Republican DeSantis says US should not get further involved in war in Ukraine
The Florida governor's remarks echo Trump's stance and are likely to change the mood in the Republican party further from support of Ukraine
The top two Republicans in polling for the 2024 presidential nomination, Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, have said that defending Ukraine is not a critical US interest, remarks that will demoralize Kyiv and encourage Vladimir Putin to believe that time is on his side, the Guardian reports
Trump, a longtime Putin supporter, has been consistently skeptical of US support for Ukraine, and has suggested that he could broker a peace deal in which Ukraine would give up territory. DeSantis had previously tried to avoid questions about Ukraine, and his new remarks are likely to shift Republican sentiment away from support for Ukraine.
Tucker Carlson, the primetime Fox News host, posed a questionnaire to both men and posted the results on Twitter.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis stated that the United States should not "become further entangled" in the Russia-Ukraine war.
Trump, the former president who leads polls, said the Ukraine conflict was not vital to the United States, but it was for Europe, which is why it should be paying far more than we are, or equal.
The comments come at a time when neither side has been able to make significant advances on the battlefield. Ukraine hopes to end the standoff this spring, but it is unclear whether it has enough weapons and experienced soldiers to do so.
According to analysts, the longer the war lasts, the better Putin's chances become, as Kyiv's western backers tire of the cost and Russia's larger population becomes an increasingly important factor.
“While the US has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese communist party – becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis also accused Joe Biden of giving Ukraine a "virtual blank check" and said: “Without question, peace should be the objective. The US should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders.”
Biden has stated that no US troops will be deployed, and he has not urged Kyiv to go beyond attempting to expel its invaders.
“F-16s and long-range missiles should … be off the table,” DeSantis said. “These moves would risk explicitly drawing the United States … closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. That risk is unacceptable.”
The governor also said “a policy of ‘regime change’ in Russia (no doubt popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists) would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely”.
Apart from an off-the-cuff remark by Biden a year ago that Putin cannot remain in power, the administration has been steadfast in its refusal to pursue regime change.
“Russia would definitely not have raided and attacked Ukraine if I was your president,” Trump responded to Carlson.
He typically couched policy prescriptions in financial terms, claiming that the United States was being duped by its European allies. Trump was frequently accused of subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin during his four years in office.
While Senate Republicans generally support US military assistance to Ukraine, a growing number of hard-right representatives in the House are calling for an end to it. With his remarks, DeSantis took sides in a heated internal party debate.
Former senior CIA official Douglas London speculated that the remarks could be tactical.
“DeSantis’ dismissal of Russia’s war in Ukraine as a vital US interest will invite the Kremlin’s cyber [and] disinformation tools to amplify his message, charge his base and further sow American division,” London tweeted.
“I was taught and I believe US domestic and international policies are driven foremost by our nation’s values. Independence, sovereignty, respect for individual freedoms and rights, rule of law, dignity of fellow humans … That’s why we help Ukraine,” Mark Hertling, a retired general and CNN national security analyst, said.
DeSantis's description of Russia's invasion of Ukraine as a 'territorial dispute' drew particularly harsh criticism.
Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic operative and pollster, said Republicans’ “rancid appeasement of Putin has been among the darkest chapters in all of American history. DeSantis parrots the Kremlin taking points on Ukraine, again”.
Carlson's questions were also answered by other candidates and prospective candidates.
Former Vice President Mike Pence cited Ronald Reagan in describing the need to stand up to Russia, aligning himself with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
“I would say anyone that thinks… Putin will stop at Ukraine is wrong,” Pence said.
Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley issued a statement in support of continued military support for Ukraine.
“Russia’s objective is to take over all of Ukraine by military force. Our objective should be to help the Ukrainians prevent that from happening,” he said.
“Will ‘Republican internationalists and hawkish elements in the party’s donor class’ rally to candidates like Pence, Haley or Christie now that DeSantis has joined Team Tucker on Ukraine? Or will they once again submit, and embrace dangerous demagoguery?” Trump critic Bill Kristol asked.