In a very real way, the United States of America and the Russian Federation have been at war for eight years now.

Russian partisans will tell you that the U.S. started it when Victoria Nuland was representing U.S. interests in Ukraine in 2014, around the time Russia invaded and seized Crimea. Robert Mueller and the FBI will tell you it really started in 2015 and 2016 when Russia spent millions – via the Internet Research Agency, to successfully intervene in the U.S. election and put Trump into the White House. However it got started, this is the current status of the war:

The U.S. has invested something on the order of 2 percent of our defense budget to arm Ukraine (without putting a single American soldier in danger) and the result has been the destruction of more than 4,000 Russian tanks, 8,000 armored personnel carriers, several Russian warships, three elite Russian brigades, a major Russian air defense system, and just two weeks ago, Ukraine’s army commander claimed that Russia’s 72nd Motor Rifle Brigade, the 31st Air Assault Brigade, and the 83rd Air Assault Brigade were all “crushed” in the Bakhmut area fighting.

But while America is using Russia’s terrorist attacks on Ukraine as an opportunity to degrade the power and influence of Russia’s military, Putin is using social media and rightwing commentary to get Republican politicians on their side and thus kill off U.S. aid to Ukraine. The war in Gaza is making it even easier, with Putin-aligned politicians like Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeting: “Any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately.”

Russia’s battlefield, in other words, is now shifting from Ukraine to the U.S. political system and our homes via radio, TV, and the internet, all in the hopes of ending U.S. aid. And the momentum is following that shift: Russia is close to having the upper hand because of Putin’s ability to get Republican voters and politicians to mouth his talking points and propaganda.

And here Russia’s investment is really paying off. According to The New York Times, Russia’s ally China has been funneling money to progressive groups; just last week one of them attacked Senator Bernie Sanders at his office as a “warmonger” for supporting Ukraine against Russia’s brutal terror attacks.

Similarly, so-called leftwing podcasters, commentators, and broadcasters, particularly on some community stations, are seeing a huge upsurge in shows attacking U.S. aid to Ukraine. It’s become “fashionable” for those on the so-called “far left” (actually, supporting a war of aggression by a fascist state against a democracy is about as far right as you can get) to take Putin’s side in the conflict and echo his curses against NATO and Ukraine.

Russia is pouring resources into influencing those on the American right, too. Through their social media and other influencers’ campaigns, they’ve succeeded in getting high-profile Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene to openly cheerlead for their rape-and-murder campaign in Ukraine.

Russia is making this a priority because they believe it’s their best bet to destroy Ukraine, either by having the U.S. cut off aid or by putting Trump or another Putin-aligned MAGA Republican in the White House next year.

Both Democrats and Republicans have come right out and said clearly how the degradation of the Russian military at such a low cost and risk to the U.S. is a huge bargain. The Russians know it, too, which is why they’re spending so much to win the information war and cut off our aid.

Helping Russia, Republicans who are afraid of Trump and authoritarian rightwing media — including right wing radio and cable television hosts — keep bowing to Putin. Just a few weeks ago, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy refused to let Ukrainian President Zelenskyy speak to a formal meeting of Congress and then cut Ukraine aid out of the 45-day package to keep the U.S. government open.

Score one for Putin thanks to Republicans in the House of Representatives. So, here in America, Russia is advancing faster, it appears, than Ukraine is advancing in their ongoing fall offensive on the battlefield. Here in America, Russia is on the verge of winning a complete halt to U.S. support for the war, and all they need to cement the deal in a way that will signal the end of Ukraine as an independent democratic nation is for Trump to re-enter the White House in January, 2025.

On the Russian side, their media and politicians don’t dare question the savage attacks they’re inflicting on Ukrainian civilians. Instead, they openly support pro-Russian Americans like Tucker Carlson: they, too, know that this is an information war on the cheap that Russia might be able to win if they can just convince a few million more Americans that Ukraine isn’t worth defending.

Most recently, Jim Jordan has said that he will take Ukraine aid off the table, handing the war to Russia. Republican voters are also trending very Russia-friendly right now – Brookings reports 44% of Republicans oppose more Ukraine aid, in part because Putin helped put Trump in office and in part because Trump does whatever Putin tells him to and right now that includes trash-talking U.S. aid to Ukraine.

Last week I heard a self-professed leftie on a community station tie himself into knots trying to draw parallels between U.S. support for Ukraine and the War in Vietnam, which I opposed. But Russia is not a then-poverty-stricken China, and the other “dominoes” that fell (Laos, Cambodia) were much less globally consequential to the world order than all of Europe.

Russia and China weren’t even directly involved in attacking South Vietnam; that was North Vietnam. Those two countries were simply doing there what we’re doing now with Ukraine: providing hardware and technical support. And it worked: they drove us out of Vietnam altogether.

In Ukraine, we are very much not intervening in a civil war like we did in Vietnam and, as noted, we are playing a role reversal from the one we did in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. We are doing in Ukraine what Russia and China did in Vietnam, and we know how that turned out. Using their strategy — if we do not give in to Russian propaganda efforts — we can help Ukraine win and repel the Russian invasion.

Today Russia is the world’s second largest nuclear power and if they take Ukraine and then push against NATO’s borders it could well provoke WWIII. And a newly-powerful and wealthy China is watching the entire process, considering how parallels to it may unfold if they decide to attack Taiwan.

Maintaining high levels of U.S. support for Ukraine is one of the best ways to avoid another ground war in Europe and to diminish fascist Russia’s ability to repeat the barbaric mass murder campaigns they previously carried out in Syria, Chechnya, Georgia, Moldova, and now Ukraine. Plus we’re simply keeping our side of the bargain from the Budapest Accords.

That said, Russia is throwing everything they have at U.S. and European social media to convince Americans we should abandon Ukraine. Over at Freedom Academy on Substack, Asha Rangappa has details on exactly how they’re doing it, with intercepted and translated Russian instructions to their trolls including:

“Fully support Donald Trump and express the hope that this time around Congress will be forced to act as the president [Trump] says it should [with regard to aid to Ukraine]. Emphasize that if Congress continues to act like the Colonial British government did before the War of Independence, this will call for another revolution. Summarize that Trump once again proved that he stands for protecting the interests of the United States of America.”

Putin’s social media influence campaign is having such a success with Republican followers of Donald Trump both in and out of Congress that this is now a critical time — perhaps a turning point — in U.S. aid for Ukraine. Putin is throwing everything he has at it – as you can see by reading posts pretending to be Americans on Facebook and Twitter/X.

Let your members of Congress know that you support Ukraine aid being tied to Israeli aid, as Democrats in the House and Senate are demanding: the number is 202-224-3121.

J. Scott Applewhite (AP), Jose Luis Magana (AP), Charlie Neibergall (AP)

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