[guest post by Dana]
In an interview with Piers Morgan concerning Gov. DeSantis’ answers to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson last week, in which he said that the situation in Ukraine was not of vital interest to the United States and that the war was a “territorial dispute,” his
walk-back, er uh, flip-flop, hm, clarification is, well, interesting. Especially as he opened by saying that the ensuing fallout wasn’t his fault:
When [Piers Morgan] asked him specifically if he regretted using the phrase “territorial dispute,” DeSantis replied, “Well, I think it’s been mischaracterized. Obviously, Russia invaded (last year) — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — That was wrong.
“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.”
“I think they have the right to that territory,” he replied. “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. They were wrong to take Crimea.
“Russia did not have the right to go into Crimea or to go in February of 2022 and that should be clear.”
I just really don’t buy that the Yale University-Harvard Law School-educated governor and one with an eye toward the presidency didn’t say just what he meant in the questionnaire. He is a practiced politician who regularly speaks to voters on issues facing Floridians, and now that he is campaigning-not-campaigning throughout the country, he is also addressing hot-button issues impacting voters at large. Filling out the questionnaire wasn’t a stretch for either the governor or his team – especially when one considers with whom the questionnaire originated and Carlson’s audience. Clearly, DeSantis chose to play to *that* audience with his original Ukraine remarks. And almost certainly, DeSantis was bruised and taken aback by the angry reaction of Republicans and knew that he had to explain what he really meant. Or, clarify, if you will. It’s funny how the word clarify is so much more forgiving than cleanup, back-pedal, U-turn, flip-flop, or pivot…
But let’s take a minute to look at his clarification. While he correctly states that in 2014, Russia illegally invaded Crimea and subsequently claimed it as theirs and that it was wrong, he then says:
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.”
His larger point then is, that because Russia isn’t able to take over all of Ukraine and topple its government or threaten NATO, there isn’t sufficient interest for us to be involved any more than we are. In other words, the illegal invasion, the untold thousands of children kidnapped and taken into Russia to be re-educated and made Russian, the targeting, torture, rape, and murder of Ukrainian civilians, the genocide of a Western nation, and the threat that a Russian victory would pose to the rest of Europe and the West doesn’t move the dial. I want to point out too that there has not been any call for American troops to be involved, contrary to the MAGA distortion of President Zelenky’s comments.
With regard to DeSantis’ comment that ethnic Russians are already there:
The reason why there is “fighting going on” in Donbas, Crimea, and well beyond since 2014 isn’t because native Russian-speaking Slavs populate those portions of Ukraine. It’s because Moscow invaded and illegally annexed those territories.
The existence of ethnic Russians in the nations Moscow regards as its “near abroad” — the former Soviet space and some portions of the Warsaw Pact — serves as Moscow’s pretextual justification for its expansionist ambitions. The existence of an ethnic diaspora beyond the borders of revisionist powers has justified irridentist ambitions since the dawn of nationalism. It’s not a legitimate rationale for wars of aggression, and DeSantis says he doesn’t regard Putin’s war as just. So why bring it up?
DeSantis also addressed the issue of whether a China invasion of Taiwan would be seen as a more critical issue:
“That would be aggression,” he replied. “Absolutely it would be aggression. Taiwan is a strong ally of the United States. I think that’s a critical interest, for us but also for our key allies like Japan and South Korea, and I think overall the number one issue that we face internationally is checking the growth and the rise of China.
“They’re much more powerful than Putin and Russia are, and they really represent the biggest threat that we’ve seen to our ability to lead since the Soviet Union.”
The Taiwanese are of full or partial Han descent. Would DeSantis lend credence to Beijing’s narratives about uniting (the ruling caste of) the Chinese people? Of course not. In fact, he insists that checking Chinese aggression with a deterrent posture in the Indo-Pacific is “a critical interest” and crucial for “our key allies like Japan and South Korea.” But the same rationale applies to Europe, where the U.S. has mutual defense pacts with nations like Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, all of whom have plenty of “ethnic Russians” within their borders — a condition Moscow is keen to bring up, and which justifies in the Kremlin’s view efforts to destabilize those nations.
I agree that China is watching and waiting to see if Russia’s illegal invasion will be met with impunity and how long the West is willing to aid and support Ukraine’s efforts to expel Russia from its borders. If we waver or back off in our support and Ukraine is lost to Russia, China will be more emboldened to make an advance on Taiwan. If China does invade Taiwan, not just our economy, but the global economies would be far more devastated, given the dependence on Taiwan’s chips and cheap manufacturing:
Looking at this situation from an economic perspective, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could mean trillions of dollars in losses and a serious global recession. Taiwan is home to TSMC, the world’s biggest chipmaker. Given that no other company makes such advanced chips at such a high volume, a conflict could mean the production of everything from cars to iPhones grinds to a halt… “Given how predominant Taiwan is in the global semiconductor value chain, even with adjustments, any type of disruption to access to Taiwan semiconductor output is going to have tremendous consequences for the global economy[.]”
So, I agree with DeSantis about his concerns regarding China. They are very real. But at the same time, what the U.S. does today to support Ukraine is also what keeps China in check, and also prevents a revival of the Soviet Union tomorrow, especially if China provides Russia with lethal weapons.