Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted President Biden’s support of Ukraine on Monday and argued that helping the European nation fend off Russia’s invading forces is not a vital national interest.
DeSantis, who has reportedly told allies in private that he plans to run for president in 2024, issued the statement in response to a questionnaire sent by Fox News host Tucker Carlson to all major prospective Republican presidential candidates last week.
The host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” asked declared and potential candidates whether the US opposing Russia in Ukraine is a vital strategic interest for America; what the US objective in Ukraine is and how the US will know when it has been achieved; should there be a limit on weapons and money sent to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; have US sanctions against Russia been effective; and does the US face the risk of nuclear war with Russia.
In his response, DeSantis, 44, separated himself from Republicans who say the problem with the 80-year-old president’s Ukraine policy is that he hasn’t done enough.
“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 in a statement.
“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 argued.
The Sunshine State governor said that “peace should be the objective” in Ukraine and that the US shouldn’t provide Zelensky with weapons that might necessitate the deployment of American troops or allow the Ukrainian military to engage in operations inside Russian territory.
“F-16s and long-range missiles should therefore be off the table,” DeSantis argued.
“These moves would risk explicitly drawing the United States into the conflict and drawing us closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. That risk is unacceptable,” he added.
DeSantis indicated that he against a policy of “regime change” in Russia, saying that it would increase the likelihood of nuclear weapons being used and could produce a leader “even more ruthless” than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
DeSantis also accused Biden’s policies of driving “Russia into a de facto alliance with China” and empowering “Russia’s energy-dominated economy and Putin’s war machine at Americans’ expense.”
“Our citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine. We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted,” DeSantis concluded in his questionnaire response.
DeSantis’ views on the Ukraine war align with former President Donald Trump, who would be his most formidable adversary in the 2024 GOP primary.
Trump told Carlson that opposing Russia in Ukraine is not a vital US strategic interest, but is for Europe.
“That is why Europe should be paying far more than we are, or equal,” he argued.
The 76-year-old former president is averaging 45% support in early polls, according to RealClearPolitics, while DeSantis is averaging 29% support.