Congress. What do you expect the president to deliver this week?” Brennan asked.
“Well, we’ve given him plenty of money. I think he needs to step up his game. He’s generally done the right thing, but never soon enough,” McConnell began.
“I Mean, let’s take a look at what’s happened here. The Ukrainians have killed more Russians in three weeks than we lost in Afghanistan and Iraq in 20 years,” he went on.
“I think we ought to go into this believing the Ukrainians can actually win. And the way they win is for us to get these defensive weapons systems to them as rapidly as possible. For example, I am perplexed as to why we couldn’t get the Polish Russian MiGs into the country. Now, the Ukrainians have plenty of pilots who know how to fly them,” the senator added.
Brennan pointed out that there were not “a lot of policy differences here, really, other…I mean, you agree with the president that there should not be a no-fly zone. There’s a matter of a few dozen MiG fighter jets there, but I don’t hear a lot of policy differences from Republicans,” she said.
“In your view, does the 13 billion that you all just authorized ensure the funding of a Ukrainian insurgency if the government were to fall? Like how long does this money last for?” the host noted.
“Well, if they need more, we ought to give them more. Look, what- this is a way to have a no-fly zone in effect, to have these weapons systems ground to air weapon systems give them a fighting chance to control the air, to shoot down planes and others that are seeking to control the air,” McConnell continued.
“Without the US having a no-fly zone that has our own pilots in there. So, I think the weapons systems are available. Look, I think we need to change our attitude here. The Ukrainians could actually win this thing,” he said, “and that’s what- the attitude we ought to have that we’re in it to help them win.
At that, Brennan pointed out that some Republicans were not fully on-board with Ukraine.
“You are very clear in your language there, but others in your party have not been. Congresswoman Liz Cheney has said there’s actually a Putin wing of the Republican Party these days. Think she’s referring to Congressman Cawthorn, who called Zelenskyy a thug? Marjorie Taylor Greene said the U.S. should not fund a war the Ukrainians cannot possibly win. Is there any room in the Republican Party for this rhetoric and why isn’t there more discipline?” she said.
McConnell referred to them as “lonely voices.”
“Well, there’s some lonely voices out there that are in a different place, but looking at Senate Republicans, I can tell you that I would have. had I been the Majority Leader, put this Ukraine supplemental up by itself,” he said, referencing billions for Ukraine aid tucked in a massive $1.5 trillion spending bill dropped on Congress by majority Democrats about a day before they called for votes, giving members very little time to read the 2,600-plus page measure.
“I think virtually every one of my members would have voted for it. The vast majority of the Republican Party writ large, both in the Congress and across the country, are totally behind the Ukrainians and urging the president to do…take these steps quicker. Yeah, to be bolder. So, there may be a few lonely voices off to the side. I wouldn’t pay much attention to them,” he said.