December 9, 2023

Time and time again, House Republicans prove they are all talk and no action. Nowhere is this more apparent than recent departures from near-uniform support of Ukraine against the aggressions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. With nearly all Republicans calling for funding and support for Israel and GOP rhetoric backing Taiwan’s independence at peak levels, it is time to sound the alarm: House Republicans cannot be trusted to follow-through when it counts.

In the House of Representatives and the Senate, there is bipartisan agreement that we must aid the people of Taiwan. Just a few months ago, then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy made history by publicly meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen on U.S. soil. A day before, a Republican-led congressional delegation arrived in Taiwan to express their backing of Taiwan’s democracy.

Earlier this year, 21 House Republicans signed a letter affirming “it is critical that U.S. leaders continue … supporting a free Taiwan and rejecting China’s provocation.” House Republican Debbie Lesko declared that “we will continue to stand with the people of Taiwan.” Another GOP member, Ken Buck, claimed that he opposed the “Chinese government … undermin[ing] the Taiwanese people’s right to self-determination.” This all contributed to a bipartisan vote that created a special House committee to closely scrutinize the Chinese Communist Party. Every Republican supported this effort.

Symbol of Freedom
A man walks past Taiwanese national flags on Nangan island in Taiwan’s Matsu Islands on Oct. 13.

All of this may sound strikingly familiar to the posture my Republican colleagues held during the first months of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. It was not long ago that Republicans strongly voted YES on Democrat-led bills to supply the Ukrainian people with weapons, intelligence, and aid. GOP members like the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Mark Green, proudly stated that he “stands with Ukraine.” Others prominently displayed on social media that they were personally sanctioned by Russia as a badge of honor.

Yet, today, these same House Republicans are singing a different tune. Recently, a majority of them—117—voted to gut critical security assistance for Ukraine. Last week, MAGA extremists in the House proposed a litany of amendments in our annual defense funding bill that would have broken America’s promise to Ukraine. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) proposed one such amendment that would strip $300 million in Ukrainian funding—89 Republicans voted in favor of it. An amendment offered by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to end all federal funds to Ukraine similarly garnered 70 GOP votes. These GOP demands for Ukraine to forfeit its sovereignty come at the price of nothing more than a few tenths of a percentage point in government spending.

Finally, in throwing out Kevin McCarthy as the speaker of the House, Gaetz repeatedly cited McCarthy’s support for Ukraine. A stark threat was made to any future speaker of the Republican party: if you want the MAGA vote, you must turn your back against Ukraine and bend the knee to Russia.

Who can now believe that House Republicans will defend Taiwan after such a flagrant disregard for the Ukrainian people? There is no separating Ukraine’s fight with Taiwan’s freedom. And the survival of both democracies is linked to our own.

Last month, I attended meetings at the United Nations General Assembly to advocate for Ukraine and Taiwan. My goal was to thank allies for their assistance and encourage those on the sidelines to join in the fight for freedom.

Over the past few years, Congress and the president increased arms sales to Taiwan. Unlike Ukraine, Taiwan is an island nation without the benefit of a western land bridge to its allies. China has already demonstrated plans to blockade the island by sending warships and planes into the South China Sea, seeking to choke off trade and instill fear in the Taiwanese people. This all means Taiwan must be prepared to repel the Chinese military before an attack. Once an invasion occurs, that will be it—nothing else will come in or out.

In sum, we must fully arm Taiwan as quickly as possible. But experiences with Ukraine show that Taiwan should worry about Republicans’ resolve when it comes time to act. Talking a big game on China without the will to defend freedom is nothing more than empty rhetoric.

There is no question that Chinese leader Xi Jinping is closely watching American leadership on Ukraine. This is a test. Xi wants to know just how far we are willing to go to defend democracy. He knows that walking away from Ukraine guarantees no country will come to our aid to assist with Taiwan. And why would they when the U.S., which consistently takes the lead on defending democracy worldwide, fails to live up to that reputation?

When Taiwan needs our help the most, our record on Ukraine will speak for itself. Should the GOP continue to show cowardice, I am afraid, yet another free democracy will fall. Worse, innocent civilians will be caught in the path of war if we do not act with the necessary conviction to prevent a catastrophic invasion.

Let’s finally put to bed any notion that what happens in Ukraine does not matter to us or our allies. Whether it is assisting Israel in defending itself against Hamas, supporting Ukrainians from Iranian-made Russian-deployed drones, or supplying Taiwan with the necessary defenses to secure its land from invasion, we are less safe when Republicans talk tough but act soft.

Freedom’s future depends on having the conviction to act when necessary to defend liberty. And it’s time my Republican colleagues join us in answering that call.

Rep. Eric Swalwell represents the 15th District of California and is a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Follow him on Twitter at @RepSwalwell.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.