March 31, 2023

Top Senate Republicans went after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on Tuesday in response to the likely 2024 hopeful’s recent comments about U.S. involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As part of a Tucker Carlson survey of likely 2024 Republican primary candidates, the governor told the Fox News host in a statement that defending Ukraine from Russia was not a vital American national strategic interest.

“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.

Several top Senate Republicans have since criticized the governor for his flippant response. In a Tuesday interview with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) distanced himself from the fellow Florida Republican’s stance.

“Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor,” Rubio said when asked about DeSantis’s aim with the comments. “[…] 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.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Politico on Tuesday that he was “disturbed” by the governor’s position.

“I’m disturbed by it. I think he’s a smart guy,” the Houston Republican said. “I want to find out more about it, but I hope he feels like he doesn’t need to take that Tucker Carlson line to be competitive in the primary. It’s important for us to continue to support Ukrainians for our own security.”

And on Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) posted several tweets stressing his support for Ukraine—and shading DeSantis in the process.

“To those who believe that Russia’s unprovoked and barbaric invasion of Ukraine is not a priority for the United States—you are missing a lot,” he wrote.

DeSantis previously expressed support for aiding Ukraine before Russia invaded the country last year, but his about-face could be explained by the response from another 2024 primary challenger: former president Donald Trump. When asked the same question — “Is opposing Russia in Ukraine a vital American national strategist interest?” — Trump reiterated his isolationist stance: “No, but it is for Europe.”

Trump joins other far-right Republicans like Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Freedom Caucus members in the House who have recently decried U.S. support for Ukraine, with some calling for an end to U.S. military support for the country.

While DeSantis has not yet announced his 2024 plans, it’s widely believed he will run and courting Trump supporters will be a key strategy for his campaign.

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