DeSantis flip-flopped on aid to Ukraine after previously offering full-throated support for arming Kyiv
Ron DeSantis says it's not in the "vital" interests of the US to help Ukraine defend itself from Russia.
The Florida governor's position echoes Trump's rhetoric on the war in Ukraine.
But as a member of Congress in 2015, DeSantis offered strong support for arming Kyiv.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis now argues that helping Ukraine defend itself from Russia's ongoing invasion is not in the "vital national interests" of the US. But he was singing a much different tune while he was a member of Congress in 2015, and critical of the Obama administration for not sending lethal aid to Ukraine.
Back then, DeSantis was a Republican hawk who demanded the US send Ukraine weapons as it fought a war against Kremlin-backed rebels in the country's eastern Donbas region, a conflict that was in many ways a prelude to Russia's large-scale invasion last year.
"We in the Congress have been urging the president, I've been, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They're not asking us to fight it for them. And the president has steadfastly refused. And I think that that's a mistake," DeSantis said in a 2015 radio interview with conservative talk radio host Bill Bennett, which was recently unearthed and reported on by CNN.
DeSantis — who is widely expected to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 — at the time said that arming Ukraine would send a "strong signal" to Russian President Vladimir Putin "that he shouldn't be going any further."
The Obama administration was facing criticism in those days over its reluctance to provide anything beyond non-lethal assistance to Ukraine, fearing that sending weapons to Kyiv would exacerbate the conflict and raise tensions with Moscow.
—andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) March 14, 2023
It's not clear what led DeSantis to shed his tough stance against Russia, and his team did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
DeSantis previewed his new position with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has parroted many of the Kremlin's talking points on Ukraine and criticized US support for Kyiv.
"While the US 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 wrote in response to a questionnaire from Carlson.
DeSantis' description of the war as a "territorial dispute" in his statement to Carlson is at odds with the fact that Russia has invaded and illegally annexed territory by brute force that the vast majority of the international community, including the US government, recognizes as part of Ukraine.
It was also clear that Russia launched the war with the goal of conquering Kyiv and subjugating the whole of Ukraine, far more than a dispute over some territorial lines. Russia was forced to adjust its goals after its military failed to seize Ukraine's capital and topple its elected leadership in the war's early days. Weapons provided by the US and its Western allies have played a key role for Ukraine on the battlefield.
DeSantis' latest rhetoric on Ukraine echoes the position of former President Donald Trump, who is running for president again in 2024 and has taken aim at DeSantis in recent months amid growing speculation that the Florida governor will also announce a presidential bid.
The former president — who last year praised Putin's justification for the invasion as "genius" — has been critical of US support for Ukraine, suggesting that sending arms to Kyiv will escalate the conflict. Trump's first impeachment was linked, in part, to his dealings with Ukraine and a decision to freeze vital security aid to Kyiv.
To be sure, it was the Trump administration who first provided US lethal aid to Ukraine, providing Javelin anti-tank missiles. But under the terms of the sale, the Trump administration stipulated that the anti-tank missiles had to be held in western Ukraine and away from the frontline.
Though Republicans in Congress have generally been supportive of the billions of dollars in aid provided to Ukraine by the US, a cohort of GOP lawmakers closely allied with Trump have expressed vocal opposition to continued assistance. Recent polling also suggests that Republican voters are more likely than Democratic voters to oppose further aid to Kyiv.
Read the original article on Business Insider