When Barack Obama was president, evangelicals and conservatives cared about Ukraine. They believed Obama was weak and unwilling to confront Vladimir Putin’s expansionism into Ukraine.
Now, evangelicals are largely silent about President Donald Trump’s warm words toward Russia’s leader and confusing rhetoric about Ukraine.
An early signal of this shift was obvious at the GOP National Convention when Trump’s supporters watered down a key pro-Ukraine plank in the party platform. I was told by a GOP delegate that the only proposal Trump’s observers spoke up about was the one which encouraged the U.S. government to arm Ukrainians against Russian aggression. Trump’s people in the room succeeded in significantly softening the proposed language with little if any resistance from the large contingent of evangelical delegates.
Now, despite Trump’s assurances that Russia would leave Ukraine alone, Putin’s forces are again bombing Eastern Ukraine while Donald Trump defends Putin and even compares his Russia to the U.S (see the recent Bill O’Reilly interview).
On this point, the following tweet caught my attention.
My evangelical extended family in Ukraine getting bombed today by Putin has been sold out by American nationalist evangelical leaders.
— Allegra Jordan (@AllegraJordan1) February 2, 2017
Do evangelicals leaders still care about Ukraine?
If they did, I hope they will use their clout with Trump in order to educate him about the dangers of trusting the Russian leader, especially given his recent actions. If anything, Trump’s rhetoric is more in lines with a desire to Make Russia Great Again than #MAGA.
According to my Grove City College colleague Paul Kengor, Trump is heading down the dangerous road first traveled by FDR with Stalin and then by Obama with Putin. In a 2016 article, Kengor wrote:
Stalin showed that “like” of FDR by rolling over Eastern Europe, hammering everything from the Ukraine to Poland. He abused the hell out of FDR. Not until literally days before he died, just weeks after Stalin preyed upon his trust at Yalta, did FDR finally learn and admit he had been wrong about Stalin.
“Averell [Harriman] is right,” FDR sighed to Anna Rosenberg on March 23, 1945, less than three weeks before he died. “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.”
FDR’s tragic mistake was thinking that the Russian leader liked him and thus would “work with me for a world of democracy and peace” (yes, FDR actually said that about Stalin).
The “Putin-likes-me” attitude of Trump is a fatal conceit, and it’s something that Donald Trump should have learned from watching two terms of Barack Obama’s naïve statements and attitude toward the Russians. It is also the polar opposite of Ronald Reagan’s statements and attitude toward the Russians.
As we have seen repeatedly, Trump hasn’t learned anything by watching Obama.
Putin has now again moved on Ukraine with no real response from Trump. If anything, Trump confused the matter. Evangelicals have been silent; will they remain so?
For the sake of the Ukrainian people, I hope not.