Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida and potential 2024 GOP presidential candidate, declared this week that defending Ukraine against Russia's invasion was not a key interest for the United States in an appearance on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News.
"While the U.S. has many vital national interests… becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them," DeSantis said.
DeSantis argued that the United States “should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders,” adding that providing F-16s and long-range missiles would be “off the table.”
DeSantis also said, “citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine” and knocked regime change policy “popular among the D.C. foreign policy interventionists.”
This signals a shift away from the interventionism that characterized former President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By playing down the stakes of the war as a “territorial dispute” that is not of vital interest to America, DeSantis has angered many Republicans. Many Republican figures have balked at DeSantis's statements.
Senator Marco Rubio challenged DeSantis's assertion that the war was a “territorial dispute,” and said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, “well, it's not a territorial dispute in the sense that any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided that it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas. Just because someone claims something doesn't mean it belongs to them.”
On Tuesday, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted, “If Putin loses in Ukraine, then the world resets in all the right ways. More conflict is coming if he wins in Ukraine and the west capitulates just like in the past.”
Former Rep. Liz Cheney told the New York Times on Tuesday that “the Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom. Surrendering to Putin and refusing to defend freedom makes America less safe.” Cheney added, “DeSantis is wrong and seems to have forgotten the lessons of Ronald Reagan.”
Senator John Cornyn of Texas said to Politico that he was “disturbed” by Mr. DeSantis's comments.
DeSantis's statements have invoked international ire as well. Ukraine has since invited Governor DeSantis to visit the war-torn nation. Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, "we invite him to visit Ukraine to get a deeper understanding of Russia's full-scale invasion and the threats it poses to U.S. interests."
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