Former Vice President Mike Pence Says There’s No Room for Putin Apologists in the Republican Party

Former Vice President Mike Pence had strong words for individuals who praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On March 4, 2022, Pence gave a speech before Republican National Committee (RNC) donors where he declared, “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom.”

According to a report by Brett Samuels of The Hill, “The comments from Pence are a tacit criticism of Trump and others who have complimented Putin’s intelligence and strategy as he directed Russia to invade Ukraine without provocation.”

Trump recently said during a radio interview that Putin’s move to unilaterally declare parts of eastern Ukraine as independent republics (the Luhansk and Donetsk republics) was “pretty savvy” and “genius.” Russia’s recognition of these parts of Eastern Ukraine were the first moves taken before Russia carried out a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier in 2022, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Putin as a  “talented statesman” who possesses “lots of gifts.”

Right-wing populist hot Tucker Carlson has even questioned why Americans should demonize Putin and described Ukraine as a U.S. puppet state.

The above comments have been met with great criticism from establishment Republicans as Russia continues encircling Ukrainian forces. Trump has changed his tune on Russia, declaring that Russia’s military operations in Ukraine constitute “a holocaust.”

Pence also praised the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance which has provided military aid to Ukraine and has ramped up its troop presence in Eastern European countries like Poland and in the Baltic states to prevent Russia from expanding beyond Ukraine. 

“To those who argue that NATO expansion is somehow responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ask yourself, where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO?,” Pence declared. 

Pence’s attacks against people who praise Putin are also a shot against America First style nationalists like Nick Fuentes who praised Russia at the third America First Political Action Conference on February 25. Such attacks are also directed at people who advocate for foreign policy restraint and criticize NATO expansion for contributing to the Russo-Ukrainian crisis.

Overall, the GOP’s establishment is using the present Russo-Ukrainian military conflict as a way to consolidate its hold over the party and purge people who deviate from neoconservative stricturers. Populists will have to push back against this and make sure the party continues moving in a pro-foreign policy restraint direction.

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