In MAGA World, Contempt for Biden Is Matched by Respect for Putin

Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine, right-wing politicians and media figures loyal to former President Donald Trump have alternately slammed Democratic President Joe Biden for getting the U.S. involved, while praising Russian President Vladimir Putin as a strong and capable leader.

Most notably, Trump praised Putin's invasion into Ukraine as "genius" and "wonderful" in Tuesday's broadcast of the conservative talk radio program The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show. Trump also referred to Putin as "tough" and patriotic.

"I went in yesterday, and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine...as independent," Trump said. "Oh, that's wonderful. I said, 'How smart is that?' And he's going to go in and be a peacekeeper."

"I mean, you know, he's a tough cookie, got a lot of the great charm and a lot of pride. But the way he—and he loves his country, you know? He loves his country," Trump continued.

Speaking of the Russian military buildup on the Russia-Ukraine border, Trump added, "That's the strongest peace force I've ever seen. There were more army tanks than I've ever seen. They're going to keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here's a guy who's very savvy.... I know [Putin] very well — very, very well."

Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also repeatedly praised Putin in the runup to the invasion. His praise has even been rebroadcast on Russian television.

In late January, Pompeo said of Putin, "Very shrewd, very capable. I have enormous respect for him. I've been criticized for saying that. No, I have enormous respect for him."

Speaking of Putin's capabilities during Pompeo's tenure, Pompeo said Putin "was always well-informed and deeply clear about what Russian interests were. I appreciated that. It required the same from us, from me, from my team. We had to be equally prepared and equally protective of the interests that matter to the United States. He is very savvy, very shrewd."

In a late January interview, Pompeo said of Putin, "He is a very talented statesman. He has lots of gifts. He was a KGB agent for goodness sakes. He knows how to use power. We need to respect that."

In a Tuesday tweet, Pompeo wrote, "Vladimir Putin is the same person he was during our administration. The only thing that has changed is American leadership."

In another tweet, Pompeo wrote, "For 4 years, the left parroted the hoax that our administration was weak on Russia. Yet, they didn't dare invade Ukraine on our watch. But now they do. Who do you think Putin feared more?"

Numerous Twitter commenters said Putin didn't need to invade Ukraine under Trump's presidency because Trump was actively opposed to NATO, an aim shared by Putin.

But despite Pompeo's praise, in a Monday tweet he also wrote, "Vladimir Putin is the aggressor. The Ukrainians are the victims. We should never shy away from that."

Other Republican politicians and Fox News hosts have essentially blamed Democratic President Joe Biden for not doing enough to stop Putin's invasion, or for causing it due to his family's alleged corruption.

In the Tuesday broadcast of his show, Fox News host Tucker Carlson repeated a right-wing talking point accusing the Biden family of using their political standing to conduct illegal business deals to the benefit of Biden's son, Hunter Biden.

"If you've been watching the news, you know that Putin is having a border dispute with a nation called Ukraine," Carlson said. "Now the main thing to know about Ukraine, for our purposes, is that its leaders once sent millions of dollars to Joe Biden's family."

"Not surprisingly, Ukraine is now one of Biden's favorite countries," Carlson continued. "Biden is pledged to defend Ukraine's borders even as he opens our borders to the world. That's how it works. Invading America is called equity. Invading Ukraine is a war crime."

"The administration assures us this has nothing at all to do with repaying Joe Biden's personal debts to Ukrainian oligarchs. Not at all," he added. "It's completely and totally unrelated. The point here is to defend democracy, not that Ukraine is a democracy. It is not a democracy."

Carlson had previously said, "Ukraine is not even a democracy. It's a corrupt Eastern European autocracy that has spent millions of dollars lobbying politicians in Washington and made the Biden family rich."

Ukraine is considered a developing democracy by the U.S. and the greater international community, according to The Independent.

Carlson had previously referred to Ukraine's elected president Volodymyr Zelensky a "dictator who's friends with everyone in Washington."

Echoing Carlson, right-wing media figure Candace Owens wrote in a Tuesday tweet, "A good starting place in your studies is Hunter Biden. Go pursue the relationships he has (in conjunction with China) in Ukraine. Ask yourself if it's just a coincidence the puppet President with billion dollar interests in the region wants to go to war."

Similarly, Fox News host Sean Hannity said that the invasion has occurred, in part, because Biden is too weak against Putin and, unlike Trump, hasn't chastised NATO allies for financing Russia by buying its oil while opposing its expansion.

"Weakness should not be an option," Hannity said on the Tuesday installment of his show. "That's all I'm seeing [from Biden] right now.... They must stop making Russia and Putin richer than ever. And of course, that would require bold leadership. And right now the world is missing a U.S. president with a backbone. And sadly, Joe Biden is not up to the job."

Several Republican politicians in the America First Caucus have also blamed Biden.

In a Tuesday tweet, Republican Texas Representative Ronny Jackson wrote, "Joe Biden rolled over and gave Russia a pipeline for NOTHING. His son is compromised by corrupt oligarchs. EVERYTHING Biden has done has made this worse. This would've NEVER happened under Trump!"

Republican Florida Representative Byron Donalds wrote in a Tuesday tweet, "Joe Biden's address about Ukraine was disgraceful. The sanctions that he announced might have been good 2 months ago, but not now. America, let's be very clear... Putin is happy Joe Biden is @POTUS! This is so sad for our nation and our allies."

Republicans Fox News Putin Ukraine comments
While some Republican politicians have praised Russian President Vladimir Putin amid his invasion of Ukraine, comments from other GOP politicians and Fox News hosts have alternately questioned the value of defending Ukraine or slammed Democratic President Joe Biden for not doing more to prevent the invasion. In this photo, Putin attends a meeting to discuss the Ukrainian peace process at the German federal Chancellery on October 19, 2016, in Berlin, Germany. Adam Berry/Getty