J.D. Vance’s Bold Move Unveiling the Grand Strategy to Halt Ukraine Aid

J.D. Vance's Bold Move Unveiling the Grand Strategy to Halt Ukraine Aid

If Mike Johnson’s Ukraine aid plan fails in the House, Sen. J.D. Vance may be to blame.

The Ohio Republican wrote a New York Times op-ed titled “The Math on Ukraine Doesn’t Add Up” last week and met with the House Republican Study Committee on Wednesday to whip against Johnson’s Ukraine bill.

I interviewed Vance for months earlier this year to document how the freshman Republican has become Donald Trump’s most devoted Senate supporter and build the framework for a more radical “America First” philosophy. I spent hours with Vance defending his opposition to U.S. aid to Ukraine, which he has made a defining issue since entering the Senate last year, even more so than Trump.

That opposition was only one aspect of Vance’s larger foreign affairs philosophy. Vance wants to cut off U.S. support to Ukraine as the first step in reorienting the U.S.’s global position.

Vance distrusts the rules-based international order, which was created after World War II to reduce global strife and promote economic activity. Vance believes this system has benefitted economic elites while hurting working-class people in older industrial economies and failed to liberalize non-democratic countries like China and Russia.

Vance does not view the US’s defense of “the principles at the heart of the international rules-based order” in Ukraine as a noble strategy. Instead, Vance sees it as economic elites trying to maintain a global order that benefited them while hurting the people he represents in post-industrial Ohio.

He told me, “I think you have to rethink the entire project.”

Vance believes the U.S. should create a more nationalistic system where nations are exclusively responsible for their own security and economic well-being and more isolated from global economic and military entanglements. This week, Vance realized that stopping U.S. aid to Ukraine is the first step to nudging the globe in that direction. He must convince his Republican House colleagues to oppose Johnson’s foreign aid plan.

Several arguments against U.S. aid to Ukraine have led his opponents in both parties to say Vance is just carrying water for Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian regimes. Vance has refuted this description.

Three key objections to the Ukraine measure have been raised by Vance. Last week, Vance wrote in the New York Times that Ukraine’s $60 billion aid plan would not change the situation. Supporters of the current aid program dispute this allegation. Vance also claims that the U.S. cannot supply enough weaponry for Ukraine to win the war.

Preparations for Trump’s likely return to the White House next year are his final, most partisan opposition. Vance opposes Johnson’s aid package’s proposal to seize Russian assets under the REPO Act and freeze Russia’s sanctions because it would bind a second-term Trump’s dealings with Russia. Vance has opposed Ukraine help before, citing Trump. When the Senate debated its own aid bill in February, Vance warned that locking spending levels could allow Democrats to impeach Trump in his second term.

This week, Vance tried to persuade his Republican House colleagues of these issues, but his main goal is to change the Republican foreign policy paradigm. In our meetings, Vance highlighted that this bigger effort extends beyond integrating “realism” or “isolationism” into right-wing foreign policy arguments. Vance sees the Ukraine aid argument as a proxy for the direction of “the American empire” and, by extension, America.

According to Vance, the current battle between the establishment and populist right challenges the idea that things are going well. Establishment Republicans think the American empire is improving, while populist Republicans think it’s falling apart. The elite points to declining global poverty; the populist right points to lowering birth and life expectancies at home.

Vance told me, “There’s just this desperate effort to just argue that everything’s gone well, and, man, I just don’t buy it at all.”

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