The field of Republicans running for president or making moves toward entering the race is divided over the war in Ukraine. Some, including former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have suggested that further assistance to Ukraine is not a top strategic priority for the United States. Others, including Nikki Haley, a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, argue that supporting Ukraine is a vital interest for the United States.
The disagreement among these Republicans is shaping up as a potential longer-term debate in the contest as the candidate field takes shape. Here’s where the declared and potential GOP presidential candidates stand, starting with the polling leaders (Trump and DeSantis, the latter a potential candidate), as well as Trump’s declared opponents (Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy) and other possible candidates (Asa Hutchinson, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Tim Scott and Chris Sununu.)
Trump is one of several current or potential candidates who responded to a questionnaire from Fox News host Tucker Carlson. In response to the question of whether opposing Russia is a “vital American national strategic interest,” Trump said in a statement: “No, but it is for Europe. But not for the United States.”
In his response to Carlson’s questions, the Florida governor adopted a posture similar to Trump’s, calling the invasion of Ukraine “a territorial dispute” and saying that “while the U.S. has many vital national interests … becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.”
The approach of the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is different from Trump and DeSantis’s. She says that opposing Russia in Ukraine is a vital American strategic interest. She has warned that “if Russia wins, then its closest allies, China and Iran, will become more aggressive,” echoing her remarks about Ukraine on the campaign trail.
“This is not a war about Ukraine. This is a war about freedom. And it’s one that we have to win,” Haley said at a foreign policy event in Clive, Iowa, on March 10. “I don’t think we need to put troops on the ground, but I think we need to get with our allies and make sure that they [the Ukrainians] have the equipment they need.”
In response to Carlson’s questionnaire, Haley said that the United States should help Ukraine fight off Russia by providing “conventional weapons” but that it should not contribute troops, cash or blank checks.
Haley said that the Russian leadership under Putin is “among the worst in the world” but that “it should not be American policy to try to change any foreign regime simply because we have good reason to dislike it.”
In response to DeSantis’s comments on Ukraine, Pence told the radio show and podcast New Hampshire Today: “The war going on in Ukraine right now is not a territorial dispute. It is the result of an unprovoked war of aggression by Russia. Russia is attempting to redraw international lines by force.”
Like Haley, Pence has warned that if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, he will not stop there, and the former vice president has said that supporting Ukraine also sends a signal to China. He said he doesn’t believe in a blank check for Ukraine, “but withholding or reducing support will have consequences.”
Pence said Thursday in New Hampshire that “as leader of the free world, as arsenal of democracy, I believe that America has an obligation to lead the free world, to give Ukrainian military the support they need to repel the Russian invasion.”