Republicans slam DeSantis for calling war in Ukraine 'a territorial dispute'

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Russia’s war in Ukraine is no mere “territorial dispute,” several Republicans said Sunday, in response to a statement Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made last week, claiming the war was not a “vital” U.S. interest.

“This is a clear — it’s not even a questionable — a clear vital national interest, to support what is going on in Ukraine,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

DeSantis made his statement in answers to a Fox News questionnaire that were made public Monday.

“If you let Russia start to come in," Sununu said, "and walk over Ukraine, you put all of Eastern Europe at risk. You put all of our NATO allies there at risk. And then when a NATO ally is now at risk, now you really risk having to put potential American troops on the ground, which nobody wants to see and shouldn't happen."


Sending $50 billion in aid to Ukraine, Sununu said, is “a deal,” if it means not having to send troops to fight a war in Europe.

“There are voices in our party that don't see a vital American interest in Ukraine. But I see it differently,” former Vice President Mike Pence said on ABC’s “This Week.” Pence called DeSantis’s description of the war as a territorial dispute “wrong” and said the U.S. “ought to provide the tanks, the missiles and the aircraft that the Ukrainian military can use to take the fight to the Russians.”

“We have Russian aggression on the move, again, just as they did under [President Barack] Obama and Crimea, as they did under President [George W.] Bush in Georgia. And we have to meet this moment with American strength,” Pence said.

Taking a stand against Russia in Ukraine also sends a message to China, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said.

While there is territory being taken by Russia, “this is bigger than that for us.” Chinese President Xi Jinping is watching, Rounds said, and should the U.S. fail to assist Ukraine, Xi may see it as a sign that China can make similar moves in Taiwan without facing American interference.

“[Xi] wants to see how we respond and whether or not we can keep our allies together, whether or not. … NATO stays together or whether or not it strengthens NATO. So, this is a bigger picture than just territory,” Rounds said.

The war in Ukraine has divided the Republican Party in recent months, with some viewing it through a Cold War lens and others suggesting the conflict is not as important to Americans as other issues. With his statement last week, DeSantis joined with Republicans such as Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the latter camp.

“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and 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,” he said in his statement to Fox News.