DeSantis recalls "territorial dispute" comments on Ukraine invasion, calls Putin a "war criminal"
DeSantis clarified his comments in a lengthy TV interview on “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” which airs on Fox Nation tonight, reportedly calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” while calling for the world community to hold him “accountable” for his ruthless invasion of Ukraine
March 23, 2023 8:52am
Updated: March 23, 2023 9:20am
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has clarified his comments on Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, following a wave of negative response from last week’s interview with Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, in which he minimized Moscow’s war crimes as a mere “territorial dispute.”
DeSantis clarified his comments in a lengthy TV interview on “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” which airs on Fox Nation tonight, reportedly calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal,” while calling for the world community to hold him “accountable” for his ruthless invasion of Ukraine.
Morgan previewed part of the interview in a piece he penned for the New York Post.
The Republican presidential hopeful now says Moscow acted illegally when it invaded Crimea in 2014, and the remainder of Ukraine in 2022, and that ultimately, Kyiv will emerge victorious over the Kremlin.
Taking a cue from former presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. John McCain, DeSantis echoed his famous criticism of Russia by calling it, “basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons.”
Last week, DeSantis told Tucker Carlson it is not in America’s “vital national interests” to become “further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia,” comments that raised concerns in Latino communities that still have a vested interest in seeing violence and tyranny and their homelands quelled.
The governor’s remarks immediately faced blowback from prominent Republicans including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham.
According to reports, when Piers asks DeSantis if he wanted to clarify his description of the invasion as a mere “territorial dispute,” the Florida governor replied, “Well, I think it’s been mischaracterized. Obviously, Russia invaded, that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014. That was wrong.”
DeSantis now says that his “territorial dispute,” comments were limited to fighting taking place on the eastern border region known as Donbas and Crimea where Russian separatist armies have claimed the population wants to join the Russian Federation.
“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,” the governor said.
“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.”
Piers struck back saying that having interviewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he was certain the Ukrainian people would still take issue with the invasion being called a “territorial dispute.”
DeSantis immediately conceded that Ukrainians “have the right to that territory,” and added, “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.”
Piers also asked the governor what he thought of Russian President Vladimir Putin as a leader.
“I think he’s got grand ambitions,” DeSantis said, “I think he’s hostile to the United States, but I think the thing that we’ve seen is he doesn’t have the conventional capability to realize his ambitions. And so, he’s basically a gas station with a bunch of nuclear weapons and one of the things we could be doing better is utilizing our own energy resources in the U.S.
“We could be permitting natural gas pipelines, doing a lot in Alaska. That’s where he gets all his power and obviously, he’s influenced Europe by having so much energy. So, the way to hit Putin is to hit him with energy, but I do think if you look back, all the defense analysts, and me in the past, we over-estimated his conventional capability. This has been a huge blunder for him. Huge cost and you know we’ll see what ends up happening with his longevity in power, but this has been a loss for them.’
Last week, the international criminal court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin for enabling the kidnapping of innocent Ukrainian children, effectively turning Mother Russia into a regional prison for the strongman.
When Piers asked DeSantis if he agreed with the ICC’s assessment of Putin as a war criminal, he said he did.
“I think he is a war criminal,” he replied… I do think that he should be held accountable.”
DeSantis said he believes Ukraine will emerge victorious and free its people from the invading Russian army.
“I think those regions in the (eastern) border, and Crimea, are likely to be a stalemate for quite some time, and unfortunately a lot of people will end up dying if that’s the case. But I do not think it’s going to end with Putin being victorious. I do not think the Ukrainian Government is going to be toppled by him and I think that’s a good thing.”
The governor did not get into whether or not he believed the U.S. should send fighter jets to Ukraine or weapons with more offensive capability.
DeSantis however, didn’t address whether he had softened his position on sending more advanced weaponry like F16s to Ukraine.