At a moment Western officials and even some mainstream media are beginning to express doubt over Ukraine’s ability to push Russian forces back, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will likely enter the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has issued his sharpest criticisms yet of America’s role in the Ukraine war, calling it fundamentally a “territorial dispute” which the US should stay out of.
The statements came as part of his response to a questionnaire issued to possible 2024 presidential candidates by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. The questionnaire asked whether protecting Ukraine should be part of US “vital national interests”. DeSantis ripped Biden’s policy as a virtual “blank check” which serves to erode US interests and “distracts” from what should be more pressing priorities.
He stressed that the United States government “cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland” – which also echoes the scathing critiques of a small cadre of GOP Congressional members like Matt Gaetz, Thomas Massie, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“While the U.S. 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. Likely the reference is to the civil war which predates the Feb.24, 2022 Russian invasion by many years: the conflict in Donbas which went back to 2014 and by many estimates took over 14,000 lives on both sides.
“The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges,” he added.
Crucially, he also used the questionnaire as an opportunity to point out that the Biden White House’s irresponsible escalation of involvement in supporting Kiev has ultimately pushed Moscow into “a de facto alliance” with China.
“Because China has not and will not abide by the embargo, Russia has increased its foreign revenues while China benefits from cheaper fuel. Coupled with his intentional depletion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and support for the Left’s Green New Deal, Biden has further empowered Russia’s energy-dominated economy and Putin’s war machine at Americans’ expense,” the Florida governor said.
And on the question of F-16s, which is currently being pushed by some Congressional hawks and reportedly being mulled over by the administration…
DeSantis said F-16s and long-range missiles should be “off the table” because the moves could risk “drawing the United States into the conflict and drawing us closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.”
The Florida Republican further went after what he called the US policy of “regime change” in Russia which he said is “no doubt popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists”.
2024 Poll: Trump and DeSantis neck and neck among Republican voters for GOP nomination, economy top issue https://t.co/oECu7RP7Gv
— Fox News (@FoxNews) March 14, 2023
Despite Biden officially rejecting that he has a policy of regime change, DeSantis emphasized that the current trajectory tends in that direction, leaving no good options as things escalate in Ukraine. He said that any attempt to remove Putin from power “would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely.”
“Such a policy would neither stop the death and destruction of the war, nor produce a pro-American, Madisonian constitutionalist in the Kremlin. History indicates that Putin’s successor, in this hypothetical, would likely be even more ruthless,” he wrote. “The costs to achieve such a dubious outcome could become astronomical.”
Given that Donald Trump is running, and some polls have put their popularity and support among Republican voters very close, it will be interesting to see if Trump matches or surpasses DeSantis’ emphasis on non-interventionism in the “territorial dispute” in Ukraine. Certainly Trump has already been out front in being vocal against Biden’s policies in Ukraine. All of this at the very least means the debate within the GOP is likely to slide more and more against a policy of escalating American involvement, despite the hawks still by and large exercising most influence at the moment.
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