By Alexander Rubinstein / The Grayzone
Defending Democracy Together, a neoconservative outfit led by career chickenhawk scribe Bill Kristol, has launched a new initiative called “Republicans for Ukraine” to transform the 2024 presidential election into a referendum on US funding for the NATO proxy war.
Urging Republicans in Congress to support more funding for Ukraine in the upcoming appropriations bill is also a key item on the agenda.
Kristol had defined himself as a leader of the Republican Party’s neoconservative faction, bashing isolationist and antiwar GOP figures on the pages of his now-defunct Weekly Standard magazine while laying the intellectual groundwork for the invasion of Iraq through his Project for a New American Century.
By fashioning his Defending Democracy Together as a bastion of Never Trumpism, Kristol was able to ingratiate himself with elite Democrats eager for Republican allies in their messianic battle against the Bad Orange Man. His anti-Trump efforts ultimately earned him a cringeworthy MSNBC tribute celebrating the unrepentant neocon as “Woke Bill Kristol.”
Now, as the Ukrainian counteroffensive fails and a majority of Americans declare opposition for the first time to sending more military aid to Ukraine, Kristol is launching a multimillion dollar ad blitz to keep the tanks slogging through the Donbas mud and the dark money flowing into his bank accounts.
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“Ukrainian troops fought alongside Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now they are fighting to defend their democracy,” Kristol’s campaign announces on its website. “Most importantly, American military, financial, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine has helped them weaken Russia.”
His initiative has therefore invoked the military debacles that turned the GOP base firmly against neoconservatism and into the arms of Trump, presenting Ukraine’s participation in these forever wars as justification for a new one.
And as we will see, Kristol’s supposedly Republican operation has been funded by a top Democratic Party donor with close ties to US intelligence.
Pro-war ads for a GOP base turning firmly against NATO’s proxy war
To generate viral content for its $2 million “Republicans for Ukraine” campaign, Defending Democracy Together gathered testimony from 50 GOP voters, drawing from a base of mostly white collar baby boomers alienated by the non-interventionist direction of the party base.
In each testimonial, the interviewees spouted boilerplate talking points on “defending democracy” and opposing authoritarianism that could have just as easily been produced by senior fellows at any arms industry funded think tank on DC’s K Street.
One veteran featured in the campaign claims he spent two decades fighting the “Soviet Union’s threat to freedom,” and offers his hope that Republicans for Ukraine “can serve as counterprogramming to conservative radio and TV show hosts who are challenging additional aid to Ukraine.”
Some of the ads display a geopolitical paranoia far beyond the scope of average American voters. Teresa Benson from Minnesota, for example, is worried that “if nobody tries to stop [Putin] in Ukraine, that next he would attack Moldova and any other non-NATO countries in the area.”
The campaign’s advertisements will air “on cable and network TV and digitally on Youtube through the end of the year.” The outfit has even purchased ad space on Fox News during the first Republican primary debate on August 23 being held in Milwaukee.
In addition to the ads, the group has also purchased 10 strategically placed billboards in Milwaukee, urging debate attendees to “support Ukraine” and “Stand up to Putin.” Hints that the operation may expand can be found within a Google Drive folder maintained by the campaign, entitled “Billboards – August 2023.”
One image is labeled “ukraine-times-square-01.”
“Too many of the party’s leaders seem to think there’s no penalty to be paid for standing against Ukrainian democracy and America’s role in supporting the fight for freedom,” said Gunner Ramer, the campaign’s national spokesman. Among Ramer’s first positions out of college was an internship for the longshot pro-war 2016 presidential candidate and former CIA intelligence officer Evan McMullin.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Defending Democracy Together co-founder and former alcohol industry lobbyist Sarah Longwell lamented shifts within the Republican Party base. These included Republicans becoming “more protectionist on trade,” and “more populist.” But nothing causes her more concern than changes in “Republican attitudes around foreign policy.”
“It was alarming in the focus groups to see so many Republican voters talk about Ukraine or [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky in disparaging terms,” Longwell told the Washington Post.
The Omidyar connection
If Defending Democracy Together’s short history is any indication, the “Republicans for Ukraine” initiative may actually be powered by money from top supporters of the Democratic Party and the ultimate architect of the Ukraine war: President Joe Biden.
Defending Democracy Together was the top dark money spender in the 2020 election with its front, the Republican Accountability Project (formerly Republican Voters Against Trump) leading the charge. By injecting more than $15 million dollars into the campaign, the outfit more than doubled the spending of the second-highest ranked dark money outfit. Its ads urged Republicans to vote for the Democrat, Joe Biden.
Since the outfit is powered by dark money, it is impossible to know who greases its wheels. However, disclosures by one NGO offer insight into the liberal leanings of its main known backer: tech mogul and US intelligence partner Pierre Omidyar, whose Democracy Fund distributed $4.15 million into Defending Democracy Together and its offshoot, Republicans for the Rule of Law, between 2018 and 2021.
As I reported with Grayzone editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal, Omidyar has leveraged the fortune he amassed as the founder of Ebay to support establishment Democratic candidates while his various foundations act as cutouts for regime change operations waged by US intelligence, including in Ukraine.
Defending Democracy Together serves as the sponsor for a mind-boggling array of important-sounding initiatives, all supposedly representative of the GOP: Republicans for Voting Rights, the Republican Accountability Project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, the Becoming American Initiative, The Russia Tweets, and now, Republicans for Ukraine.
Its first project, Republicans for the Rule of Law, was introduced in a Washington Post column by Jennifer Rubin, a neoconservative former George W. Bush cheerleader who switched parties during the Trump era. Rubin hailed the Kristol-led campaign for launching an effort to “protect [Robert] Mueller,” the FBI’s special counsel investigator who ultimately failed to turn up evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia. The Republicans for the Rule of Law campaign pushed ads on Fox News and MSNBC touting Mueller’s Republican bonafides over footage of Marines firing off mortars in the jungles of Vietnam.
As calls to impeach President Donald Trump over his threats to withhold military aid to Ukraine reached a fever pitch in 2019, Republicans For The Rule of Law ran a million-dollar campaign to “run television ads on Fox and MSNBC, calling on Republicans to ‘demand the facts’ about Mr. Trump and Ukraine.”
The name of Republicans For The Rule Of Law was tinged with an irony that is impossible to ignore: When US presidents have lied to the public to justify catastrophic military adventures and the sadistic torture of detainees, its founder demonstrated little interest in the rule of law. And today, the neocon guru may not even be a Republican at all.
Alex Rubinstein is an independent reporter on Substack. You can subscribe to get free articles from him delivered to your inbox here. If you want to support his journalism, which is never put behind a paywall, you can give a one-time donation to him through PayPal here or sustain his reporting through Patreon here.