ICYMI: DeSantis Flip-Flops on Supporting Ukraine
February 27, 2023
Key Point: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis once strongly supported arming Ukraine to fight Russia, urging then-President Barack Obama to do so as a deterrent to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe – a position at odds with his statements this week questioning the United States’ involvement in the conflict.”
CNN: Ron DeSantis wanted to send weapons to Ukraine when he was a congressman – as a presidential hopeful he questions US involvement
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis once strongly supported arming Ukraine to fight Russia, urging then-President Barack Obama to do so as a deterrent to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe – a position at odds with his statements this week questioning the United States’ involvement in the conflict.
- As a conservative congressman, DeSantis, now a potential presidential hopeful, urged sending “defensive and offensive” weapons to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 and even voted to refuse to fund a new missile defense treaty with Russia until they withdrew from Ukraine, according to a review of DeSantis’ past comments by CNN’s KFile.
- Once an advocate of a hardline, hawkish approach to Russia by supporting Ukraine, the Florida governor shifted course this week in anticipation of a potential presidential run in a changed, more isolationist Republican party, questioning whether it was in the United States’ interest to be involved in what he called, “things like the borderlands or over Crimea.” He added that Russia was not “the same threat to our country, even though they’re hostile” and downplayed the threats that Russia could invade NATO countries.
- A CNN KFile review of DeSantis’ past comments and actions found that DeSantis consistently supported sending aid to Ukraine and condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and 2015 and as late as 2017.
- In a previously unreported interview with conservative talk radio host Bill Bennett in June 2015, DeSantis said he supported providing arms to Ukraine and NATO neighboring countries after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and criticized the Obama administration for not doing so.
- “We in the Congress have been urging the president, I’ve been, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They’re not asking us to fight it for them. And the president has steadfastly refused. And I think that that’s a mistake,” said DeSantis.
- “I think that when someone like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin sees Obama being indecisive, I think that whets his appetite to create more trouble in the area. And I think if we were to arm the Ukrainians, I think that would send a strong signal to him that he shouldn’t be going any further,” he added.
- In an interview from December 2017, DeSantis continued to align himself with the “Reagan school that’s tough on Russia,” criticizing Democrats for not supporting sending aid to Ukraine.
- “A couple years ago, Obama was refusing to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, they were trying to do a reset. The Democrats lauded that,” said DeSantis on Fox News. “They viewed guys like me who are – who are more of the Reagan school that’s tough on Russia as kind of throwbacks to the Cold War. They criticized Mitt Romney in 2012. Now all of a sudden because they’re using it against Trump, they’re so concerned about Russia.”
- As a freshman congressman serving on the House Foreign Affairs committee at the time, DeSantis voted for a resolution calling on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and voted on legislation authorizing $68 million in aid to Ukraine and codifying sanctions on Russia, which later passed in the House and a similar bill was later signed by Obama. He also voted to sanction Russian and Ukrainian officials involved in the annexation as well as provide economic assistance to Ukrainians.
- In May 2015, DeSantis voted for an amendment in the defense spending bill that would bar funds to implement the START treaty, a nuclear deterrent treaty between the US and Russia, until then-President Obama certified Russian forces were no longer illegally occupying Ukrainian territory. The House approved the amendment, Congress passed the legislation, but Obama vetoed the bill.
- DeSantis also co-sponsored a resolution in 2015 supporting free elections without Russian interference in Ukraine, a direct response to the Crimea referendum DeSantis once referred to as a “obviously a farce.”
- DeSantis also highlighted his previous support for Ukraine in a different news conference, pointing to weapons for Ukraine funded during the Trump administration.