US House Speaker Johnson Breaks with Conservative Base, Designates Russia, China, Iran as ‘Axis of Evil’

Mike Johnson reverted to Republican orthodoxy as he vowed to get weapons to Ukraine as a matter of “critical” importance

In a dramatic break from his party’s hardline conservative base, US House Speaker MIke Johnson this week praised the country’s deep state, named Russia, China, and Iran as an “axis of evil,” and vowed to put his job on the line to funnel more than $60 billion to Kiev.

For months, Johnson has resisted bringing a $95 billion foreign aid bill to a vote, arguing that neither he nor his fellow Republicans could support such a bill – which would give $14 billion in military aid to Israel and $60 billion to Ukraine – without it being tied to an overhaul of US border security.

However, after a series of recent meetings with US intelligence chiefs, Johnson has changed his tune.

“This is a critical time right now, a critical time on the world stage,” Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. “I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important. I really do. I really do believe the intel and the briefings that we’ve gotten.”

“I believe [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and Iran really are an axis of evil,” he continued. “I think they’re in coordination on this. I think that Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed.”

Johnson’s comments represented a break with the Republican Party’s pro-Trump wing. These supporters of the former president – most prominent among them Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz – view the country’s intelligence agencies as arms of the anti-Trump “deep state,” and have called for the flow of money to Kiev to be halted.

“Fighting a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, which is a non-NATO member nation, is not protecting America’s national security interests, it doesn’t protect the United States of America, as a matter of fact, it pushes us closer and closer to world war three,” Greene told journalist Tucker Carlson earlier this month.

Johnson’s reference to an “axis of evil,” however, invokes the more interventionist GOP of the past. Coined by speechwriter David Frum, the phrase was first used by George W. Bush to refer to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton later added Cuba, Libya and Syria to the list.

Despite resistance from some of its Republican members, the House Rules Committee agreed on Thursday to split the foreign aid bill into three separate bills – one each for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. The house voted in favor of this move on Friday, leaving Johnson free to schedule a vote on each bill for Saturday, even as Greene filed a motion to remove him from the speakership.

Johnson said on Wednesday that he anticipated such a move, telling reporters that he was willing to “take personal risk” to pass the bills.