Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Far Right Republicans Disrespect Ukrainian Leader As He Pleads For Aid To Defeat Russia

Phil Garber
8 min readDec 22, 2022

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a historic address to Congress, pleading for more military aid to win the war against Russia and only 86 of 213 House Republicans attended while a number of them refused to applaud or stand to acknowledge the war time leader.
“Ukraine is alive and kicking,” Zelensky said in the safety of the Capitol while in his homeland, Russia continues to bomb civilian areas and public infrastructure. “Our two nations are allies in this battle, and next year will be a turning point.”
President Biden told Zelensky that the U.S. “will stay with you as long as it takes” and pledged “unequivocal and unbending support.”
Democrats and some Republicans gave a rousing, standing ovation to Zelensky who was visiting Washington, D.C., for the first since Russia invaded his country.
And the far right showed their class.
Rep. Chip Roy R-Texas, called Zelensky’s passionate speech “political theater.” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said he was “against any more funding for Ukraine and his (Zelensky’s) words will not change my mind!!” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R- Colo., sat and smirked. Donald Trump Jr. called Zelensky “an ungrateful international welfare queen.”
And Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, whose circus reaches millions, went on a tirade, complaining that the Ukrainian president was “dressed like the manager of a strip club” when he addressed Congress on Wednesday.
“All the criminals in their coats and their ties
are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise.”
And back in Ukraine, Ukrainian forces repelled assaults near 16 settlements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. Russian troops launched six missile attacks and 15 airstrikes over the past day, hitting civilian facilities in the Zaporizhzhia region among other targets, and carried out 64 artillery strikes. Russia hit the towns of Chasiv Yar and Kramatorsk in both Donetsk region with missiles and salvo systems Thursday afternoon. One person was killed and at least two injured, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said on Telegram.
The opposition by the Republicans would be just another absurdity if not for the fact that the Republicans will hold the majority in the House in January and many are bloviating about withdrawing aid to Ukraine, a move that would surely thrust a knife in the collective backs of the Ukrainian people.
If trump is re-elected, there will likely be no aid for Ukraine. His anger at Ukraine has been palpable especially after the then-president famously tried to strongarm Zelensky in July 2019 into finding political dirt on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in return for U.S. military aid.
Zelensky’s visit came as Congress is preparing to approve another $45 billion to Ukraine on top of $66 billion in military and economic aid previously given to the country. The aid includes, for the first time, a sophisticated Patriot missile battery to intercept Russian missiles and precision guided bombs for their fighter jets.
“Ukraine never asked American soldiers to fight on our land instead of us. I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes for themselves,” Zelensky said. “We are not in an easy situation. The enemy is increasing its army. Our people are braver and need more powerful weapons. We will pass it on from the boys to the Congress, to the president of the United States. We are grateful for their support, but it is not enough. It is a hint — it is not enough.”
The $4.5 billion in aid to Ukraine is included in a $1.7 trillion, omnibus spending bill being expedited by Congress. The bill includes a total military budget of about $858 billion, $45 billion more than Biden had requested.
According to published reports, the U.S. has given more aid to Ukraine than was sent in 2020 to Afghanistan, Israel, and Egypt combined. The New York Times reported the military spending next year “is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.”
“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelensky said.
Biden welcomed Zelensky to the White House, hailing him as “Man of the Year” during a meeting in the Oval Office.
“I really, all my appreciations from my heart, from the hearts of Ukrainians, all Ukrainians,” Zelensky said, speaking in English. “From our nations. Strong nations. All appreciations to you first of all Mr. President for your big support and leadership. Also thanks from just ordinary people to your ordinary people, Americans. I really appreciate.”
Zelensky wore his trademark green sweatshirt and cargo pants and combat boots, to symbolize his role as a president of a nation at war.
Biden said he was “delighted” that Zelensky could make the trip and noted that he had “inspired the world” with his leadership.
“The United States stands with the great people of Ukraine, we stand with you, you’ve been a great leader,” Biden said. “The American people have stood proudly with them, Democrats and Republicans together with our allies in Europe and Japan and other places.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the “fight for Ukraine is the fight for Democracy itself” and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said it was “a very historic day.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., said that most Republicans believe that “providing assistance for Ukrainians to defeat the Russians is the number one priority for the United States.”

But not everybody is willing to support Ukraine’s resistance to Russia.
The most despicable comments came from Republican conspiracist, trump supporter and right wing commentator, Candacy Owens, who criticizend Zelensky’s visit as she repeated false claims about a Paris shopping spree by Zelensky’s wife, Olena.
Owens was furious over Zelensky’s visit and shared her fury at the arrival by retweeting him and sending a stern message back to Zelensky and his wife.
“We want nothing to do with you,” Owens wrote. “Stop stealing from our people while your wife drops tens of thousands of dollars shopping in Paris. Despicable.”
A Newsweek fact check said there was “no evidence” that the Ukrainian first lady went on a shopping spree. The rumor apparently stemmed from “a single tweet posted by an unverified and low-engagement Twitter account, which provided scant details about the alleged purchases, simply citing an anonymous ‘source,’” Newsweek reported.
Republican Chip Roy said the Ukrainian president’s address was “more of the theater that is being orchestrated by the current outgoing Democratic House leadership and Senate leadership.”
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, known for his isolationist, pro-Putin comments, decided not to take the high road and seemed mostly concerned with Zelensky’s wardrobe.
“As far as we know, no one’s ever addressed the United States Congress in a sweatshirt before, but they love him much more than they love you,” said Carlson, who has repeated conspiratorial claims about U.S. aid to Ukraine and has parroted Russian propaganda. “The point was to fawn over the Ukrainian strip club manager and hand him billions more dollars from our own crumbling economy. It is hard, in fact it may be impossible, to imagine a more humiliating scenario for the greatest country on Earth.”
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of the far right, House Freedom Caucus, said he would not attend Zelensky’s address in front of Congress because he was “against any more funding for Ukraine and his (Zelensky’s) words will not change my mind!!”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said Zelensky’s visit was “absurd,” calling him the United States’ “shadow president.” Greene tweeted that global foreign aid is like Americans being “raped everyday at the hands of their own elected leaders.”
Greene, a strong trump supporter, will likely wield significant power in the House after the GOP takes over the majority next year.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., said after the speech that she would not support any more money to Ukraine until there is a “full audit” of where already approved funds have gone.

In March, Boebert claimed that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an attack on gun control.
“Remember. Ukraine gave up their nukes in exchange for promises of security,” the gun rights advocate and conspiracy theorist tweeted, referencing the country’s nuclear disarmament following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“We see how that turned out,” Boebert said as she bizarrely compared rifles to nuclear weapons. “This is why we must NEVER give up our guns to any government.”
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Kent., tweeted that he would not attend the speech of a “Ukrainian lobbyist.” In 2017, Massie was the sole House member to vote against sanctions on North Korea. That year, he also opposed new economic sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea. In 2019, Massie was the only member of Congress to oppose an act that refused to recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and was one of three lawmakers to oppose a 2022 resolution supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty after it was invaded by Russia.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, who remained seated when Zelensky was being applauded, said he commended the Ukrainian leader for putting his country first, “but American politicians who indulge his requests are unwilling to do the same for ours.” Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for sexual trafficking, was one of 10 Republicans who voted in April against a bill that would make it easier for the U.S. to send military equipment to Ukraine.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., a conservative Republican who is challenging Rep. Kevin McCarthy for House Speaker, tweeted, “No more blank checks to Ukraine.”
“Zelensky says $45 billion in aid from the U.S. is not enough. Not enough? What is enough? Enough with all of this,” tweeted Biggs who is among four Republican members of Congress referred Monday to the House Ethics Committee for failing to comply with a subpoena from the panel that investigated the riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Liz Chaney, R-Wyo., refers to Biggs and Gosar as the “Putin wing” of the Republican party. The two joined only 15 others from the House who voted against a Russian oil ban in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Biggs was one of only eight GOP members of the House to vote against a bill revoking revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status in the World Trade Organization.
Dan Caldwell, vice president of foreign policy for the group “Stand Together,” funded by the right wing, Koch foundation, tweeted that is is “absurd how our elected officials repeatedly subordinate our interests and the safety of our people to foreign leaders like Zelensky, who has been very clear his goal is to get America’s sons and daughters to fight and die in the war in Ukraine — nuclear Armageddon be damned.”
In April 2022, an internal email was reported to have been leaked from Stand Together regarding the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The email suggested that “the United States should seek to deliver a partial ‘victory’ to Russia in Ukraine” rather than invoke broad economic sanctions against Russia to avoid U.S. involvement in a wider war.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer