Ukraine Tries to Goad DeSantis After Gov. Says War Not ‘Vital’ to U.S. Interest

A top Ukrainian official invited Ron DeSantis to visit his country this week after the Florida Governor said that getting entangled in an Eastern European “territorial dispute” was not “vital” to U.S. national security interests. DeSantis drew fire from the establishment GOP for his comments, which aired on a Monday night episode of Tucker Carlson. The United States currently leads all countries in Ukraine funding, contributing nearly $200 billion since the war began.

A spokesman for the Ukraine Foreign Ministry, Oleg Nikolenko, addressed the Florida governor on Twitter. He referenced DeSantis’ service in the U.S. Navy and suggested he visit Ukraine.

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“We are sure that as a former military officer deployed to a combat zone, Governor [Ron DeSantis] knows the difference between a ‘dispute’ and war,” he wrote. “We invite him to visit Ukraine to get a deeper understanding of Russia’s full-scale invasion and the threats it poses to U.S. interests.”

Ukrainian officials and GOP foreign policy hawks have balked at the governor’s response to a foreign policy questionnaire on Tucker Carlson Tonight, in which he criticized the Biden administration for issuing a “blank check” and risking confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

Ukrainian officials and GOP foreign policy hawks have balked at the governor's response to a foreign policy questionnaire on Tucker Carlson Tonight, in which he criticized the Biden administration for issuing a 'blank check' and risking confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia. Click to Tweet

“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.”

“Our citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine,” he added. According to a February report by the Ukrainian government, the U.S. has contributed $196 billion to the war effort–more than any other country in the world.

Commentators noted that DeSantis’ foreign policy position aligned him with former president Donald Trump, the current front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Trump has also called for the U.S. to scale back its involvement in the war, calling for an end to the “death and destruction.” The two Republican leaders share a combined 78 percent support among GOP primary voters.

While public support for U.S. involvement in Ukraine is shrinking, a growing number of figures within the GOP have offered condemnation of DeSantis’ skepticism. That list has expanded to include Liz Cheney, Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Mike Pence, and Nikki Haley.

Cheney, a former member of the January 6 committee, accused DeSantis of “weakness” and said he “is wrong and seems to have forgotten the lessons of Ronald Reagan.”

Former vice president Mike Pence also invoked Reagan while criticizing DeSantis’ approach. In his questionnaire to Tucker Carlson Tonight, Pence advocated for more funding to Ukraine, calling it “necessary to repel that Russian invasion.”

A study by the Associated Press has shown a sharp decline in public support for U.S. aid to Ukraine. Between May 2022 and March 2023, public opinion dropped from 60 percent to 48 percent. Additionally, the share of Americans that say the U.S. has given “too much” to Ukraine has risen from 7 percent to 26 percent since March 2022.

“We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland,” DeSantis said on Monday. “Especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted.”

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