The two front-runners in the U.S. Republican Party, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, are making it clear that if they win the White House, Ukraine will be at risk from U.S. arms and ammunition supplies, and the war could end on Putin’s terms.
Their positions underscore a growing conservative antipathy toward war and President Joe Biden’s call for the West to fund Kiev’s resistance to Putin’s unprovoked invasion.
“The death and destruction must end now,” Trump wrote in response to a question from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson about the war and US involvement in it.
DeSantis, answering the same questions, countered with his most unequivocal signal yet that he would reduce US aid to Ukraine if he won the presidency. “We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our homeland,” he wrote.
Trump’s warnings that only he can stop World War III and DeSantis’ central argument that rescuing Ukraine is not a central US national security interest are likely to take on even more weight after one of the war’s most troubling moments on Tuesday.
The downing of a U.S. drone after it collided with Russian fighter jets over the Black Sea was another step toward the scenario everyone has feared since the war began a year ago: a direct conflict between U.S. and Russian forces.
“This incident should serve as a warning to isolationists in the United States that it is in our national interest to treat Mr. Putin as the threat he truly is,” the Mississippi senator said in a statement Tuesday that sounded like an implicit rebuke of his party’s top presidential contenders. Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Others, such as Texas Sen. John Cornyn, said DeSantis’ position “raises questions.”
But the rebuke of some senior Senate Republicans may not carry much weight in today’s GOP. As they battle to overcome each other’s skepticism about Western aid to Ukraine, Trump and DeSantis show how America First Republicans have transformed the party President Ronald Reagan led to victory over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Their influence is sure to deepen the split in the US House of Representatives between traditional Republican supporters and supporters of former President D. Trump, who are already threatening future aid to Ukraine even before 2024. presidential elections.
That division is on display in the first ballot of the Republican primary race, as other candidates, including former UN ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence, warn that failure to stop Putin now could lead to a disastrous confrontation later.
In a statement published on Tuesday, N. Haley outlined a much tougher position on Ukraine. The former South Carolina governor warned that Russia’s goal was to wipe Ukraine off the map and that if Kiev “stopped fighting, Ukraine would cease to exist and other countries would rightly fear that they would.”
But her stance may help explain why she’s trailing in early polls in the race. For example, a new CNN/USSR poll conducted on Tuesday showed that 80 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning independent respondents thought it was important for the Republican presidential candidate to believe that the United States “should not get involved in the Russia-Ukraine war.”
An internal debate with global implications
The political calculations of the US Republican Party will have a major geopolitical impact.
Growing Republican skepticism about US aid to Ukraine is the most important test for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his international campaign for the weapons and ammunition needed for Ukraine’s survival.
It will also bolster Putin’s apparent belief that he can overcome Western resolve and ultimately crush Ukrainian resistance. The possibility that the Republican successor to the White House might leave Ukraine will also become a more pressing issue for Mr. Biden, adding to pressure on him to shore up American support for his Ukraine policies, which polls show have waned somewhat in recent months.
If the war continues next year, in 2024 The election could become a forum for a wide-ranging debate in which the American people will have to decide between two impulses that have often divided the nation throughout its history: Should the United States defend freedom and democracy everywhere, or should it succumb to its isolationist tendencies?
If Trump or DeSantis do not change their position in the coming months, Ukraine’s fate could effectively be decided in next year’s primaries and November’s general election. And J. Biden’s promise to stick with V. Zelensky “as long as necessary” may end in 2025. January 20 – during the next presidential inauguration.
Top Republicans are alarmed by the isolationist turn in the presidential election
The biggest in 2024 the Republican candidates’ rhetoric toward Russia has raised concerns on Capitol Hill, where many of the top Republican House committee chairs and senior senators are pressing Mr. Biden for more support for Ukraine — including sending F-16 fighter jets.
Sen. Marco Rubio, speaking on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, seemed to reproach the governor of his state (Florida), saying that the United States has national security interests in Ukraine, and wondered if DeSantis’ inexperience played a role. “I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what his goal is. “Obviously, as governor, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis, so I’m not sure,” Rubio said.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has already endorsed Trump’s 2024 bid. candidacy for the White House, warned that those who say that Ukraine is not important are actually saying the same thing about war crimes.
“We’re not invading Russia, we’re trying to get the Russians out of Ukraine, and no Americans are getting killed, and it’s in our national interest to get it right,” Graham told CNN.
Still, while Rubio and Graham represent traditional Republican foreign policy orthodoxy, their comments can only help DeSantis and Trump make their case, as many pro-Trump voters often see them as part of the neoconservative bloc in the party. which led the US into years of war in the Middle East.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate’s number two Republican, also said he disagreed with DeSantis, but acknowledged that his own position may not reflect where his party is right now.
“Probably in 2024. there will be other candidates in our party who may share that view, and it’s certainly shared by Republicans across the country,” Thune said of DeSantis’ view.
Reflection of V. Putin’s positions
DeSantis, who hasn’t officially launched a campaign yet, was the most noteworthy response to Carlson’s questionnaire, but a CNN/USSR poll on Tuesday found him to be Trump’s most formidable potential challenger.
Florida’s governor is encroaching on the former president’s ideological territory, and after generally speaking out against current US policy in recent weeks, has now taken a stance that appears to hedge against the former president’s attacks on the issue.
“While the United States has many vital national interests—protecting its borders, addressing the military readiness crisis, ensuring energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party—continuing involvement in the Ukraine-Russia territorial dispute is not one of them.” – said R. DeSantis.
Asked whether the US should support “regime change” in Russia, the Florida governor appeared to hint that the US was pursuing such a policy and warned that any Putin replacement could be “even more ruthless”.
DeSantis has not specifically said he would end U.S. military aid to Ukraine, leaving himself some political freedom if elected president. There remains some doubt about his true beliefs, as CNN reported that as a member of Congress he called for the US to send lethal aid to Ukraine.
But his latest comments were notable for echoing Putin’s narrative. Referring to a “territorial dispute,” the governor downplayed Russia’s unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state that Putin claims has no right to exist.
His regime change response also reinforces the Russian leader’s years-long claim that Washington is trying to oust him from power, and may be emphasized by propagandists in Moscow’s official media.
T. Carslosn’s influence on the Republicans
DeSantis’s responses to Carlson about the war also highlight how the normal relationship between political leaders and media commentators has been upended by Fox and its star host. Carlson hotly agreed with DeSantis’ answers, which seemed calculated to win his approval. That put Carlson in the remarkable position of overseeing what could ultimately become one of the most important issues in US foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently performed a similarly gracious act, giving Carlson exclusive access to the 2021 election. January 6 surveillance tapes of the uprising in the US Capitol, which the Fox host used to play down the truth about the most serious attack on US democracy in the modern era.
In response to T.Carlson, D.Trump, in turn, repeated his unprovable claim that Russia would never have invaded Ukraine if he had been president. He demanded an end to the fighting and peace talks that would effectively justify the invasion to Putin, whom he often courted when he was in the Oval Office.
“The president needs to meet with each side, then with both sides together, and get a deal done quickly.” This can be easily done if the right president conducts, D. Trump said. “Both sides are tired and ready to make a deal,” he added, in a comment that does not reflect the reality of war.
Given that her opinion contradicts that of T. Carlson, N. Haley publicly announced her answers about Ukraine – and also accused R. DeSantis of copying D. Trump’s positions.
“The Russian government is a powerful dictatorship that does not hide its hatred of America. Unlike other anti-American regimes, it is trying to expand by brute force into a neighboring pro-American country, she wrote. – It also regularly threatens other American allies. A Ukrainian victory is much better for America than a Russian victory.”
Haley’s statement epitomized the rift over the war that will animate the Republican primary debates later this year — and will be closely watched in both Kiev and Moscow. She would not be Putin’s preferred candidate.
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