Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis clarified his recent comments on the Russia–Ukraine conflict after having called it a mere “territorial dispute.”
In an interview with Piers Morgan on the March 23 edition of the Fox Nation program “Piers Morgan Uncensored”—which Morgan previewed in a New York Post article on March 22—DeSantis said his words had been mischaracterized.
“Obviously, Russia invaded—that was wrong,” said DeSantis. “They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014—that was wrong.”
In his interview with Morgan, the governor was more critical of Russia than in a previous statement he sent to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, which Carlson published on March 13.
In response to a questionnaire that Carlson sent to all potential GOP presidential candidates about the war in Ukraine, DeSantis said the United States should stay out of the Ukraine–Russia conflict.
“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,” he told Carlson. “The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges.”
DeSantis Still Against US Involvement
In his interview with Morgan, DeSantis remarked that Russia has no right to Ukraine, though he reiterated that the United States should not get involved in the conflict, whether by sending U.S. assistance to Ukraine or deploying U.S. troops to the fighting.
“I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement,” he said. “I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified [in invading]—that’s nonsense.”
DeSantis also had harsh words for Russian President Vladimir Putin, labeling him “a war criminal.”
“I think he’s got grand ambitions. I think he’s hostile to the United States, but I think the thing that we’ve seen is he doesn’t have the conventional capability to realize his ambitions,” the governor said.
On March 17, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced an arrest warrant for Putin for allegedly unlawfully deporting Ukrainian children to Russia. Russia slammed The Hague-based tribunal in response.
DeSantis said Putin should be held accountable, but that he’s not sure the ICC is the best avenue for accountability. The United States is not part of the ICC.
DeSantis also said that Russia will lose the war.
“I do not think it’s going to end with Putin being victorious,” he said. “I do not think the Ukrainian government is going to be toppled by him and I think that’s a good thing.”
DeSantis is expected to soon announce a run for the White House in a GOP primary with major candidates including former President Donald Trump and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under Trump.