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Speaker Johnson has an excellent opportunity to course-correct on Ukraine

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  • Speaker Mike Johnson appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to introduce himself to American voters
  • He emphasized core conservative principles such as individual freedom and limited government
  • While Johnson’s foreign policy positions are less clear, he expressed concerns about reckless wars but appeared less knowledgeable about the Ukraine situation
  • His stance on funding Ukraine differs from the MAGA base, as he seemed open to it while emphasizing the need for accountability

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

Speaker Mike Johnson has had a busy two days since gaveling the House to order on Wednesday. He visited President Biden at the White House for a 15-minute meet-and-greet session and spent nearly two hours speaking with senior administration officials. Johnson also met Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss GOP strategies in the divided Congress. He had the customary top-secret briefings reserved for senior Congressional leaders.

And Johnson made time to appear on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program to introduce himself for a full hour to the American voter. It was a superb move. Most Americans know little about Johnson as he has avoided the spotlight for the seven years he has served in Congress representing Louisiana, staying in the shadows of his more powerful colleague, Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine
Speaker Mike Johnson sat down with Sean Hannity for his first one-on-one interview since becoming the Speaker of the House. Screenshot.

Johnson recited what he said were the core principles of conservatism – individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity. He will have strong support from the GOP base if he can run the House as such a principled conservative. It is why we said two days ago he has the unique ability to help change the direction of the 2024 race for the presidency and Congress.

On abortion, he criticized Roe as one of the worst decisions of the Supreme Court and praised the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe and returned the power to regulate to the states on the strength of the Tenth Amendment. This position is identical to the one we hold and wrote about in August 2022.

On gay marriage, his position is very reasonable. A 25-year expert Constitutional lawyer, he represented Christian groups in the mid-2000s, arguing to defend the traditional definition of marriage as a union between man and woman. It was, after all, the official position of the United States government then because of the federal Defense of Marriage Law. It was only in 2015 that a 5-4 Supreme Court verdict invalidated this definition of marriage, paving the way for gay marriage and the recognition of LGBTQ couples. Johnson says that he believes in and respects the rule of the law – so his personal position doesn’t matter.

On foreign policy, his positions are not as well thought out. We want to give him the benefit of time but are concerned that he will get engulfed in the Beltway vortex of reckless wars and limited diplomacy.

On Ukraine, he seemed remarkably ill-informed. He repeated the moderate GOP positions of Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and Chris Christie by asserting that “President Putin should not be allowed to prevail in Ukraine because I don’t believe it would stop there – and it would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan.”

Both of these assertions are false and are not backed by any evidence or a fundamental understanding of history. For nearly two decades, going back to Munich in 2008, President Putin has demanded that Ukraine, which has a significant Russian-speaking population, remain geopolitically neutral, arguing that a Western-allied Ukraine  in the NATO fold would threaten Russia’s very existence. This position is identical to President JFK’s in the 1960s when he threatened then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev with nuclear armageddon if the Soviets did not withdraw military power from Cuba. No Great Power wants another Great Power lurking just over their border.

While Putin was wrong to invade Ukraine, it is not clear that Putin would be extending his aggression to other countries. There’s also the question of ability. Russia has been having severe trouble holding on to Ukrainian territory and has had to beg Iran and North Korea for weapons to sustain the conflict. So, how could Putin extend it to other nations when Russia struggles to cope with existing Western sanctions?

The idea that China would be emboldened to act in the Taiwanese Straits, if Russia were to prevail, is also not based on facts. Although China has built up an ominous military capability in the South China Sea for years, the situation has remained tense but manageable. The culprit was former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who needlessly saber-rattled the Chinese by landing in Taipei with great fanfare and addressing the Taiwanese parliament. Even the Biden administration frowned on such a high-profile visit, mindful that it violates the spirit of America’s One China policy. Our reading is that China will act aggressively in Taiwan if America is seen to act aggressively there. The outcome of the war in Ukraine is irrelevant to China because Beijing, too, sees Taiwan’s pro-independence movement as an existential threat to China’s future.

Johnson’s position on funding Ukraine would shock the MAGA base. Unlike Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, who vehemently opposed all funding to Ukraine, Johnson seemed open to the idea.

We are not going to abandon them (Ukraine), but we have a stewardship responsibility over the precious treasure of the American people.

Of course, demanding accountability for how the funds are spent in corrupt Ukraine is a no-brainer. We wrote in July 2022 that corruption in Ukraine warrants stricter oversight.

The issue now is that the war has created havoc worldwide and must stop. Over 500,000 people have died, over 12 million Ukrainians have been displaced, large parts of Europe have been impoverished, the Russia-China-Iran-North Korea axis has strengthened, and America’s standing in the Global South has significantly fallen, even more now given the war in the Middle East.

Speaker Johnson said that a critical conservative principle is “human dignity.” It is not dignified for America to let a much-weaker Ukraine sacrifice its lives and limbs and become fodder to the Russian onslaught simply so that America can modernize its weapons inventories and weaken Russia’s military might, as McConnell said. Providing more weapons to Ukraine now (not to mention funds to pay Ukrainian government salaries and pensions) will only extend the carnage and killing.

Frankly, President Biden’s ‘As Long As It Takes’ policy for the war lacks vision. As demonstrated by a recent I&I/TIPP Poll, the majority of Americans are dissatisfied with Biden’s efforts to find a settlement. Furthermore, burdened with a $34 trillion debt on the heels of trillions of spending in the Iraq war, Americans are reluctant to make a long-term commitment to Ukraine.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine
Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

It is still early days, but Speaker Johnson has an excellent opportunity to course-correct on Ukraine. He should listen to the American people, not the Beltway crowd or the Military Industrial Complex. It was why he was promoted to the top House job in the first place, something he should not forget.


Related Infographic

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

TIPP Takes

Geopolitics And Geoeconomics

1. ‘Total Chaos’ In Gaza After Israel’s Heaviest Night Of Bombing Yet – BBC

Israel’s military said it was intensifying its bombing of Gaza and that its ground forces were “expanding operations.”

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

The BBC’s Rushdi Abualouf, reporting from Gaza, says the north of the Strip was hit overnight “on a scale we’ve never seen before.” Hamas says clashes have taken place in northern Gaza – reports say some Israeli troops and tanks have entered the Strip.


2. U.N. General Assembly Calls For ‘Humanitarian Truce’ In Israel-Gaza Conflict – UPI

The non-binding Jordanian-sponsored resolution passed with 120 states voting in favor, 14 voting against, and 45 abstentions. Notably, the United States voted against the resolution.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

The resolution calls for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all civilian hostages and an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” between the warring parties.


3. Jordan’s Foreign Minister Says Israel Has Launched Ground War On Gaza – Al Arabiya

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the outcome of Israel launching a ground war on the Gaza Strip will be “a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.”

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

“Israel just launched a ground war on Gaza. Outcome will be a humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions for years to come,” Safadi said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.


4. Israel’s Ground Invasion Of Gaza Can Turn Catastrophic: Saudi Arabia Warns U.S. – WION

Saudi officials strongly warned the United States that the ground invasion by the Israeli army into the Gaza Strip could turn catastrophic for West Asia.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

“The Saudi leadership was hopeful that a ground operation could be avoided for reasons of stability as well as the loss of life,” said Richard Blumenthal, Member of the Armed Services Committee, who was among the senators who held talks with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.


5. White House Accused Of Endorsing Palestinian Displacement In Budget Request – Middle East Eye

The Biden administration has asked Congress to fund the “potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries,” part of a $105bn request made last week, which also includes money for Israel and Ukraine.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

For some, in the light of an American push earlier this month for Egypt to open a humanitarian corridor and the reluctance of U.S. officials to call for Israeli restraint, it suggests the White House is endorsing the mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.


6. Biden Administration Refused To Meet Muslim Americans Publicly Critical Of Gaza Policy – Middle East Eye

Sources familiar with the Biden administration’s meetings with Muslim and Arab Americans say Washington focused on projecting concern rather than taking action.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

According to a source, hours before a meeting between Biden and a group of Muslim Americans, several activists had urged a group of advocates to boycott the meeting to make it clear that the Muslim community was not going to accept the administration’s excuses for its unflinching support of what experts are saying is a genocide of Palestinians.


7. Russia Hikes Interest Rates To 15% As Inflation Soars – BBC

The higher-than-expected rate hike of two percentage points raises borrowing costs for the fourth time in a row.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

Globally, the pace of price rises has been high, partly due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Inflation in Russia hit 6% in September. The Bank of Russia, the country’s central bank, has raised rates by 7.5 percentage points since July to get inflation back to its 4% target.


8. Orbán Opposes The EU’s €50-Billion Support Plan For Ukraine, While Fico Raises Corruption Concerns – Euronews

The draft plan, known as the Ukraine Facility, features €33 billion in low-interest loans and €17 billion in non-repayable grants and is part of a wider €100-billion revision of the bloc’s common long-term budget.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine
Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Slovakian PM Robert Fico. Credit: Daily News Hungary

Orbán’s opposition was widely expected, given his previous statements and his meeting with Vladimir Putin in China. Meanwhile, Robert Fico, the newly sworn prime minister of Slovakia, raised concerns about the high levels of corruption inside Ukraine and asked for extra safeguards to ensure the EU cash is not “misappropriated.”


9. Despite Russia’s War, House Prices In Some Parts Of Ukraine Still Rise – Al Jazeera

While real estate lost value significantly in eastern and southern areas close to the front lines, price tags in western regions skyrocketed by up to 75 percent.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine
A sign reads ‘completed apartments’ on a damaged building in Irpin, north of Kyiv, Ukraine [Mansur Mirovalev/Al Jazeera]

Selling property in the nearby areas north of the Ukrainian capital in the months following the withdrawal of Russian troops last year was tricky.

But as infrastructure, roofs, roads, and bridges are being rebuilt, customers are no longer repulsed, and homes north of Kyiv, just like almost elsewhere in Ukraine, sell like hot potatoes.


10. Agreement Reached For Biden-Xi Talks, Details Being Worked Out: Report – A.P.

President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to meet on the sidelines of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco, according to a U.S. official.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

The agreement, in principle, was worked out as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Beijing has yet to confirm if Xi will travel to San Francisco for the summit.


11. Chinese Censors Clamp Down On Public Mourning For Former Premier – RFA

Chinese people took to social media with candle emojis and condolences to mourn the death of former premier Li Keqiang – until censors stepped in to ensure that only uniform and formulaic condolences remained for the technocrat, who died on Friday.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

Much of the individual content, like personal comments from individual users lauding Li’s perceived qualities as a national leader, was no longer available, with only state media and official statements turning up in search results for “Li Keqiang” and related keywords.


12. Hong Kong Denies Visa To Prominent Tiananmen Square Scholar – Al Jazeera

Rowena He, who researched the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, has been fired from her university position after the city’s immigration authorities declined to extend her visa.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was for years the only place on Chinese soil to commemorate the crackdown by armed troops on peaceful protesters. That changed after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation in 2020 after the territory was rocked by pro-democracy protests the previous year.


13. Qatar Sentences Indian Ex-Naval Officers To Death – BBC

India has said it is exploring all legal options after a court in Qatar sentenced eight former Indian naval officers to death on unspecified charges.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

Reports say the men, who worked with a private company in Qatar, were arrested last year on suspicion of spying.

The statement by India’s foreign ministry describes the men as employees of a private company called Al Dahra. Still, they have been widely reported to be former personnel of the Indian Navy.


14. North Korea Orders Citizens To Make Nail Boards As Escape Deterrent – RFA

North Korea is ordering each household in an area near the border with China to pound nails in wooden boards that will be used along the border to prevent people from escaping the country, residents said.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

Sources said each family in the border-adjacent city of Hyesan in Ryanggang province must make two nail boards by hammering several long nails into boards that will line the Chinese side of a recently installed border fence.


15. IAEA Completes Fukushima Wastewater Inspection, Promises Report By Year’s End – UPI

The group of experts from the U.N. nuclear body said it would compile a report by the end of the year to deliver its findings on the inspection.

Speaker Johnson Has An Excellent Opportunity To Course-Correct On Ukraine

The release of wastewater from the plant, damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, has drawn condemnation from some nations who fear the practice is unsafe.


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Republished with permission from TIPP Insights

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