Ukraine gatecrashes the US election, by Serge Halimi (Le Monde diplomatique

America first: former president Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pickens, South Carolina, 1 July 2023

Elijah Nouvelage · Bloomberg · Getty

For almost half a century, geopolitics has played almost no part in US presidential elections. President George HW Bush’s swift victory in the Gulf war of January-March 1991 did not prevent his defeat the following year by Bill Clinton, then an obscure Democratic governor from Arkansas with no foreign policy experience. Yet although no US troops are directly involved, the war in Ukraine is already occupying considerable space in Republican candidates’ debates. This is less true on the Democratic side, as President Joe Biden looks certain to be his party’s candidate and support for the US’s unqualified backing of President Volodymyr Zelensky is practically unanimous.

But this time, what’s happening abroad, particularly in Kyiv, is of interest beyond a small coterie in Washington (members of Congress, political journalists, thinktank professionals). The obverse is even more true: Ukrainian leaders believe their fate may turn on whether Biden is re-elected or replaced by a Republican. Which Republican remains to be seen: the candidates’ positions on Ukraine vary widely, so much so that Donald Trump’s formerly biddable vice-president, Mike Pence, is running against him.

Journalist Tucker Carlson bluntly summed up the terms of the debate at a Republican candidates’ forum he chaired on 14 July. Carlson, who is hugely popular and influential among Republicans, and a Trump supporter (though he despises him), has strong opinions, particularly on the Ukrainian conflict. He hates Zelensky, whom he has called a dictator, believes that the war was largely provoked by the US and has repeatedly said it is time to stop funding it.

So Carlson went on the attack when Mike Pence, who had recently met Zelensky, criticised Biden for being slow to deliver weapons to Kyiv. ‘You are distressed that the Ukrainians don’t have enough American tanks?’ an incredulous Carlson asked. ‘Every city in the United States has become much worse over the past three years. (…)

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(4Fox News, 16 October 2018. Ukraine gatecrashes the US election, by Serge Halimi (Le Monde diplomatique

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