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The problem(s) with DeSantis’ new line on abandoning Ukraine

Ron DeSantis is now aligned with the growing contingent of his party that would abandon Ukraine and allow Putin to take control of our allied democracy.

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About a month ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attended a security conference in Germany in the hopes of conveying to the world that the United States’ support for Ukraine remains steadfast. The Kentucky Republican brushed aside chatter about his party giving up on U.S. allies.

“My party’s leaders overwhelmingly support a strong, involved America and a robust trans-Atlantic alliance. Don’t look at Twitter, look at people in power,” the GOP leader said. He added, “Reports about the death of Republican support for strong American leadership in the world have been greatly exaggerated.”

On the surface, the words were intended to reassure. But just below the surface, McConnell’s rhetoric papered over a growing fissure in Republican politics, with a sizable contingent of influential GOP voices arguing that they’re prepared to abandon Ukraine altogether.

Gov. Ron DeSantis used to side with McConnell and other party leaders on the issue. As the Florida Republican prepares to launch a presidential campaign, he’s apparently changed his mind.

A month ago, DeSantis sent an unmistakable signal, condemning the current U.S. policy as an “open-ended blank check,” which the governor said is “not acceptable.” Yesterday, as NBC News reported, the Floridian went much further.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential Republican presidential candidate, broke with many in his party Monday and told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital” national interest for the U.S.

The GOP governor said the United States “has many vital national interests,” but as far as he’s concerned, “a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”

The fact that DeSantis described Russia’s unprovoked invasion of an ally as “a territorial dispute” was itself extraordinary.

The Floridian went on to express opposition to sending “F-16s and long-range missiles” to help Ukraine defend itself against Vladimir Putin’s war.

Up until fairly recently, there was at least some ambiguity in DeSantis’ position, and at times, it seemed he was still trying to figure out what exactly he thought about the issue. In a recent interview with The Times of London, for example, the governor seemed annoyed when pressed for details about his position. “Perhaps you should cover some other ground?” he said. “I think I’ve said enough.”

Clearly, that ambiguity has now been resolved: DeSantis is now aligned with the growing contingent of his party that would abandon Ukraine and allow Putin to take control of our allied democracy.

I’m reminded anew of something New York magazine’s Jon Chait wrote last month: “Vladimir Putin has built his strategy on the assumption that he can keep throwing conscripts into the trenches of eastern Ukraine longer than the United States is willing to keep sending money and arms to Kyiv. Putin’s main hope has rested on Donald Trump returning to office in 2025. Now he has a second option should Trump falter in the primary. The odds that Putin will end the war just got longer.”