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Yaffee: Stop giving Putin the benefit of the doubt

As the war in Ukraine continues to drag on, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s become more of a divisive issue in today’s politics. This divide isn’t just between left and right though, like most issues, but there’s also a divide within the Republican Party itself over continuing to support Ukraine’s defense against Russia.

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) has shown where he stands on the issue, having recently voted against more aid to the country. Unfortunately, the senator went beyond just wishing for an end to the war. He also argued that Vladmir Putin’s invasion isn’t really a threat to NATO.

“He doesn’t want Ukraine. He doesn’t want Europe. He’s got enough land of his own,” Tuberville said. “He just wants to make sure that he does not have United States weapons in Ukraine pointing at Moscow.”

I agree with Tuberville on many issues and have vehemently defended him at times. However, I can’t disagree with him more here. While I don’t believe Tuberville is pro-Putin by any means — I do think he’s giving the Russian dictator too much benefit of the doubt.

Republicans make a mistake when they argue that Putin has similar interests to the United States. It might be true that Putin didn’t want another NATO country on its border, but I think it’s naïve to suggest that he wasn’t also motivated by other selfish, evil and megalomaniacal intentions.

Not only has Putin made a career and killing and jailing his political opponents, but he has made it clear over and over again that he desires the expansion of the Russian empire. His original goal in this war was to completely take over the government of Ukraine and put in a puppet regime so Russia would then have complete access and control of the plentiful natural resources in the country. He also sought to take complete control of the Black Sea Ports, which will help Russia economically and militarily.

Tuberville is also arguing that even if Russia completely takes over Ukraine, there’s no way they would threaten an actual NATO country afterward. It’s probably correct to assume Putin wouldn’t just roll into the rest of Europe right away — but what about in five years or ten? Do we just let him keep gaining more power? Isn’t it more in our national interest to stop him now before we are forced to use American troops to stop him in the future after he’s increased his capabilities?

To be clear, I do not support endlessly funding this war. I think most people at this point realize neither side is going to completely get what they want. True leadership would be putting pressure on both countries to come to a negotiated settlement.

Tuberville is right about a core principle: President Joe Biden has completely failed diplomatically in ending this war. I do think there’s an argument to be made in trying to end the bloodshed, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to defend Putin’s intentions when making those arguments.

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” weekdays 9-11 a.m. on WVNN. You can follow him on X @Yaffee

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