Ron DeSantis’ position on Ukraine continues to be an issue potential 2024 opponents seek to exploit.
Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley was asked about the Governor’s recent recalibration of his position on the Russian invasion, which included a description of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal,” and she still didn’t seem to see DeSantis as understanding what’s at stake.
“That weak in the knees mentality is exactly what got us in the situation we’re in with China is with people saying, ‘Oh, they’re fine, they can’t do anything. We need to leave them alone, we need to stay out of it,'” Haley contended on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom.
“Well, now look at what China is doing to us, you know, they’re buying up our farmland. We’re looking at the sky and we’re seeing a Chinese spy. They’re sending fentanyl across the border. You know, we’re seeing, they gave us COVID, we’re continuing to see one threat after the other. You can’t have that kind of weak in the knees mentality when it comes to Russia.”
“Russia is doing the dirty work for China. That’s why they shot our U.S. drone down last week,” Haley added.
The former Ambassador to the United Nations then noted strategic cooperation between Russia’s Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
“If you saw that picture this week, that was very telling after naming themselves unlimited partners. That is exactly the picture they wanted the world to see: that the new axis of evil is China and Russia … and they’re going to continue going forward. You can’t say we’re not going to be strong for Ukraine,” Haley continued, suggesting a domino theory was in play.
“If Ukraine wins, it sends a message to China, Russia and Iran. If Ukraine loses, you can bet Poland and the Baltics are next. And we’re looking at a world war. This is about preventing war. That doesn’t mean we put money in Ukraine’s pocket. It doesn’t mean we put troops on the ground, but we work with our allies to get them the ammunition. They need to defeat Russia.”
DeSantis continues to explain his position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which he deemed a “territorial dispute” and not one of America’s “vital national interests” in a statement provided to Tucker Carlson last week. He’s offered long-form statements twice this week that suggest whether or not he sees Putin as a “war criminal,” he’s not fully invested in the same narrative of the war that propels Haley and other hawkish Republicans.
“Well, I think it’s been mischaracterized. Obviously, Russia invaded (last year) — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — that was wrong.” DeSantis told Piers Morgan, before seeming to contextualize Russia’s claim to Ukrainian territory.
“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately, but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting and that’s what I was referring to and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it,” DeSantis added.
Despite conceding his most recent position was muddled, if only by bad interpretation, the Governor reiterated his stance that conflict essentially is not worth a more active American military presence.
“I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified (in invading) — that’s nonsense.
“I think they have the right to that territory,” he added, referring to Ukraine. “If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%. But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake. So, that was the point I was trying to make, but Russia was wrong to invade. They were wrong to take Crimea.”
DeSantis followed that interview up with one with Eric Bolling of Newsmax, where he further clarified what his position actually is on the conflict.
“I never changed anything,” DeSantis said.
He contended critics are “talking about when President Donald Trump was in. Weapons were sent when I was in Congress and I supported it. But that was to deter Russia from invading and, you know what, they didn’t invade for many years.”
“And that only broke down when Joe Biden got in. And I think there’s a variety of reasons for that. But I think part of the reason was the failure in Afghanistan. I think Vladimir Putin believed he could get away with more because he saw how weak Biden was,” DeSantis affirmed.
He continued by emphasizing his desire to focus on issues at home.
“My position on that is, you know, I care more about securing our own border in the United States than I do about the Russia-Ukraine border,” DeSantis said.
“And it seems like the establishment … they ignore the problems that we have here at home as Americans,” DeSantis said, citing the Mexican border as a situation “costing American lives” and allowing “suspected terrorists” to enter the United States.
“You also have to ask if they’re constantly talking about this being something that we have to have an open-ended blank check policy for,” DeSantis added, suggesting that “more gas pipelines” and “drilling for more oil” domestically would “weaken Putin.”
The Governor also noted that the proxy war in Ukraine, “essentially a stalemate,” is depleting “our current weapons stockpiles here in the United States.”
“And the fact of the matter is they’re declining and so that impacts our ability to respond to threats in other places in the world,” DeSantis noted.
Haley suggested last week that part of DeSantis’ confusion on the issue, when he first downplayed the Ukraine/Russia War in a statement to Carlson, stemmed from being an imitator of former President Trump.
“President Trump is right when he says Gov. DeSantis is copying him — first in his style, then on entitlement reform and now on Ukraine. I have a different style than President Trump, and while I agree with him on most policies, I do not on those. Republicans deserve a choice, not an echo.”
In that instance, Haley agreed with Trump, who asserted DeSantis was “following what I am saying. It is a flip-flop. He was totally different. Whatever I want, he wants.”
March 24, 2023 at 11:05 am
Always whining about being *misunderstood*. Always explaining what he *really* meant. Both our allies and our adversaries see DeSantis as weak.
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