Ron DeSantis says protecting Ukraine is not a ‘vital’ US interest

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential nominee, broke with many in his party Monday, telling Fox News host Tucker Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital” national interest for the United States

“While the United States has many vital national interests—securing our borders, managing the crisis with our military readiness, achieving energy security and independence, and controlling the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party—it is further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis wrote in a questionnaire response Carlson has written on his Twitter feed.

“The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined goals or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges,” DeSantis continued.

He argued that “peace should be the goal” for the United States and expressed his opposition to sending “F-16s and long-range missiles” to help Ukraine defend against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

The answer puts DeSantis in line with former President Donald Trump — who leads many GOP primary polls – and against many congressional Republicans who have supported aid to Ukraine. It signals the growing power of isolationist sentiment in a party that has long advocated an active American presence in global affairs. And it is likely to be an issue in the party’s presidential election.

DeSantis, a Trump protégé who has built his own following among conservative voters, is favored by many Republican incumbents who want to turn the page on the former president.

Responding to the same questionnaire about whether resisting Russia in Ukraine is vital to American interests, Trump replied: “No, but it is for Europe. But not for the US.”

Led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Republicans on the opposite side of the issue have argued that defending Ukraine against Putin’s territorial ambitions is essential to protecting not only European interests, but American interests as well.

At the Munich Security Conference last month, McConnell said: “Let me start by saying: I’m a conservative Republican from America, and I come in peace. Reports of the death of Republican support for strong American leadership in the world has been greatly exaggerated.”

“We are committed to helping Ukraine. Not because of vague moral arguments or abstractions like the so-called ‘rules-based international order.’ But rather, because America’s own core national interests are at stake,” McConnell added. “Because our security is connected and our economies are intertwined.”

DeSantis’ response to Carlson is his most detailed yet on the hot-button foreign policy issue. He appeared frustrated in a recent interview with The Times of London, according to the journalist who spoke to him when he was press for more details about how he would handle Ukraine.

“Maybe you should cover somewhere else?” DeSantis said. “I think I’ve said enough.”

As a member of Congress, DeSantis voted for several defense bills that provided US military and intelligence support to Ukraine.

And in 2016, DeSantis voted for a resolution calling on then-President Barack Obama to “provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons systems to enhance the ability of the people of Ukraine to defend their sovereign territory against the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and continued aggression.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence took thinly veiled shots at DeSantis in a speech praising America’s involvement in Ukraine in Texas last month and in a follow-up interview.

“I would say anyone who means it Vladimir Putin will stop at Ukraine is wrong,” Pence said when asked about DeSantis’ position on U.S. efforts to help repel Russia in Europe.

At a donor conference in Texas in February, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ridiculed DeSantis for claiming that President Joe Biden has focused more on Ukraine’s border than on the U.S. border with Mexico. according to Politico. Christie said it was one of the “fake elections” that some Republicans were pushing and asked how “they teach foreign policy in Tallahassee.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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