WASHINGTON — Republican senators on Tuesday railed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ comments that defending Ukraine against Russian aggression is not a “vital” American interest.
“I totally disagree with his comments,” said Sen. said Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
About half a dozen of Wicker’s GOP colleagues expressed varying degrees of opposition to DeSantis’ comments on Fox News Monday night.
The high-profile comments by the 2024 presidential hopeful, who many GOP elites see as the main replacement for former President Donald Trump, are intensifying intra-party conflict between conservation hawks who want to preserve the post-World War II order. A right-wing populist faction that seeks to withdraw from global affairs.
“I certainly hate to send a signal [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, I’d certainly hate to send a signal to other allies around the world that we don’t care about him and you’re on your own. Because it would lead to nuclear proliferation, which we have avoided for decades. So, no, I think it’s in our interest,” Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., told NBC News.
Cramer, who otherwise praised DeSantis, said he was “not too surprised” by the governor’s comments because he leads a complicated movement with the party base.
“We have a restless base, and if he’s running for president, he needs to speak to that base a little bit,” Cramer said. “That’s not to say it’s not his position, but I think he is. The president of the United States and he has all that power, and then he explained enough details to make a decision. But I hope the position evolves little by little.
DeSantis’s view that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a “territorial dispute” between the two sides, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rejected.
“This is not a territorial dispute — it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas,” Rubio told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Just because someone claims something doesn’t mean it belongs to them. It is an invasion.”
“I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what the goal is. Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor,” Rubio added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said DeSantis’ comments reflect a “misunderstanding of the situation.”
“This is not a territorial conflict. It’s a war of aggression,” he said, adding that DeSantis “is a great governor, but in my opinion, if you don’t get Ukraine right, it’s an opportunity to stop Putin before it turns into a big war. – and China is taking notice.
“I have a different view than he does,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R.S.D., said when pressed about DeSantis. “There are, as you know, different opinions within the membership of our party.”
Many Republicans have said that protecting Ukraine is ultimately about protecting the United States and its allies in Europe.
“They are a vital interest,” Sen. said Rep. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. “We are basically defending NATO and Europe.” But he said there is a valid debate about how far the U.S. can go in helping Ukraine. “We’re broke,” he said. “We have to have a better plan.”
Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-La., said: “I don’t want America to be the policeman of the world, but I don’t want Vladimir Putin or [Chinese President] Xi Jinping should also be the world’s policeman. I have never seen our aid to Ukraine as charity. I saw it as self-preservation.
Other Republicans said the issue would spark a primary debate.
“I think any of the individuals who are interested in serving as the next president of the United States should get a full explanation before they make up their mind on this particular issue,” Sen. Mike Rounds, RSD, told reporters.
“So, we’ll see how that moves. But we’ve got a lot of people in the 2024 race and we’ll find out if the rest of them think the same or not.