Rick Scott, Charlie Crist offer strong words on Ukraine while Ron DeSantis avoids commenting

Scott Crist
Crist, Scott take strong pro-Ukraine positions in wake of Volodymyr Zelenskyy speech.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy made his latest plea for U.S. help Wednesday morning, imploring Congress for more material support to resist Russia’s invasion.

In the wake of the remarks, two former Florida Governors now serving in Congress offered emphatic responses, while Gov. Ron DeSantis avoided the topic entirely during his morning news conference in Hialeah.

Sen. Rick Scott, DeSantis’ immediate predecessor as Governor, castigated President Joe Biden‘s administration for not facilitating a transfer of Polish planes to the Ukrainians.

“President Biden needs to make a decision TODAY: either give Ukraine access to the planes and anti-aircraft defense systems it needs to defend itself, or enforce a no-fly zone to close Ukrainian skies to Russian attacks. If President Biden does not do this NOW, President Biden will show himself to be absolutely heartless and ignorant of the deaths of innocent Ukrainian children and families,” Scott said.

“This is a fight for democracy and our security. The United States must lead the world in both supporting Ukraine and destroying Russia for its horrific attacks and unjust war. Children are dying. The video President Zelenskyy showed today was difficult to watch and absolutely heartbreaking. After seeing these images and hearing his calls for help, it would be purely heartless and unacceptable to do nothing,” Scott added.

The Senator went on to call for further economic divestment and decoupling: “I also echo President Zelenskyy’s request for the United States to sanction every Russian politician that does not resign from the government and make clear that any company still operating in Russia or Belarus must get out immediately — no amount of profit is worth supporting this war.”

“The United States has the power to give Ukraine what it needs to win and ensure Putin and his thugs personally feel the pain of this ruthless and unlawful invasion. We must use it,” Scott urged.

As Scott illustrates the sort of muscular foreign policy historically familiar on the Republican Right, yet another former Governor (and former Republican) is taking liberties with DeSantis on the Ukraine issue.

“As Putin’s war on democracy in Ukraine continues to claim countless innocent lives, Gov. Ron DeSantis has proven himself to be the weakest governor in America on Russia,” Rep. Charlie Crist said.

“President Zelensky spoke loud and clear today to Congress: the people of Ukraine are counting on us to take tough economic actions to end Putin’s aggression. Yet under the weakest Governor on Russia, $300 million dollars of Florida taxpayer money is invested in Russia. I am calling on Gov. DeSantis to call an emergency Cabinet session immediately to divest our state from Russia in support of our allies in Ukraine.”

Crist’s reference was to roughly $300 million in what the State Board of Administration calls “Russian-domiciled investments.” He has not been alone in expressing discontent. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has also made a similar call for divestment. Fried is the only Cabinet member not on the State Board of Administration.

Both Crist and Fried are running as Democrats for the chance to unseat DeSantis as Governor later this year.

DeSantis has offered comments broadly supportive of the “moxie” of Ukrainian resistance fighters, though he has stopped short of the kind of untrammeled support for the Ukrainian war effort that former Governors and current challengers would like. The issue is more politically complicated on the right wing than the left, with the America First movement epitomized by Rep. Matt Gaetz and others positing that a war in Europe is not America’s battle to fight.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Lynda

    March 16, 2022 at 12:46 pm

    In reply to gaetz and deSantis America First stands.

    American First was a bad slogan for WWII and worse in 2022 when a connected globe is more obvious. What happens in Ukraine and Syria and Sudan do directly affect the USA despite the extreme right’s unwillingness to admit it. It may be simple cowardness on their part or fear of the ugly comparison they have with the love of country demonstrated by the people of Ukraine. Few in trump’s cult (formerly known as the Republican party) love their country more than themselves.

  • Frankie M.

    March 16, 2022 at 12:54 pm

    Ronnie’s still too focused on culture war/manufactured issues to address real world ones. Oh sure maybe he’ll wax nostalgic about Alexander Hamilton from time to time when asked an unrelated question. That’s about the best we can hope for here in good ol FLA.

    • Tom

      March 20, 2022 at 7:15 pm

      Two ignant Manchurians lynda, and Frankie m. Whatcha joke.
      Yex education reform is culture war, dumb ass. Yeah, public education voucher scholarships expanded unprecedented. Is culture. Bonuses and educators pay raises along with state employees is culture.
      Suspending gas tax is culture.
      Not, Not. Not. You fools are ignants.
      LMAO, btw the k-3 no sex is 64% approved nationally. Ignorance is bliss with u Manchurians. Spare us

  • Antonio

    March 16, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    While I sympathize with the Ukrainian people’s struggle, this is a non-issue for Florida voters that are not political tribalists. What’s going on in our country is far more important and should be taken care of first.

    • Sister Ina Munchen, N.C. School for the Abandoned

      March 16, 2022 at 2:08 pm

      Oh my goodness, Antonio, there you go again. Let’s review: All Americans live in a Democracy, (one that is universally recognized as the leading Democracy in the world). All Floridians are Americans. Therefore all Floridians live in a Democracy. “What’s going on in our country is far more important,” you say, than the survival of a young Democracy in Europe. But “what’s going on in our country” will soon have little importance if we allow other Democracies to fall to an invading thug like Putin, regardless of what you believe to be so much more important in our country.
      You need to brush up a little on 1930’s European history if you don’t see the connection. And don’t do that by consulting your Facebook friends, they are not a valid source for historical reference, bless your heart.

  • Ron Ogden

    March 16, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Governor DeSantis is doing his job. Formerly-everything Crist is pretending he has the gravitas to issue foreign policy pronouncements. Not!

    • Sister Ina Munchen

      March 16, 2022 at 2:18 pm

      Your beloved Mister DeSantis hasn’t shied away from harshly criticizing covid measures in Australia, or just recently insulting our ally France needlessly by saying France could never show the resilience that Ukraine has shown, and yet when it comes to a chance to make an intelligent response to Zelenskyy’s plea for help…you say he’s too busy being our governor to meddle in foreign problems. Sounds like a weak-kneed-sister’s excuse to me (no offense, Sisters). Try again, and bless your heart.

  • Ron Ogden

    March 16, 2022 at 3:37 pm

    Nah, I’m good Sister Rent-by-the-Hour. I never stood up for him with France. Governors have a job. He usually sticks to his, and that’s what has earned him everyone’s trust. He’ll have ample opportunity later in this decade to talk about the rest of the world–if it is still there after El Shaki is through.

  • Charlotte Greenbarg

    March 17, 2022 at 8:15 am

    The far left desperately seeking traction!

  • Tom

    March 20, 2022 at 7:07 pm

    Meaningless effort by FP to somehow create a nothing issue. Govs don’t have a substantive swAy on foreign policy. America’s Gov is knocking it out. He is involved with snd winning on state and local issues of note.

  • Casey

    March 24, 2022 at 3:59 pm

    Scott’s talk to assist Ukraine is “tough” I guess, but I don’t see much in the way of action. Meanwhile, Charlie Crist has “tough” talk mostly aimed at his next political target Gov. DeSantis rather than being critical of Putin or more importantly in expressing REAL support to Ukraine. It appears a bit disingenuous, gratuitous, and even tacky. What has motivated a US representative to speak out criticizing the State governor about his opinion on Ukraine. DeSantis has far less authority to intercede in the situation than our US representatives. Yeah, agreed, get investments out of Russia. But what action have you taken, US representatives. What bill have you put forth? Agree with him or not, Governor DeSantis has expressed opinions and acted on issues he has some authority over. He not just stirring the pot.

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