State Watch

DeSantis clarifies Ukraine comments: No ‘sufficient interest’ for US to ‘escalate’ involvement

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) walked back his controversial comments characterizing Russia’s war on Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” in a recent interview, but doubled down on his stance that the U.S. shouldn’t escalate its involvement in the conflict.

In a wide-ranging interview aired Thursday on Fox Nation’s “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” DeSantis said his earlier remarks calling the yearlong war a “territorial dispute” have been “mischaracterized.” 

“I think it’s been mischaracterized. Obviously, Russia invaded that and that was wrong,” he said. “They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014. That was wrong. What I’m referring to is kinda where the fighting is going on now, which is that Western border or Eastern border reaching Donbas and then Crimea.”

The Florida governor said his comments were referring to “the conflict area” rather than saying that he “thought Russia had a right to that.” He later called Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal and “basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons.”

“And so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it,” he said. “But I think the larger point is, okay, Russia is not showing the ability to take over Ukraine, to topple the government or certainly to threaten NATO. That’s a good thing. They’ve been weakened. You now have the fighting in those areas.”

“I just don’t think that’s a sufficient interest for us to escalate more involvement. I would not want to see American troops involved there. But the idea that I think somehow Russia was justified, that’s nonsense,” DeSantis continued, adding that increased American involvement with weapons or ground troops would be a “mistake.” 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year, the U.S. has committed more than $32 billion in lethal aid to Kyiv, including weapons and ammunition.

DeSantis earlier this month responded to a questionnaire on Ukraine sent out by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson to possible 2024 presidential candidates, arguing that “becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia” is not one of America’s “vital national interests.”

“If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100 percent,” the governor said of the disputed territory in his latest interview.

The remarks were viewed as controversial even from many in the governor’s own party. DeSantis hasn’t officially announced whether he’ll join former President Trump, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley and conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, but has hinted that he’s considering a bid.

In his interview with Morgan, DeSantis also took a more direct stance against Trump as the two appear to be preparing for a possible 2024 match-up, which prompted the former president to take a swing at the Florida governor.

Tags Crimea Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis russia ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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