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Ron DeSantis says protecting Ukraine is not a ‘vital’ US interest


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate, broke with many members of his party on Monday and told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not not a “vital” national interest for the United States.

“While the United States has many vital national interests – securing our borders, resolving the readiness crisis within our military, ensuring energy security and independence, and controlling the economic, cultural and military might of the Communist Party of China. – further entanglement in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis wrote in a questionnaire response. Carlson posted on his Twitter feed.

“The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ with no defined goals or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges,” DeSantis continued. .

He argued that ‘peace should be the goal’ of the United States and expressed his opposition to sending ‘F-16s and long-range missiles’ to help Ukraine defend against war of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The response aligns DeSantis with former President Donald Trump — who leads many GOP primary polls — and against many congressional Republicans who have supported Ukraine aid. It signals the growing power of isolationist sentiments within a party that has long advocated for an active American presence in world affairs. And that will likely be a problem in the party’s presidential primary.

DeSantis, a Trump protege who has built a following among conservative voters, is favored by many establishment Republicans who want closure on the former president.

Trump, responding to the same questionnaire on whether opposing Russia in Ukraine is vital to US interests, replied: “No, but it’s for Europe. But not for the United States.”

Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Republicans on the other side of the issue have argued that defending Ukraine against Putin’s territorial ambitions is critical to protecting not only the European interests, but also American interests.

At the Munich Security Conference last month, McConnell said, “Let me start by saying: I am a conservative Republican from America, and I come in peace. Reports of the death of Republican support for strong American leadership around the world have been greatly exaggerated. .”

“We are determined to help Ukraine. Not because of vague moral arguments or abstractions like the so-called ‘rules-based international order’. But rather, because America’s core national interests are at stake. game,” added McConnell. “Because our security is intertwined and our economies are intertwined.”

DeSantis’ response to Carlson is his most detailed response yet on the burning foreign policy issue. He appeared frustrated in a recent interview with The Times of London, according to the reporter who spoke to him, when pressed for more details on how he would deal with Ukraine.

“Perhaps you should cover other ground?” said DeSantis. “I think I’ve said enough.”

As a member of Congress, DeSantis voted for several defense bills that provided U.S. military and intelligence support to Ukraine.

And in 2016, DeSantis voted for a resolution calling on then-President Barack Obama to “provide Ukraine with deadly defensive weapons systems to enhance the ability of the Ukrainian people to defend their sovereign territory against unprovoked and continued aggression by the Russian Federation. ”

Former Vice President Mike Pence took thinly veiled photos of DeSantis in a speech praising U.S. engagement in Ukraine in Texas last month and in a follow-up interview.

“I would say anyone who thinks Vladimir Putin will stop at Ukraine is wrong,” Pence said when asked about DeSantis’ stance on US efforts to help push back Russia in Europe.

At a donors’ conference in Texas in February, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ridiculed DeSantis for claiming that President Joe Biden had focused more on the Ukrainian border than the US border with the United States. Mexico, according to Politico. Christie said it was one of the “false picks” some Republicans are pressing and asked how “they teach foreign policy in Tallahassee.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.