What’s changed about Greene since her days as a conspiracy theorist and misinformation is simply that it now does the same with the trappings of bureaucracy. His comments on the war in Ukraine carry the slightly higher weight of coming from a member of Congress, although he has less actual political power than perhaps any other official on Capitol Hill. But they were presented as if she was the president-elect – which she is, I guess, to some extent. She is the leader of a very specific and not very large subset of Americans: those who accept any criticism of the political left in faith.
Greene’s power is so diminished that covering his comments runs a real risk of simply giving them an elevated platform. Only about 15,000 people viewed his address, according to Facebook’s public metrics, so it’s safe to assume you weren’t among them. (Also because you’re reading an article from the Washington Post, whose audiences I believe are necessarily a little more discerning in choosing their sources of information.) The 10-minute riff, however, distills a very specific and not quite a rare worldview that has emerged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deserves to be assessed from that perspective alone.
Greene begins by asserting that coverage of the invasion of Ukraine comes with the “drumbeat of war,” implying, as the likes of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson have done, that attention scope for Russian incursion is simply a function of America’s readiness to enter the fray. On the contrary, of course, the situation is quite different: American leaders tried to figure out how to help Ukraine without risk direct conflict with a nuclear-armed state led by an unpredictable autocrat. But at its heart, Greene’s presentation is about taking the various stringy theories she’s amassed and spinning something Congress-y out of them. The “drumbeat of war” is something a serious politician would sing during a national speech, and so it is.
“We’re told we have an urgent moral responsibility to send money and ammunition to a country 6,000 miles away,” Greene continues, pointing to that dramatic distance, “a country in which, coincidentally, Joe Biden has business interests, like many other people.” (Ukraine is actually only about 4,000 miles from the United States. For reference, the distance from the northwest part of Alaska to the tip of Florida is about 4,500 miles. )
Obviously, many people have business interests in Ukraine, since it is a country. I don’t know why Greene claims Biden has business interests there, or why she later claimed that “Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney” had “direct financial interests” there. It’s probably because Greene doesn’t apply any discernment to random internet rumors like the the one that circulated in 2019 part of the overall effort to defend Donald Trump against the denial of aid to Ukraine. Biden’s son was a board member of a company in Ukraine, yes, but he’s not the president, anyway. But also: What is the argument here? That we’re sending weapons to Ukraine not to help repel an invasion from a sovereign nation but because… Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) is eager to protect a small fraction of his wealth? Looks like it could be a more complicated theory than warranted.
Greene doesn’t really make this case. She simply argues against any action, in part because it is government spending, which she opposes when she opposes. The argument for inaction, however, is truly bizarre: Ukraine will lose, and the sooner the better. Arming their defense just means that Russia will kill more Ukrainians.
This is not an exaggeration of his position.
“There is no doubt that Putin’s actions in Ukraine are despicable and evil. We cry when we see images of injured or killed men, women and children,” she said. And then, later: “If we really care about the suffering and death on our TV screens, we can’t fund more of it by sending money and arms to Ukraine to fight a war that doesn’t exist.” ‘She absolutely can’t win. The only effective way, more guns and more money from America, will be to prolong the war and amplify human suffering. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be responsible for creating even more refugees and orphans in an already traumatized and dysfunctional world. And: “It is not our responsibility to give [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have false hopes of a war they cannot win.
We should just let Russia get through Ukraine and end the war faster, she argues, because it is imperative “as Christians to prevent more human suffering and death”.
This, of course, from the woman who at one point recommended that Georgians be armed greeting anyone going door to door offering coronavirus vaccines. The problem is not that she wants to end the suffering. It’s that she’s more worried about attacking Biden than helping a country slightly further from Georgia than Alaska.
His attacks on Biden don’t even make sense.
She accuses him of backing an omnibus government spending bill that “has $14 billion for Ukraine, but not a dollar for our own border.” It… contains a lot of dollars for the border. It is an omnibus bill, which funds several departments. here’s the bill; search for the words “US Customs and Border Protection” and scroll down.
She rails against Zelensky’s demand that America impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, warning that it “means war”. Well yeah. This is why Biden and most other members of the US government oppose it! This is not an argument in support of the idea that Biden is rushing to war.
Then there’s the claim that Biden “can bark and wave a stick, but nobody’s scared. Our haters know he lacks both the willpower and the ability to see through his saber thrusts. She says sanctions do nothing. So which one is it? Are we marching to war or are we just threatening to intervene? Are we providing weapons that will help Ukraine fight back or are we just imposing sanctions? sanctions that do nothing at all? Again, the goal is just to cobble together various BIDEN BAD words and then package them as a national address. That’s what you get.
But there is one particular argument worth dissecting.
“This is an eight-year-old conflict in which peace agreements have been routinely violated by both sides,” Greene said. “…A country whose government exists only thanks to the Obama State Department helped overthrow the previous regime.”
It is true that Ukraine and Russia violated the terms of a deal reached in 2014. But that doesn’t make them equivalent, as Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) underline in reply to Greene. Russia had captured part of Ukraine and was supporting insurgents in two eastern provinces of the country. If Canada took Maine and we reached a tough deal with them to reduce conflict, that wouldn’t mean that violations of that deal would put the United States and Canada on a moral equal footing. If your next-door neighbor takes over your garage and the police force you not to fight, you don’t give up your moral standing if you then throw eggs at his house.
This claim that the government “only exists” because of the State Department, however, is precisely the propaganda promoted by Russia. In 2014, a series of protests against a pro-Russian president in Ukraine led to the collapse of the government. Russia has accused the United States for inciting these protests. In reality, they were triggered largely by the incumbent president’s refusal (elected with the help of Paul Manafort) of a free trade agreement with the European Union — something strongly opposed by Russia. This is a central theme of the moment, of course: Russia invaded Ukraine in part because it feared the country would irrevocably slip out of its orbit of influence.
What’s particularly remarkable about Greene’s speech is how he merges all of these different things together. False claims, debunked nonsense, echoes of Russian propaganda – all merged into an address to the marginal states of America by its president. It’s a conversation that we can’t pretend doesn’t exist and doesn’t have any influence.