Some Trump fans argued Putin should have free reign, while others called for sending in US soldiers at a recent event.
COMMERCE, Georgia — Former President Donald Trump’s base is fractured over the issue of America’s engagement in Eastern Europe as he seeks to refine his message over Russia’s fight against Ukraine.
“It’s not our business,” Peggy Bright, 57, said soon before Trump addressed an unusually agitated and quiet crowd here Saturday night. She understands why Russian President Vladimir Putin would want to push back against NATO expansion.
“I’m not a Putin fan, but if it were here in America, I’d want our president to look after our people the same way he looks after them,” Bright, who works at a local bookbinding shop, said. “I see Putin’s point of view.”
Bright’s views echo the views of a segment of Trump’s supporters and the former president’s early admiration of Putin, but all do not share them. In interactions with Trump supporters in and around this town, approximately halfway between Atlanta and Greenville, South Carolina, opinions ranged from giving Putin carte blanche to sending in American troops on the other end of the spectrum.
That may explain Trump’s message’s contradiction in the face of Western democracies’ unanimity in condemning Putin, imposing economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia, and arming Ukraine.
Trump has blamed Biden for Russia’s aggression the entire time, but he has stopped praising Putin. Trump referred to the conflict as “Putin’s terrible strike” on Saturday.
“Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse,” Trump added, “Joe Biden completely failed to halt Russia’s heinous invasion of Ukraine.” “Every single one of them is no longer alive.” Every person of goodwill is shocked by Putin’s vicious attack on a proud and sovereign nation.”
Biden, whose support rating has just dipped to 40% in an NBC News survey, has attempted to increase pressure on Putin without committing US soldiers to a larger conflict. Just hours before Trump spoke at a drag racing circuit in northeast Georgia, Biden appeared to push for regime change in Russia while speaking to European leaders in Warsaw, Poland.
Biden’s aides hurried to argue he wasn’t announcing a new US policy, but his words — Putin “cannot remain in power” — may be indelible.
Some Trump supporters would like to see the US respond more forcefully.
At Saturday’s gathering, Alina Roberts, a Trump supporter born in Latvia and now lives in Atlanta, argued that Putin could not be stopped without direct US engagement.
“I love America and its troops, but I believe we need to send them there,” Roberts, 22, said. “If we don’t genuinely fight him — as a person if you realise what I’m saying — it’ll never end until he has all he wants.”
“That’s exactly what I’m proposing,” she added when asked if she thought the US should remove Putin from power.
In interviews, Trump supporters mostly agreed with the former president’s assessment that if Trump had been elected to a second term, Putin would not have invaded. They also chastised Biden from all sides, claiming that he had done too much and too little.
There is little bond on what should be done now, and several Trump supporters have expressed great hesitation.
Melanie Collier, 60, a consultant who designs special events, said, “It’s impossible to say whether we should be more involved or less involved.” “Of sure, everyone has compassion for the Ukrainians who are innocently participating in this, but we still don’t know what’s going on with the leadership.”
Her remarks reflect the Trump administration’s long-standing mistrust of Ukraine’s political elite. Trump was impeached for withholding congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in exchange for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announcing a probe into Biden and his son Hunter.