Ukraine’s foreign ministry invited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), widely presumed to be gearing up for a 2024 White House bid, to visit the former Soviet Union nation following comments he made in which he referred to Russia’s invasion of the country as a “territorial dispute.”
“We are sure that as a former military officer deployed to a combat zone, Governor @RonDeSantisFL knows the difference between a ‘dispute’ and war. We invite him to visit Ukraine to get a deeper understanding of Russia’s full-scale invasion and the threats it poses to US interests,” Oleg Nikolenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry, said in a post on Tuesday, quote-tweeting an article regarding DeSantis’s comments.
Nikolenko was referring to comments that DeSantis made in response to a Fox News questionnaire that was given out to declared and potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates, asking them to answer several questions regarding the Russian invasion.
“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,” DeSantis said in his response to the questionnaire.
But the governor’s characterization of the Russian invasion in Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” and his position that the U.S. not be as deeply involved in the conflict has sparked pushback from within the GOP.
“To those who believe that Russia’s unprovoked and barbaric invasion of Ukraine is not a priority for the United States – you are missing a lot,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted.
“By the way, China’s claim to Taiwan is also based on the proposition of a territorial dispute. I hope both the Democrat and Republican parties will reject this proposition,” he added in a later tweet.
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) rejected the idea that the invasion was a “territorial dispute” while speaking to conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt.
“Well, it’s not a territorial dispute in the sense that any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided that it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas,” Rubio said on Tuesday. “Just because someone claims something doesn’t mean it belongs to them.”
Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told Politico he was “disturbed” by the governor’s remarks.
“I want to find out more about it, but I hope he feels like he doesn’t need to take that Tucker Carlson line to be competitive in the primary. It’s important for us to continue to support Ukrainians for our own security,” he added.
The Hill has reached out to DeSantis’s office and campaign for comment.