About Gov. DeSantis, Russia, Ukraine, and The Inevitable Either/Or Manipulation
[guest post by Dana]
As you know, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida sent Vladimir Putin a reassuring message when he
told pandered to some Republicans (2024, people!) on a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson (but of course!) and referred to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent war as little more than a territorial dispute. His intentional minimization of what is actually taking place ignores the vicious battle that Ukraine is engaged in as it fights to keep from being forcibly subsumed by Russia and erased. It also ignores the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, the abduction of thousands of children who have been sent to Russia for re-education and adoption, the rape of Ukrainian women by Russian troops, the discovery of mass graves with the bodies of hundreds of Ukrainian women and children, some with their hands tied behind their backs, the targeting of civilian populations, and ultimately, it ignores the genocide. Trying to wipe out an entire population is not a simple “territorial dispute”.
Consider the difference between a “dispute” and an invasion leading to war:
Ukraine is a sovereign nation, recognized as such by the rest of the world. Ukraine’s borders are Ukraine’s borders. At the instigation of Russia’s murderous dictator Vladimir Putin, Russian forces invaded those borders. Russia has forced more than 8 million Ukrainians not just from their homes but from their country, has destroyed life-sustaining infrastructure, has killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and tens of thousands of Ukrainian military personnel, and has sacrificed perhaps twice as many of its own conscripted soldiers, all on behalf of Putin’s power play.
A dispute is a mere difference of opinion. An invasion is the waging of war to gain territory or riches that are not one’s own. To call the invasion of Ukraine a mere dispute is to indicate there is a moral equivalency between the two sides. There isn’t. One is the aggressor. The other is the aggrieved.
And here’s the rub: DeSantis knows this. Most certainly. So all of this is to say that the political calculation behind DeSantis’s statements speaks to a willful decision to throw Ukraine under the bus for his own political advancement. This wasn’t an unforced error. This was an experienced politician determining how best to get ahead in what will likely be the political race of his life. And that is what I find so repellent. To dismiss a Western nation that is being erased by a brutal common enemy who poses a threat to the West at large is just unacceptable. It’s a short-sighted, cynical, and self-interested calculation he’s made, but unfortunately, one that will resonate with the America First Republicans.
DeSantis also told Carlson that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital national interest”. DeSantis is a smart guy. He knows that we have a security interest in seeing Putin defeated. Key Republicans know this, and even the Republican Policy Committee knows this:
Military aid for Ukraine is a strategic investment in the security of the United States. The U.S. has a willing and effective partner to help Ukraine stand up to Putin’s agenda while keeping his aggression farther from NATO borders. If Ukraine defeats Russia, this will save the U.S. from making larger-scale investments in Europe to deter Russia in the future. A weakened Russian military will be a good thing for the U.S., NATO, European, and international stability. As we and our allies buy new weapons to replace what is being sent to Ukraine, we will help modernize our military industrial base and fill the U.S. arsenal with newer weapons.
United States support to Ukraine also sends a clear message to America’s adversaries that we will not back down and that this kind of reckless rejection of the rule of law will have consequences. This is particularly notable as China’s desire to invade Taiwan grows more obvious. It makes clear that there are significant costs to pay for any authoritarian state that expects a quick military victory when invading its neighbors. We must leave absolutely no doubt in the minds of Russia’s, China’s, or any other nation’s leaders about U.S. resolve to support sovereignty and self-determination around the globe. Decisive military aid to Ukraine will accomplish this task.
So with that, I am troubled by DeSantis’s comments. I don’t believe he misspoke or had an oops! moment, or was confused. No clarification is needed. After all, this was a questionnaire, not a live interview. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he said what he meant, and he meant what he said. In light of this, one must ask why DeSantis has gone from a position of once pushing for aid to Ukraine, condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and asserting that the U.S. must send “defensive and offensive” weapons to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 to where he no longer considers Russia’s efforts to erase Ukraine a vital national interest? At the time, DeSantis even criticized the Obama administration for not sending arms to Ukraine and neighboring NATO countries. His current position becomes all the more questionable when one considers that DeSantis has actually already confirmed to us that Russia-Ukraine is indeed a vital national interest and why:
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.
Allow me a pre-emptive strike of sorts: If you’ve read my posts before, you know that I am not a Trump supporter and have criticized him over the years. Now seeing DeSantis’s politically self-interested flip-flop on foreign policy and minimization of the war in Ukraine, etc., I am not inclined to support him in 2024. But let me be clear: just because I don’t see myself supporting either Trump or DeSantis does not automatically mean that I support Joe Biden and will vote for him. That is a disingenuous and manipulative argument designed to force one into an either/or position. The false dilemma seems little more than a twist on the annoying “Gotcha!” game. Stop already. If the projected leading contenders for the Republican nomination are crappy individuals or crappy candidates or hold crappy views that voters can’t get behind because of their own moral, political, and philosophical viewpoints, then one should just see that as a disagreement with the voter, not as a sure sign that they will be voting for the opposition. I’m wondering if this all speaks to a Republican Party problem. Maybe more quality candidates should be a priority. Elevating the standards, rather than lowering them seems like a good idea. Especially as the Party already lowered them, and look what it got us. Anyway, I’m just saying that I refuse to play the game:
Amazing to see all the people who said Trump was Hitler now swiveling to decry DeSantis. They're basically looking for an excuse to back Biden, and it's perfectly obvious.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 14, 2023