The governor of Florida and potential Republican presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, stated that his commentary on the Ukraine war being merely a “territorial dispute” in response to Tucker Carlson’s question was “mischaracterized” during an interview with Piers Morgan. He said that Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was wrong as was its invasion of Ukraine in 2022. DeSantis also called Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, a “war criminal” and his country “a gas station with…nuclear weapons.”
This shift in language has been perceived by many as him echoing the previous rhetoric of neoconservatives like John McCain (R-AZ) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) toward Russia. In other words, he has shifted from being more aligned in tone on the conflict with the Trump-populist wing to a more conventional neoconservative bend.
The crux of the controversy was his essay to Tucker Carlson where he informed the Fox News host where he stood on the issue of Ukraine. In his long essay, he wrote that he was critical of “blank checks” being sent to Ukraine by Biden and that “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not” among American vital interests. He further wrote that “peace should be the objective [in Ukraine]” and that “a policy of ‘regime change’ in Russia (no doubt popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists) would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely.”
Staff Give Update on John Fetterman After Senator Has Been Hospitalized for Weeks
He added that “[h]istory indicates that Putin’s successor, in this hypothetical [regime change succeeding], would likely be even more ruthless.” He also in that essay was critical of Biden creating the conditions for Russia and China to create a de facto balancing coalition against the United States as well as of a counterproductive sanctions policy.
DeSantis’s essay was roundly criticized by many of those “DC foreign policy interventionists” in his own party like Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) as well as by many in the press (and even from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky). DeSantis now claims that what he meant by the phrase “territorial dispute” was that “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.”
The Florida Republican elaborated that he thought Putin held “grand ambitions” and was “hostile to the United States” but that the Russian president “doesn’t have the conventional capability to realize his ambitions.” The governor emphasized that “Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO… [is] a good thing” is the reason why Russia is not as great of a threat as Biden paints it as.