Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis toughened his stance on Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling Putin a “war criminal” who should be “held accountable” for the invasion of Ukraine, just days after he claimed the Ukraine war is not a “vital national interest.”
DeSantis angered Republican hawks, Never Trumpers, and neocons less than two weeks ago when he characterized the Ukraine-Russia conflict as a “territorial dispute” that is not a “vital” U.S. interests.
DeSantis told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson:
While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our border, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.
After DeSantis’s initial comments, Never Trumper Adam Kinzinger (IL) dismissed DeSantis as being “in with the crazies,” and former GOP congresswoman Liz Cheney scolded DeSantis for seemingly forgetting “the lessons of Ronald Reagan.”
However, during an interview with Piers Morgan, DeSantis took a tougher position on the Ukraine conflict. In that interview, set to air on Fox Nation on Thursday, DeSantis branded Putin as a “war criminal” and demanded he be “held accountable” for invading Ukraine.
Well, that didn't take long. It looks like the Bush donors sent DeSantis to reprogramming class 👇https://t.co/eqShWlFmCg
— Vince Langman (@LangmanVince) March 22, 2023
DeSantis also said his critics “mischaracterized” his use of the phrase “territorial dispute.”
“Well, I think it’s been mischaracterized,” DeSantis said when asked if he regretted using that language. “Obviously, Russia invaded (last year) — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — That was wrong.”
DeSantis clarified that his remarks were about the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern border region.
DeSantis told Morgan:
What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately but they had. There’s a lot of ethnic Russians there. So, that’s some difficult fighting and that’s what I was referring to, and so it wasn’t that I thought Russia had a right to that, and so if I should have made that more clear, I could have done it, 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. 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 (in invading) – that’s nonsense.
DeSantis acknowledged Ukraine’s “right” to the Crimean territory and said, “If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%.”
“But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake. So, that was the point I was trying to make but Russia was wrong to invade,” DeSantis explained. “They were wrong to take Crimea.”
DeSantis also echoed former Sen. John McCain, who famously described Russia as “a gas station masquerading as a country,” calling Putin a loser who is “basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons.”
DeSantis with John McCain as his muse repeating his talking points almost verbatim!
Was this your idea Ron? Or did your neocon advisers Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush train you with this Russophobia? pic.twitter.com/fWQD1YkDvT
— Jon Miller (@MillerStream) March 22, 2023
When asked if he would support any efforts to hold Putin accountable for war crimes, DeSantis affirmed his belief that Putin is a “war criminal,” but fell short of endorsing any trials by the international criminal court (ICC).
“I think he is a war criminal,” DeSantis told Morgan. “This ICC … we have not done that in the U.S. because we’re concerned about our soldiers or people being brought under it. So, I don’t know about that route, but I do think that he should be held accountable.”
Carlson seemingly responded to DeSantis’s tougher stance on Wednesday, criticizing politicians who cave to media pressure and regurgitate “childish slogans” like “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.”
Welcome to Tucker Carlson Tonight. Let’s enter fantasyland for a moment. Let’s pretend for a sec that our country had a news media that was interested in bringing you the news. Not in lecturing you about your moral inferiority “You’re so bad” or lying to you and transparently obvious ways. “January 6 was an insurrection guys” or even in forcing you to repeat whatever childish slogan they’ve come up with this week. “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.” Okay. “transwomen are women.” All right, “say it or else.”
Ultimately, DeSantis believes Ukraine will prevail in the war against Russia.
“I think those regions in the (eastern) border, and Crimea, are likely to be a stalemate for quite some time, and unfortunately a lot of people will end up dying if that’s the case,” DeSantis said. “But I do not think it’s going to end with Putin being victorious. I do not think the Ukrainian Government is going to be toppled by him and I think that’s a good thing.”