WASHINGTON – Republican senators broke Tuesday with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his comments that defending Ukraine against Russian aggression was not in the «vital» interest of the United States.

“I completely disagree with his comments,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mis., the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee.

About half a dozen of Wicker’s fellow Republicans voiced varying degrees of opposition to DeSantis’s comments Monday night on Fox News.

High-profile comments from the potential 2024 presidential candidate, who many Republican elites hope will be the leading alternative to former President Donald Trump, intensify an intra-party standoff between security hawks who want to preserve the post-World War II order. and a right wing populist seeking to withdraw from global affairs.

“I would certainly hate to send a signal to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin that we’re not worried about him, and he’d certainly hate to send a signal to other allies around the world that you’re on your own. Because that could lead to a nuclear proliferation that we have been avoiding for decades. So, no, I think it’s in our interest,» Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., told NBC News.

Cramer, who otherwise praised DeSantis, said he is «not very surprised» by the governor’s comments as he navigates a complicated dynamic with the party base.

“We have a base that is uneasy, and if he’s running for president, he probably needs to talk to that base a little bit,” Cramer said. «And that’s not to say that it’s not his position, but I do believe that if he is the president of the United States and he has all that power, then I hope that he is adequately informed on the details to make the decision. But I also hope that this position will evolve a bit.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and a ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, rejected DeSantis’ view that Russia’s war in Ukraine was a «territorial dispute» between two sides.

«It’s not a territorial dispute in the sense that, any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas,» Rubio told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “Just because someone claims something doesn’t mean it belongs to them. This is an invasion.»

“I don’t know what he’s trying to do or what the goal is. Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor,” Rubio added.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said DeSantis’ comments reflected a «misunderstanding of the situation.»

“This is not a territorial conflict. This is a war of aggression,» he said, adding that DeSantis has been «a great governor, but in my opinion, if you don’t understand Ukraine well, this is an opportunity to stop Putin before it becomes more of a war.» big». – and China is watching.”

Senate Minority Leader John Thune, RS.D., said, «I have a different opinion on that than he does,» when pressed about DeSantis. «There is a diversity of opinion, as you know, within our party members.»

Many Republicans said that protecting Ukraine was ultimately about protecting the United States and its allies in Europe.

“They are of vital interest,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. «Basically we are protecting NATO and Europe.» But he said there is a valid debate about how far the United States can go in terms of helping Ukraine. “We are ruined,” he said. “We have to have a better plan.”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said, «I don’t want America to be the world’s policeman, but I don’t want Vladimir Putin or [Chinese President] Xi Jinping to be world policemen either. I have never seen our help to Ukraine as charity. I’ve seen it as self-preservation.»

Other Republicans said the issue will spark debate in the primaries.

«It’s something that I think any of the people who have an interest in working as the next president of the United States really need to get a full briefing before they decide to make a decision on this particular issue,» said Senator Mike Rounds. , RS.D., he told reporters.

“So, we’ll see how it moves. But we have a number of people who are watching, I think, the 2024 race, and we’ll find out if the rest of them feel the same or not.

kate santaliz contributed.

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