March 4, 2024

The Senate early Tuesday morning passed a $95 billion aid package, which dedicated $60 billion of assistance to Ukraine—but not without objection from some Republican senators, including Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, who filibustered through the night.

Johnson’s objection? Certainly not the $15 billion of aid to Israel also included in the bill, or the decoupling of border security funding after Senate Republicans killed the bipartisan border deal last week at Donald Trump’s behest. Instead, Johnson was apparently swayed to vote against the bill after Vladimir Putin’s interview with Tucker Carlson.

Johnson, in an interview on far-right news network Real America’s Voice, explained that, while Putin “is a war criminal [who is] obviously not telling you the whole truth,” his conversation with ousted Fox News host Carlson was “very interesting,” and that “an awful lot of what Vladimir Putin said was right … accurate, and obvious.”

“Putin won’t lose. He will not lose. He’s not gonna lose,” Johnson repeatedly warned in the interview, just hours before he voted against giving more aid to Ukraine.

Echoing Putin’s talking points, Johnson also baselessly claimed U.S. economic sanctions against Russia  threaten the supremacy of the U.S. dollar by forcing Russia to trade with foreign currencies.

Without referring specifically to the $60 billion earmarked for Ukrainian military aid, which has divided the Republican caucus for months, Johnson inveigled against “so many people in Washington ignoring [Putin’s comments] … making people believe that Ukraine can win.”

Twenty-two Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined 48 Democratic senators to pass the bill, where it will meet the continued opposition of House Speaker Mike Johnson, who has already attempted to eliminate Ukraine funding from a much smaller aid package exclusively for Israel. GOP holdouts in the Senate and House, including Johnson, have been locked in an intraparty battle over Ukraine for over a year now. Putin’s rambling, off-the-rails interview with Carlson seems to have convinced at least one senator to dig in his heels. Not that he needed another reason to back an authoritarian, anyway.