As I type this newsletter, continued American aid for Ukraine is in grave doubt. Tucker Carlson is in Moscow to conduct a friendly interview with Vladimir Putin. And we’re receiving reports from the front lines that Russia is advancing, in part because of Ukrainian ammunition shortages. In short, the war is reaching a critical stage, and Ukraine may lose because Republicans are willing to hand authoritarian Russia a historic military victory rather than supply further aid to a democratic ally.

Ronald Reagan isn’t just rolling over in his grave; he may also lurch from it in a fit of incredulous rage. This is a remarkable and potentially catastrophic reversal by a political party that is in a state of near-total, frequently random ideological transformation.

To explain the intensity of Republican resistance to Ukraine aid, I need to return to a concept I wrote about in November: that of bespoke realities. My friend Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, coined the term, and she wrote that it refers to the “bubble realities” constructed by communities “that operate with their own norms, media, trusted authorities and frameworks of facts.”

Among those who oppose aid to Ukraine, there are certainly several paleoconservatives who object on classic isolationist grounds: It’s not our fight, our support is costly, we might find ourselves inadvertently embroiled in war, and so on. But the mass Republican movement against Ukraine is rooted far less in policy than it is in a particular bespoke reality of the MAGA universe, in which Ukraine is a pernicious villain, Putin is a flawed hero and Russia should have crushed Ukraine long ago.

MAGA Republicans’ hatred and contempt for Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian cause is shockingly vehement. Candace Owens says she wants to “punch” Zelensky. Donald Trump Jr. calls him an “international welfare queen.” Carlson says he dresses “like the manager of a strip club.” It’s all bizarre and unreasonable. And it all fits the broader MAGA narrative.

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    In short, the war is reaching a critical stage, and Ukraine may lose because Republicans are willing to hand authoritarian Russia a historic military victory rather than supply further aid to a democratic ally.

    My friend Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, coined the term, and she wrote that it refers to the “bubble realities” constructed by communities “that operate with their own norms, media, trusted authorities and frameworks of facts.”

    Among those who oppose aid to Ukraine, there are certainly several paleoconservatives who object on classic isolationist grounds: It’s not our fight, our support is costly, we might find ourselves inadvertently embroiled in war, and so on.

    “On 4chan and pro-Trump spaces on Reddit, on websites like ZeroHedge.com and Washington’s Blog,” he wrote in 2019, “you can find plenty of speculation about evil manipulation by CrowdStrike and secret maneuvers by Ukrainians — often inflamed by Mr. Trump’s own statements.”

    Combine that claim with the fact that Hunter Biden had a lucrative business relationship with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, and MAGA found itself with the perfect villain to counter the Trump-Russia narrative.

    The culture war, he mused, may be “serious enough to increase the probability that Russia, say, will be motivated to invade and potentially incapacitate Ukraine merely to keep the pathological West out of that country, which is a key part of the historically Russian sphere of influence.”


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