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Our Best Stuff From the Week of Zelensky’s World Tour
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Our Best Stuff From the Week of Zelensky’s World Tour

Plus, the debt-ceiling debate and lots and lots on 2024.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrives in Hiroshima, Japan to attend the G-7' summit on May 20, 2023. (Photo by Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Hello! I hope you’re enjoying the weekend. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is spending his at the G-7 Summit in Japan, where he was given a red-carpet welcome and is meeting with leaders to discuss cooperation and support for the Ukrainian war effort. 

It’s the culmination of a series of trips he’s taken over the last week to bolster support. Some of the leaders he’s meeting with in Japan—U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni—are very familiar to him since he just met with them last weekend. He also visited Saudi Arabia to attend the Arab League summit on Friday. 

“I think we can all be united in saving people from the cages of Russian prisons,” he said at the Arab League summit. “Unfortunately, there are some in the world and here among you who turn a blind eye to those cages and illegal annexations,” he continued, “and I am here so that everyone can take an honest look no matter how hard the Russians try to influence.”

One reason Zelensky is making this world tour is because the support provided thus far by the United States is in danger of running out. As Politico noted this week, “The $48 billion Ukraine aid package that Congress approved in December has about $6 billion left, meaning U.S. funding for weapons and supplies could dry up by midsummer.”

While previous aid packages for Ukraine passed Congress with broad partisan support, nothing has been put forth since Republicans took control of the House after the midterms. Far-right members of the GOP caucus not only oppose more aid to Ukraine but have considerable influence over Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who has a precarious hold over the speakership. Passing another round of funding could prove challenging.

And so, while the war in Ukraine is at a crucial point—heavy fighting is going on in Bakhmut, with both sides claiming to make gains, and Russia has been launching missile attacks on Kyiv and other cities—the country’s leader is traveling the world asking for help. 

It’s good that he is able to do so, and it’s important for other nations to back the Ukrainian effort. As Ukraine supporters have been saying since the beginning, it’s much cheaper to beat Putin now than it would be to fight a wider war across Europe. But it also demonstrates how our domestic politics can influence global politics in less than desirable ways. 

For some folks, that’s just fine. Isolationism is a feature, not a bug, for much of the populist right. And that might be a somewhat defensible position if the people who say, “Let’s fix our problems at home first” had a serious commitment to … fixing our problems at home. But many of them are too busy pining for a return to bikini-laden beer commercials or getting into scraps with fellow lawmakers to do any actual work. 

And it’s not just Ukraine. President Joe Biden is at the G-7 summit this weekend, but he’s coming home on Sunday to help facilitate negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. He was supposed to continue on to New Guinea to discuss regional security and then to Australia for a meeting with fellow “Quad” leaders–Australia, India, and Japan, to discuss China. As many have noted, the beneficiary of Biden’s abbreviated trip is … China. (And yes, as Kevin notes in his newsletter that I’ve summarized below, Biden is largely responsible for the debt-ceiling debate dragging on; our unseriousness is a bipartisan affliction.)

While some Americans resent that the United States is the leading power in the world, they ignore the fact that if it ain’t us, it’s going to be somebody. And that somebody is less likely to be a force for freedom and democracy throughout the world. 

Thanks for reading. 

One of the knocks on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is that he’s not very good at the more personal aspects of campaigning: shaking hands, kissing babies, that kind of thing. David Drucker was in Iowa last weekend, and he reports that DeSantis is making an effort on that front. DeSantis flipped burgers and made small talk at Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra’s annual fundraiser and then spent an hour shaking hands and meeting locals at a nearby Pizza Ranch. Drucker writes: “DeSantis’ meteoric rise in the party has been fueled by his policy agenda and the aggressiveness with which he’s pursued it. But running for president is different, and veteran Florida Republicans who have followed the governor’s ascension up close wondered if he was willing to make the necessary adjustments to his campaign style. Judging by this past weekend’s swing through Iowa … the answer would appear to be ‘yes.’” 

Joe Biden spent weeks trying to play hardball on the debt ceiling—at least until he announced he would cut short his trip to Asia to come home and negotiate. Maybe he’s heeding the reminder that Kevin gave him in Wanderland (🔒) on Monday. (Hey, we can always hope.) Kevin kicks off his newsletter by pointing out that McCarthy and Biden have something in common: They are both elected. “There is no getting around that,” Kevin writes. “The voters gave Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives, which has the first and foremost constitutional role in purse-string management. President Biden doesn’t like that. He doesn’t have to. He just has to do his job.” That does not mean that Kevin is impressed with McCarthy as speaker of the House, or with the debt ceiling plan that McCarthy has passed: “ I have no interest in carrying any political water for a hack like Kevin McCarthy or the collection of miscreants he leads in Congress, but it is President Biden here who is being the irresponsible obstructionist.” 

Bakhmut has been the site of a prolonged conflict between Russian and Ukrainian forces. But that’s not the only battle going on in the city, Charlotte reports. A mercenary warlord is fighting with Russian military leaders. Yevgeny Prigozhin accuses Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the military’s chief of staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov for failing to provide enough resources for him to take the city. He even threatened to leave Bakhmut if he wasn’t given ammunition (he didn’t leave) and posted a video, with corpses of his soldiers behind him, in which he said, “They came here as volunteers and are dying so you can sit like fat cats in your luxury offices.” Prigozhin might be angry, but sources explain to Charlotte why he’s in no position to retreat. And Charlotte details other challenges facing Prigozhin. Speaking of Ukraine, Nick checks in on what’s going well for Ukraine and poorly for Vladimir Putin in Boiling Frogs (🔒).

Here’s the best of the rest:

  • Mike Pence hasn’t announced his 2024 candidacy yet, but he does have an aligned super PAC. Michael Warren reports that Committed to America will “support Pence through both a messaging campaign and what its organizers claim will be a robust ground game in early primary states.”
  • In Permanent Campaign (🔒), Sarah argues that a Biden-Trump rematch wouldn’t just be a replay of 2020. In a lot of ways, it would also be a replay of 2016: Both candidates are so unpopular that neither one can imagine losing to the other. “One of these teams is going to be stunned on Election Night and there lies the path to ‘we couldn’t have lost, therefore the election was stolen’ stuff.” 
  • A busy week for Drucker: He talked to New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who told him that he’s considering a run for the GOP nomination and will decide by June 30.
  • If you’re feeling blue about the economy, Scott Lincicome is here to cheer you up with his latest Capitolism  (🔒). He notes that the economy is in great shape, and much better than the rest of the world.
  • And don’t forget the pods: On Advisory Opinions, David Lat joins Sarah to discuss the latest Supreme Court decisions. Meanwhile, Sarah, Steve, and Michael Warren hash out the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Durham report on The Dispatch Podcast. And on The Remnant, Chris Stirewalt and Jonah do a deep dive into rank pundrity, alleviated only by a significant amount of pop-culture nerdery.

Rachael Larimore is managing editor of The Dispatch and is based in the Cincinnati area. Prior to joining the company in 2019, she served in similar roles at Slate, The Weekly Standard, and The Bulwark. She and her husband have three sons.