'Youthful Naivety': GOP Senators Clash Over Supporting Ukraine

The Senate may have passed a foreign aid package for Ukraine, but the debate over countering Russian President Vladimir Putin is still roiling within the GOP.

WASHINGTON ― Senate Republicans took their contentious intra-party debate over countering Russian aggression to the internet on Tuesday after the Senate passed a military and financial aid package that included $60 billion for Ukraine.

Freshman Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), a fierce opponent of the bill, noted the generational divide in the Republican conference on the matter. A large chunk of the 26 GOP senators who opposed it are younger lawmakers who came to Washington in the past decade during the GOP’s transformation away from the orthodoxy of Ronald Reagan to that of Donald Trump.

“Nearly every Republican Senator under the age of 55 voted NO on this America Last bill,” Schmitt wrote in a post on X. “15 out of 17 elected since 2018 voted NO.”

He added: “Things are changing just not fast enough.”

It’s true. The Senate GOP is changing. The traditional stalwarts in the party are slowly being replaced with hard-charging MAGA loyalists eager to defend and amplify Trump’s tactics. The influence of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top Senate Republican who supported the bill and pushed for its passage for months, is clearly on the wane, and another Trump term in the White House would only accelerate that shift, recreating the party in his image.

But it’s not just the new class of Republicans who have embraced Trump’s isolationist tendencies. Prominent defense hawks like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also opposed the Ukraine aid package, the latest head-spinning heel turn in his career. Graham said he couldn’t support the bill without tougher border security measures even though he voted against a bipartisan border deal that he was involved in crafting after Trump warned Republicans not to support it.

Graham even endorsed Trump’s quixotic idea of structuring U.S. foreign aid into a loan and demanding repayment in case of insufficient support from the receiving U.S. ally. It’s not clear how this would work given that most of the money the Senate passed for Ukraine is going to U.S. defense firms to produce arms and munitions to resupply the Ukrainian military.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), one of the 22 Republicans who supported the bill, responded to Schmitt’s post by touting the “wisdom of age” and making the case that helping allies stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin serves U.S. interests in the long run, as it did during the time of the Soviet Union.

“Youthful naivety is bliss, the wisdom of age may save the west,” Cramer, who is a sprightly 63, at least in the Senate, wrote on X. “Reagan may be dead, but his doctrine saved the world during less dangerous times than these If the modern Marx (Putin for the youngsters) restores the USSR while we pretend it’s not our problem.”

He added: “God help us. Be free!”

But that argument didn’t sit kindly with Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), another MAGA firebrand who was elected to the Senate in 2022 by emulating Trump’s brand of conservative populism. Vance sought to tie the question of preventing a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and possibly other European countries, to the follies of U.S. interventions in the Middle East.

“I like Kevin, but come on, man, have some self-awareness,” Vance wrote in response to Cramer.

“The fruits of this generation in American leadership is: quagmire in Afghanistan, war in Iraq under false pretenses, declining life expectancy, and demographic collapse in the West. This moment calls out for many things, but boomer neoconservatism is not among them,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) clashed with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton after Paxton criticized him for voting for the Ukraine aid package that didn’t include border security measures. Cornyn took the opportunity to highlight Paxton’s felony trial for securities fraud charges and urged him to “spend less time pushing Russian propaganda.” Paxton, a fierce Trump loyalist, has previously suggested a primary campaign against Cornyn, who faces reelection in 2026.

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