A key takeaway from Wednesday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee was the differing views on the continued support for Ukraine. Both businessman and long-shot candidate Vivek Ramaswamy and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made it clear they’d each cut off funding Kyiv – while the other GOP hopefuls said they’d continue to provide aid to the embattled nation.
Ramaswamy, the son of immigrants, was most direct and suggested that the United States needs to court Russia as a way to break Moscow’s alliance with Beijing. He also took aim at the Biden administration in the process.
“I find it offensive that we have professional politicians who will make a pilgrimage to Kyiv, to their pope, Zelenskyy, without doing the same for the people in Maui or the south side of Chicago,” Ramaswamy said, referring to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine, as well as to the fact former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had visited Ukraine earlier this month
Europe Needs to Step Up, Said DeSantis
Governor DeSantis, who had previously described the conflict as a territorial dispute, only to later walk it back, said on Wednesday that he would stop providing aid to Ukraine unless European governments – including key NATO allies – stepped up to “pull their own weight.”
In April, the Florida governor who trails GOP frontrunner Donald Trump by double digits in most polls yet remains the former president’s closest rival, also said it was in “everybody’s interest to try to get to a place where we can have a ceasefire.”
DeSantis also compared the ongoing conflict to the bloody First World War Battle of Verdun, “Where you just have mass casualties, mass expense and end up with a stalemate.” It should be noted his knowledge of history is actually wrong, however. The losses at Verdun were less than both sides suffered earlier in the war, and it was also a French victory.
Pence and Christie Would Support Ukraine
Former Vice President Mike Pence was among the GOP candidates at the debate who said it is clear that the United States should continue support for Ukraine.
“Anybody that thinks that we can’t solve problems here in the United States and be the leader of the free world has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on Earth. We’ve done both. We’ve been the leader of the free world and the arsenal of democracy for years,” Pence explained.
He also noted that Ukraine is defeating America’s greatest near-peer adversary without any U.S. boots on the ground. Pence also warned that allowing Russia to win in Ukraine would only end up with U.S. troops being forced to fight Russia.
“The Reagan Doctrine years ago made it clear we said if you’re willing to fight the communists on your soil, we’ll give you the means to fight it there, so our troops don’t have to fight,” Pence explained. “If we give Putin this land, it’s not going to be too long before he rolls across a NATO border. And frankly, our men and women of our armed forces are going to have to go and fight him. I want to let the Ukrainians fight and drive through him and have the Russians back down.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by Christie, who explained why he traveled to the embattled nation.
“I went to Ukraine because I wanted to see for myself what Vladimir Putin’s army was doing to free Ukrainian people. I want you all to look around this arena tonight and imagine that every one of these seats was filled,” Christie noted. “And if every one of them was filled, there would still be 2,500 more children outside to make the over 20,000 who have been abducted, stolen, ripped from their mothers and fathers and brought back to Russia to be programmed to fight their own families.”
Sparring Candidates over Ukraine
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the UN during the Trump administration, called for more support for Ukraine.
“The American president needs to have moral clarity. They need to know the difference between right and wrong. They need to know the difference between good and evil. When you look at the situation with Russia and Ukraine, here you have a pro-American country that was invaded by a thug,” said Haley, who added, “So when you want to talk about what has been given to Ukraine, less than 3.5% of our defense budget has been given to Ukraine … We have to know that Ukraine is the first line of defense for us.”
She also accused Ramaswamy of wanting to “hand Ukraine to Russia” and “let China eat Taiwan.”
That was met by a swift response from the businessman.
“I wish you success on your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon,” Ramaswamy said, naming two large U.S. weapons manufacturers.
“You have no foreign policy experience and it shows,” Haley shot back.
According to most pundits, Haley and Ramaswamy outshined the others on the stage.
However, former President Donald Trump declined to attend and instead sat down for a prerecorded interview with Tucker Carlson, which was streamed on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. It has been viewed nearly 213 million times since it was posted on Wednesday evening.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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