Ron DeSantis Is Dead Wrong About U.S. Support for Ukraine Not Being a ‘Vital Interest’

News & Politics

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is being crucified for remarks he made about U.S. support for Ukraine on Monday.

“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,” DeSantis said.

The Ukraine War is not about a “territorial dispute.” It’s a war that will decide the very existence of Ukraine as an independent, sovereign nation. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on the post-cold war world order that defanged the Soviet beast and gave many former Soviet-bloc nations a chance for an independent existence.

Now, Vladimir Putin is testing that order, and if the United States is going to lead the world to a peaceful future, we have to play a leading role in the defense of Ukraine. But that doesn’t mean we hand Biden a blank check. The lack of oversight by this administration for the tens of billions of dollars in military aid borders on criminal negligence — especially when we discover how much of that weaponry has been diverted to American enemies.

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Putin is counting on the U.S. not having the staying power to keep supplying Ukraine with the weapons they need to resist Moscow. That’s why he’s still throwing everything he’s got into the war. He’s banking on the political opposition to Biden to morph into opposition to the war. He must not be allowed that luxury.

Ukraine is a corrupt oligarchy and it’s understandable why DeSantis, Trump, and many Republicans would consider pulling their chestnuts out of the fire. But there are larger issues than the oligarchs stealing from the Ukrainian people. And the biggest issue was mentioned by DeSantis: deflecting and deterring the Communist Chinese and their designs in East Asia, specifically, Taiwan.

DeSantis is right to say that checking the Communist Chinese is of vital interest to America. But to check China, we must also check Russia in Ukraine. Surely DeSantis can see the symmetry involved in Chinese support for Russia and its designs on Taiwan. The growing alliance — reluctant on China’s part — with Putin will embolden China in East Asia. But a U.S. pullback from Ukraine will almost certainly speed up China’s timetable for war with the United States over Taiwan.

DeSantis got a lot of other things right in his comments on aid to Ukraine. “F-16s and long-range missiles should therefore be off the table,” he said. “These moves would risk explicitly drawing the United States into the conflict and drawing us closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. That risk is unacceptable.”

I’ve been saying this for months. So why not deny F-16s and the long-range missiles to Ukraine and keep giving them the arms they’ve been using to take it to the Russians, defeating them in detail on battlefield after battlefield?

Ukraine does not need fighter jets or missiles to defend itself. But in a war to defeat Russia and Putin, they would be of great help.

DeSantis also points out the insanity of trying for “regime change” in Russia: “A policy of  ‘regime change’  in Russia (no doubt popular among the D.C. foreign policy interventionists)  would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making  the use of nuclear weapons more likely,” DeSantis said. “Such a policy would neither stop the death and destruction of the war nor produce a pro-American, Madisonian constitutionalist in the Kremlin. History indicates that Putin’s successor, in this hypothetical, would likely be even more ruthless.  The costs to achieve such a dubious outcome could become astronomical.”

Indeed, Biden refuses to eliminate regime change in Moscow as a war aim. And this gets in the way of what should be a primary goal for Biden and the United States: the quick ending of this war with Ukraine maintaining its current territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Related: British PM Knows That the Ukraine War Will End ‘at the Negotiating Table.’ Why Doesn’t Biden?

After 13 months of the war, instead of talking about escalating the fighting by giving Ukraine F-16s, it’s time for the United States to start putting pressure on Ukraine to come to the table. China could emerge as a broker in the peace process by pressuring Russia to negotiate as well.

Republicans should use their newfound clout on Capitol Hill to take a red pencil to U.S. arms sales to Ukraine. But abandoning Ukraine at this point would be a cowardly betrayal of American interests and values. DeSantis needs to rethink this policy.

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