Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R, is dismissing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” and says protecting the European nation is not a vital U.S. interest, firmly putting the potential presidential candidate on the side of Donald Trump and at odds with top congressional Republicans.

DeSantis delivered his foreign policy opinion in response to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, foe of U.S. aid to Ukraine and frequent critic of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Carlson read DeSantis’s statement on his Monday night program in which he also shared responses from the former president and former vice president Mike Pence, among other potential White House candidates.

Sunshine Week-DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his State of the State address during a joint session of the Senate and House of Representatives on March 7, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. Phil Sears/Associated Press

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests – securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with 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 in a statement.

DeSantis said the United States should not provide Kyiv with any military assistance that would enable Ukraine to engage in offensives beyond its borders, ruling out the possibility of sending F-16 fighter jets or long-range missiles.

Trump, in his response to Carlson’s questionnaire, echoed his previous criticism of President Biden on Ukraine and argued that it was time for the two sides to negotiate a deal. Trump has said previously that he would let Russia take over parts of Ukraine in any settlement.

In response to the question of whether opposing Russia is a “vital American national strategic interest,” Trump said in a statement: “No, but it is for Europe. But not for the United States. That is why Europe should be paying far more than we are, or equal.”


Trump repeated his frequent claim that Europe’s military assistance is insufficient. While the United States has contributed the largest amount of money and weapons, the United Kingdom and the European Union have spent billions of dollars on aid, with Britain and Germany sending tanks.

DeSantis’s statement comes amid a growing fissure in the Republican Party over the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and the need to stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some Republicans, notably including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have argued that a sovereign Ukraine is in the long-term interests of the United States.

“Reports about the death of Republican support for strong American leadership in the world have been greatly exaggerated,” McConnell said last month in a speech to the Munich Security Conference. “My party’s leaders overwhelmingly support a strong, involved America and a robust transatlantic alliance,” he said. “Don’t look at Twitter. Look at people in power. Look at me and Speaker Kevin McCarthy.”

Other Republicans have urged disengagement. In a speech this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, R-Ga., claimed that Zelensky “wants our sons and daughters to go die in Ukraine.” She urged the United States to stop aiding Ukraine’s defense, saying “that country needs to find peace, not war.”

Former vice president Mike Pence, another potential White House hopeful, aligned himself with McConnell, Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, a 2024 candidate, in expressing strong support for Ukraine.

“When the United States supports Ukraine in their fight against Putin, we follow the Reagan doctrine, and we support those who fight our enemies on their shores, so we will not have to fight them ourselves,” Pence said. “There is no room for Putin apologists in the Republican Party.”

DeSantis, who recently has traveled to states early in the primary process, said the United States “cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, 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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