Republicans Push Hard Line on Russia While Defending Trump’s NATO Comments

Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, said on Sunday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a “murderous dictator” responsible for the death of the opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, and that “we need strong leadership coming from America that actually pushes back against Russia and other dictators.”

Then Mr. Scott followed up with the leap of logic that many ambitious Republicans have employed in trying to toe a tough line on Russia while pledging fealty to a former president who has done the opposite. He said the one man for that job was Donald J. Trump.

“Unfortunately, Joe Biden is not up for that charge and Donald Trump is,” Mr. Scott, who has been mentioned as a potential running mate for Mr. Trump, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Mr. Scott’s comments on the Sunday television circuit were a reflection of the fear that congressional Republicans with political ambitions have of alienating Mr. Trump and his base: They purport to take a hard line against Russia while being careful not to say anything that could antagonize the former president.

Mr. Trump has recently said he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies that do not contribute sufficiently to collective defense. And during the 2016 election, Mr. Trump’s campaign sought close contacts with Russian government officials who were helping him get elected, according to a bipartisan congressional report.

On Sunday, Representative Michael R. Turner, Republican of Ohio and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that it was “very, very important for the United States to stand strong and stand with Ukraine.” He warned of the effects of allowing Russia to continue its aggression, noting that it would “jeopardize other areas of Europe.”

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