Trump and DeSantis to MAGAtinos: You can stop worrying about Russia

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta – AP


COMMENTARY: Trivializing Russia’s Ukraine invasion as a “territorial dispute” tells MAGA Latinos that Putin is a benign influence in the Américas, too.

By WLRNTim Padgett

Mar 16, 2023

Good news, MAGAtinos (MAGA Latinos) — you don’t have to worry about Russia anymore!

That’s because the two Republican leaders you exalt as demigods — former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — say you don’t.

This week Trump — who notched almost half of Florida’s Latino vote in 2020, a remarkable share for a GOP presidential candidate —and DeSantis — who in his re-election landslide last November swept the state’s Latino vote by an even more astonishing 15% — are both insisting that Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine is nothing more than a little “territorial dispute” that the U.S. has no business butting into.

Opposing Russia is “not … a vital American strategic interest,” said 2024 presidential re-candidate Trump. He was echoed by probable 2024 presidential candidate DeSantis, who asserted that “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not” a U.S. priority.

So there you go, MAGAtinos — your Problema de Putin is solved!

All those fears and anxieties about Russia propping up the disastrously dictatorial governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua? They were so overblown, guys. All that gnashing of teeth over military cooperation between those regimes and Russia’s Stalin-wannabe tyrant? Don’t you feel now like you were just obsessing over nonsense?

You were, according to Donald and Ronald. By downplaying — make that unconscionably trivializing — the bloody blitzkrieg in Ukraine that Vladimir Putin launched a year ago, Trump and DeSantis are essentially minimalizing his threat anywhere in the world. That includes this hemisphere and all the socialista places, real or imagined, whose love affair with Russia keeps Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians and other exile communities here awake at night.

Now they can get some REM sleep.

If Russia’s monstrous rape of Ukraine shouldn’t make the world’s democracies shudder, then neither should we fret about Putin slithering onto our hemispheric street.

Take all those Cuba-and-Russia preocupaciones. It was only last week that the Miami Herald editorial page told us the U.S. is right to keep the communist island on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Herald’s chief argument: the “growing indications that Cuba and Russia are getting cozy again … with Russia again helping Cuba with its food shortages and heaven-knows-what-else.”

I respectfully disagree with the Herald’s premise: receiving aid from another government, even one as sinister as Putin’s, doesn’t make a regime, even one as odious as Cuba’s, a state sponsor of terrorism. Nonetheless, I understand, if not share, the fears about Russia’s toxic influence in the Americas that weigh on Cubans and so many others in South Florida.

Geopolitical specter

But! It turns out those fears were unfounded. If Russia’s monstrous rape of Ukraine is just a “territorial dispute” that shouldn’t make democracies across the globe shudder, then neither should we fret about Putin slithering onto our hemispheric street.

All those Venezuelan deals with Russian military contractors like the Wagner Group that help President-dictator Nicolás Maduro’s security forces keep him in iron-fisted power? Or the red carpet Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega recently rolled out for Russia’s military to deploy in his country?

If Trump and DeSantis are right — if Putin’s just engaging in an unfortunate turf spat in Ukraine — then these are not the dark dalliances the “woke” U.S. media and political establishment have been telling South Florida’s Latinos they are. Russia is a benign player after all.

And MAGAtinos here have one fewer geopolitical specter to haunt them.

Those Latino voters of course won’t question the fact that Trump and DeSantis are throwing one of their community’s key foreign policy concerns under the bus so they can woo white, isolationist MAGA voters, many of whom admire Putin. MAGAtinos didn’t question DeSantis last year when, as a love letter to American xenophobes, he flew a group of desperate Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard for a punitive political stunt.

Not even the objections of conservative Florida Senator and Cuban-American Marco Rubio — who disagreed with Trump and DeSantis and likened Russia’s Ukraine attack to the U.S. invading Canadá — will likely persuade MAGAtinos that their Russia stress is still warranted.

I respectfully agree with the Senator. But if a lot of Rubio’s fellow South Florida Latinos don’t take him seriously in this instance, it might be because Rubio himself once scolded the media and political establishment for criticizing then President Trump’s bromance with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

If Kim could get a pass, MAGAtinos will now reason, why not Putin?

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