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How US Republican senator’s call to assassinate Putin shows deep divisions in party

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s suggestion to have Russian President Vladimir Putin killed received severe backlash not only from the Democrats but also from his own party.

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New Delhi: The war in Ukraine won’t just impact the European order —  Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions also seem to be creating rifts within the Republican Party in the US.

The differences came to light much more prominently when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham — who had introduced a resolution Thursday condemning Putin’s actions — suggested Friday that someone in Russia should assassinate Putin to end the Ukraine war, which drew sharp criticism not only from the Biden administration, but also from within the Republican Party. 

Republican Senator Ted Cruz called it “an exceptionally bad idea”.

In a tweet Friday, Cruz endorsed economic sanctions against Russia and military aid to Ukraine, “But we should not be calling for the assassination of heads of state.” 

Even Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican Congresswoman known as a firebrand, said Graham’s remarks were “irresponsible, dangerous and unhinged”.  

Meanwhile, Republican Anthony Sabatini, a member of the Florida House of Representatives, referred to Graham’s statement as “Biden-level stupidity and recklessness”. 

Congressman Matt Gaetz, also a Republican from Florida, said, “When has Sen. Graham encouraging regime change ever ended badly?” Known as a supporter of interventionist foreign policy, Graham has in the past argued for a pre-emptive strike against Iran and called for an invasion of Venezuela, among other such positions.

After such a backlash from his party, Graham chose to downplay his remarks less than 24 hours later, and said that the “Russian dictator needs to go to jail”. 

Susan Del Percio, a Republican strategist, said in an interview, “The fact that the Republicans are calling for the sanctions (on Russia) and at the same time they are saying President Biden is not [doing] enough, that’s ridiculous. And they need to rally around the President. This is an international crisis … The US is not at war.”

Trump calls Putin’s move ‘pretty savvy’

Even before Putin had declared war on Ukraine, the party appeared to be divided as former US President Donald Trump, a Republican, avoided taking any position on Ukraine’s sovereignty. Trump had praised Putin when Moscow last month officially recognised Donetsk and Luhansk, the breakaway Russian-speaking regions in Ukraine, as independent republics; he called the move “pretty savvy”.

However, Trump also said in the same interview that had he been in office, the recognition of the two pro-Russian republics would not even have been “thinkable”.

On being repeatedly asked to comment on Trump’s remarks, Republican Senator Tom Cotton refused to respond four times.

Assassination ‘could easily backfire’ with Russians, ‘cold civil war’ in US politics

According to an editorial that appeared in Politico, “U.S. sponsorship of Putin’s assassination also could easily backfire if Russians interpreted his killing as an act of American escalation that would unite them in favor of new acts of counter-escalation. Russian citizens who share little affinity with Putin or his war today could become patriotic Putinites overnight.”

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor who now teaches public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote in The Guardian, “Make no mistake: Putin’s authoritarian neo-fascism has rooted itself in America.”

“It may be possible to prevent Putin’s aggression from spreading to the rest of Europe. But it is not possible to win a cold civil war inside America without destroying the United States — another of Putin’s objectives when he ordered his spy agencies to help Trump,” Reich wrote.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Divided Congress, non-functional administration—What’s in store for US politics in 2022


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