Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the US should not “become further entangled” in the Russia-Ukraine war. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

Defending Ukraine was not an important U.S. interest, according to Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, the top two Republicans in polls for the 2024 presidential nomination.

These remarks will demoralize Kyiv and give Vladimir Putin the impression that time is on his side.

Trump, a longtime admirer of Putin, has consistently expressed doubt about U.S. support for Ukraine and has indicated he could mediate a peace agreement that would involve Ukraine ceding territory.

DeSantis had earlier attempted to avoid questions about Ukraine, and his latest remarks are likely to further erode Republican support for Ukraine.

Both men responded to a survey from Tucker Carlson, a prominent Fox News host, who then shared the results on Twitter.

DeSantis, the governor of Florida, said the U.S. should not "become further entangled" in the Russia-Ukraine war.

Trump, the former president who dominates polling, said the Ukraine war was not a vital U.S. interest "but it is for Europe ... that is why Europe should be paying far more than we are, or equal," reports The Guardian.

The remarks were made during a period of military stalemate in which neither side has been able to make any major gains on the battlefield.

Ukraine hopes to end the standoff this spring, but it's not clear if it has enough weapons or skilled troops to succeed.

According to analysts, Putin's prospects are better the longer the conflict lasts because Kyiv's western backers grow weary of the expense and Russia's larger population plays a bigger role in the equation.

To Carlson, DeSantis said: "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."

"Without question, peace should be the objective. The US should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders," said DeSantis also accused Joe Biden of providing "a virtual blank cheque" to Ukraine.

US forces won't be sent in, according to Biden, and he hasn't pushed Kyiv to do more than try to drive out the invaders.

"F-16s and long-range missiles should ... be off the table," DeSantis said. "These moves would risk explicitly drawing the United States ... closer to a hot war between the world's two largest nuclear powers. That risk is unacceptable."

"A policy of 'regime change' in Russia (no doubt popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists) would greatly increase the stakes of the conflict, making the use of nuclear weapons more likely," the governor added.

"Russia would definitely not have raided and attacked Ukraine if I was your president," Trump asserted in answer to Carlson.

He typically couched his policy recommendations in financial terms, alleging that the US was being duped by its European allies.

Trump was frequently charged with serving Russian President Vladimir Putin during his four years in power.

While Senate Republicans are broadly supportive of U.S. military backing for Ukraine, a growing group of hard-right representatives in the House are calling for it to end.

With his remarks, DeSantis chose sides in a fierce debate within his party.

Douglas London, a former senior CIA official, suggested the remarks could be tactical.

"DeSantis dismissal of Russia's war in Ukraine as a vital US interest will invite the Kremlin's cyber [and] disinformation tools to amplify his message, charge his base and further sow American division," London tweeted.

"I was taught, and I believe U.S. domestic and international policies are driven foremost by our nation's values. Independence, sovereignty, respect for individual freedoms and rights, rule of law, the dignity of fellow humans ... That's why we help Ukraine," Mark Hertling, a retired general and CNN national security analyst said.

The description of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a "territorial dispute" by DeSantis drew especially vehement criticism.

Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic operative and pollster, said Republicans' "rancid appeasement of Putin has been among the darkest chapters in all of American history. DeSantis parrots Kremlin taking points on Ukraine, again."

Carlson received responses from additional contenders and potential candidates as well.

Former vice president Mike Pence sided with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell by quoting Ronald Reagan when he talked about the necessity of standing up to Russia.

"I would say anyone that thinks ... Putin will stop at Ukraine is wrong," Pence said.

Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, stated in favor of continued military support for Ukraine.

"Russia's objective is to take over all of Ukraine by military force. Our objective should be to help the Ukrainians prevent that from happening," Haley said.

"Will 'Republican internationalists and hawkish elements in the party's donor class' rally to candidates like Pence, Haley or Christie now that DeSantis has joined Team Tucker on Ukraine? Or will they once again submit, and embrace dangerous demagoguery?" Bill Kristol, a conservative Trump critic, asked.

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