Vice President Kamala Harris added her voice to both Democrats and Republicans who have criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week for his comments referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.”
“If you really understand the issues, you probably would not make statements like that,” Harris told late night host Stephen Colbert on Wednesday.
DeSantis provoked bipartisan condemnation with his comments on Ukraine, which came in response to a series of questions posed by Fox News Channel host Tucker Carlson to the top 2024 GOP candidates or hopefuls about their stance on the ongoing war in Eastern Europe.
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests … becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis told Carlson in a written response.
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The popular governor, who polls show is consistently the first or second choice of Republican presidential primary voters even though he has not entered the race, said “peace” must be the objective in the war. However, he said that the U.S. “should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders,” adding that providing F-16s and long-range missiles to Ukraine should be “off the table.”
DeSantis also noted that American “citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine” and knocked regime change policy as being “popular among the D.C. foreign policy interventionists,” suggesting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s successor “would likely be even more ruthless.”
His remarks stood in contrast to Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declared presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and others who have voiced strong support for Ukraine. They also diverged from the policy of the Biden-Harris administration, which is to stand by Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Harris criticized DeSantis’ lack of foreign policy experience, noting that as vice president, she has met with “over 100” foreign leaders and gained an understanding of the “significance, again, of international rules and norms.”
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The vice president said that experience grants an understanding of “the importance of the United States of America standing firm and clear about the significance of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the significance of standing firm against any nation that would try to take by force another nation.”
DeSantis’ position on Ukraine rattled a few Republicans, some of whom also questioned the governor’s experience on foreign and national security issues.
“Well, I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what the goal is,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program this week. “Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor. So I’m not sure. … I mean, I can’t compare that to something else he did or has said over the last few years, because he doesn’t deal with it every day. But I will say to you that, in terms of my view of the overall issue, is, I think there’s nuance, because foreign policy is about nuance.”
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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., compared DeSantis to British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who infamously tried to appease Adolf Hitler in the years before World War II. “The Neville Chamberlain approach to aggression never ends well,” Graham told the New York Times, saying he “could not disagree more” with DeSantis’ comments.
DeSantis’ potential 2024 rivals pounced on his remarks as well. Former President Trump told reporters that DeSantis was “following what I am saying. It is a flip-flop. He was totally different. Whatever I want, he wants.”
Haley, who supports continued aid to Ukraine, agreed with Trump in a statement that knocked both men. “President Trump is right when he says Governor DeSantis is copying him — first in his style, then on entitlement reform, and now on Ukraine. I have a different style than President Trump, and while I agree with him on most policies, I do not on those. Republicans deserve a choice, not an echo.”
Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this report.
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