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Ron DeSantis says protecting Ukraine is not a key US interest


Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has abruptly broken with Republicans who are determined to defend Ukraine from invading Russia, saying in a statement released late Monday that protecting the European nation’s borders is not a vital interest to the United States and that policymakers should instead focus their attention on home.

The statement by Mr. DeSantis, who is considered a near-declared presidential candidate for the 2024 campaign, puts him in line with the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, former President Donald J. Trump.

The location Mr. DeSantis chose for his statement on a major foreign policy issue revealed almost as much as the substance of the statement itself. The statement aired on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” on Fox News. It was in response to a questionnaire that the host, Mr. Carlson, sent last week to all major potential Republican candidates for president, and amounts to an acknowledgment by Mr. DeSantis that a candidacy is in sight.

On Mr. Carlson’s show, Mr. DeSantis parted ways with Republicans who say the problem with Mr. Biden’s Ukraine policy is that he isn’t doing enough. Mr. DeSantis made it clear that he believed Mr. Biden was overdoing it, without a clearly defined goal, and taking actions that risked provoking a war between the United States and Russia.

Mr. Carlson is one of the staunchest opponents of US intervention in Ukraine. He called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a corrupt “anti-hero” and mocked him for dressing “like the manager of a strip club”.

“While the United States has many vital national interests – securing our borders, resolving the preparedness crisis with our military, ensuring energy security and independence, and controlling the Chinese Communist Party’s economic, cultural and military might – s ‘further tangling in territory Ukraine-Russia dispute is not one of them,’ Mr. DeSantis said in a statement that Mr. Carlson read aloud on his show.

Mr. DeSantis’ views on Ukraine politics now align with those of Mr. Trump. The former president also responded to Mr. Carlson’s questionnaire.

Mr Trump repeated a frequent riff, saying “both sides are tired and ready to make a deal” and that “the death and destruction must stop now”. Mr Trump has previously said he would let Russia “take control” of parts of Ukraine as part of a negotiated deal.

The position taken by Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump is at odds with the passionate support for Ukraine’s defense shown by other potential GOP candidates, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and the senator. South Carolina’s Tim Scott. He is also at sharp odds with most Republican senators, including Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader.

Mr Pence cast Ukraine’s struggle in a religious light, citing Bible verses in a recent speech he gave at the University of Texas at Austin to mark the one-year anniversary of President Vladimir P’s invasion. . Cheese fries.

‘Never forget that light shines in darkness and darkness cannot defeat it,’ Mr Pence said, standing at a lectern with American and Ukrainian flags behind him, and addressing the people Ukrainian.

“We will not forget your struggle for freedom and I believe the American people will stand with you until the light dawns on a victory for freedom in Ukraine and in Europe and for the whole world,” Mr. Pence added. “So help us God.”

Republican hawks, including Mr. Pence and Mrs. Haley, ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, have framed the fight to defend Ukraine as a fight for “freedom”. Mr McConnell made similar points, presenting the battle as one to defend the post-World War II international security order. All pushed President Biden to do more — send more lethal weapons and faster — to help Ukraine drive Russia out of its territory.

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Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump have rejected those calls. And their views are gaining traction among House Republicans and Republican voters, who are quick to lash out at US efforts to help Ukraine fight Russia.

A January poll by the Pew Research Center showed that 40% of independent Republican and Republican-leaning voters thought the United States was too supportive of Ukraine. Last March, the month after Mr Putin invaded, the proportion of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who held this view was just 9%.

In 2014 and 2015, when Mr. Putin was in the initial stages of his invasion of Ukraine by annexing Crimea, Mr. DeSantis looked like a conventional Republican hawk. He attacked then-President Obama for not doing enough – just as many Republicans today criticize President Biden.

“We in Congress have been urging the president, I have been, to provide arms to Ukraine,” DeSantis said in an interview with conservative radio host Bill Bennett in June 2015, unearthed by CNN.

“They want to fight their good fight. They do not ask us to fight for them. And the president firmly refused. And I think that’s a mistake.

But these anti-Russian views are less popular with the current GOP base, which has been conditioned over the past seven years by Mr. Trump and influential media figures such as Mr. Carlson, who have questioned why the United States United should view Mr. Putin as a threat to America.

And Mr. DeSantis’ statement to Mr. Carlson channeled these new currents.

“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,” he said. -he declares.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are increasingly using this “blank check” line as a safe stance to criticize Mr. Biden without appearing to abandon Ukraine. But Mr DeSantis went further – making it clear that he did not believe the defense of Ukraine should be a priority for a US president and excluding specific weapons.

“F-16s and long-range missiles should therefore be ruled out,” he added. “These steps would risk explicitly dragging the United States into the conflict and bringing us one step closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. This risk is unacceptable.

Mr. DeSantis’ statement was dripping with sarcastic contempt for policymakers who believe the only way to end the suffering of the Ukrainian people is to remove Mr. Putin from power.

“A policy of‘regime change’in Russia (undoubtedly popular among DC foreign policy interventionists),” Mr. DeSantis said, “would dramatically raise the stakes of the conflict, makingthe use of nuclear weapons more likely.Such a policy would not stop the death and destruction of war, nor produce a pro-American Madisonian constitutionalist in the Kremlin. History indicates that Putin’s successor, on this assumption, would likely be even more ruthless.The costs of achieving such a dubious result could become astronomical.

Mr. DeSantis added: “We cannot prioritize intervening in an escalating foreign war over defending our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying. each year because of narcotics smuggled across our open border and our arsenals of weapons critical to our own security. wear out quickly.

So far, Mr. DeSantis, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy for president, has largely avoided speaking in detail about Ukraine since Mr. Putin’s full-scale invasion in 2022. For a leader who prides himself on being aggressively proactive and keeping his opponents at bay, he was sometimes caught off guard on his recent book tour as reporters pressed him on politics’ most important issue foreign.

He voiced his irritation at a Times of London reporter who pushed Mr DeSantis over how he was proposing Ukraine be treated differently, given that he was attacking Mr Biden as “weak on the world stage and failing to deter.

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

Republican internationalists and hawkish elements within the party’s donor class were alarmed by this interview and another recent clip on Fox News in which Mr. DeSantis briefly pointed out – in a way that was open to multiple interpretations. – that he wondered to what extent the defense of Ukraine was in the American national interest. But they remained hopeful that Mr. DeSantis would return to their side.

In a February 23 Wall Street Journal column, influential conservative writer Kimberley A. Strassel all but begged Mr. DeSantis to part ways with Mr. Trump, who she said was part of a “GOP surrender caucus.” on Ukraine. She framed Ukraine’s war with Russia as a major national security issue that Mr. DeSantis needed to address. Ms. Strassel called it the “first test of the GOP field.”

nytimes Gt

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