GOP Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Shakes Establishment after Saying U.S. Interest in Ukraine-Russia War is Not ‘Vital’

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent comments about the U.S.’s support for Ukraine during its ongoing war with Russia have shaken establishment Republicans. 

The governor’s remarks, which came as speculations continue to increase that DeSantis will enter the 2024 race for the White House, came as a response to a set of questions from Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, targeted to 2024 GOP hopefuls or candidates about their stance on the continuing war between the two nations. 

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests…becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” said DeSantis in response to one of the questions. 

The governor of the Sunshine State noted that “peace” should be the objective in the war and that the U.S. “should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders” and added that providing long-range missiles and F-16w would be “off the table.”

Additionally, Governor DeSantis noted that American “citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine” and disparaged the regime change policy as being “popular among the D.C. foreign policy interventionists,” and suggested any successor to Russian President Vladimir Putin “would likely be even more ruthless.”

GOP Senators, Reps criticize DeSantis’ remarks

Although he has not officially announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for president next year, Gov. DeSantis’ comments drew immediate fire from a handful of Republicans who have frequently signaled their support for Ukraine as it battles to fend off Russian aggression — including South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator from North Carolina Thom Tillis, former Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, Senator John Cornyn of Texas and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Former Rep. Cheney, also on the January 6 Select Committee and a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump, said Gov. DeSantis “is wrong and seems to have forgotten the lessons of Ronald Reagan.”

“This is not a territorial dispute,” continued Cheney in a statement. “The Ukrainian people are fighting for their freedom. Surrendering to Putin and refusing to defend freedom makes America less safe.”

“Weakness is provocative and American officials who advocate this type of weakness are Putin’s greatest weapon. Abandoning Ukraine would make broader conflict, including with China and other American adversaries, more likely,” said Cheney, who lost her re-election bid last year to pro-Trump GOP Representative Harriet Hageman. 

Senator Rubio also rebuked DeSantis’ remarks and suggested the Republican governor is inexperienced in foreign policy. 

“Well, I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what the goal is,” said Rubio. “Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor. So, I’m not sure. …I mean, I can’t compare that to something else that he did or has said over the last few years because he doesn’t deal with it every day. But, I will say to you that, in terms of my view of the overall issue, is, I think there’s nuance because foreign policy is about nuance.”

Senator Graham is also frustrated with DeSantis’ comments and said he “could not disagree more” with the governor’s characterization of the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war.

“The Neville Chamberlain approach to aggression never ends well,” Graham said, comparing the Florida governor and British prime minister who worked throughout his tenure to appease Adolf Hitler. “This is an attempt by Putin to rewrite the map of Europe by force of arms.”

February numbers from the Ukrainian government showed the United States leads all countries with a total of $196 billion of military, humanitarian, and financial aid to Ukraine from January 24 to November 20, 2022. Germany has sent $172 billion, the second-most funds, during the same period.

Earlier in the month, polls from Pew Research, Fox News, and The Associated Press showed rising skepticism of the massive aid packages the Biden administration has given to Ukraine. According to the AP, American support for aid fell from 60% in May of 2022 to only 48% today. 

In the meantime, according to Pew, the share of Americans who say that the country has already given too much to Ukraine has risen from a small 7% in March 2022 to 26% today.