Few issues have been more divisive among the Republican presidential candidates than the war in Ukraine and how, if at all, the United States should be involved.
It illuminated one of the biggest ideological divisions within the Republican Party: between traditional members who see the United States as having a significant role to play in world affairs, and an anti-interventionist wing who see foreign involvement as a distraction from more important issues. at home
The old school has more adherents in the 2024 field, including Nikki Haley, Mike Pence and Tim Scott, who support sending Ukraine military equipment and weapons but not troops. This is consistent with President Biden’s strategy, although they claim that Mr. Biden is doing it wrong.
But the anti-interventionist wing dominates in terms of influence, with two members, Donald J. Trump and Ron DeSantis, far outstripping all others.
Only one candidate, Will Hurd, wants to significantly expand US engagement.
Donald J. Trump
Former President Donald J. Trump said that the war in Ukraine is not important for the United States.
In CNN town hall event, he did not give a direct answer when asked repeatedly if he would continue to provide military aid, instead stating that he would end the war “within 24 hours” by meeting with Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. He claimed falsely that the United States had sent so much equipment that “we have no ammunition for ourselves.”
Mr Trump – who was accused in 2019 of withholding aid to Ukraine to pressure Mr Zelensky to help him electorally – also suggested to Fox News that he could have prevented the war by ceding Ukrainian land to Russia. “I could make a deal to take over something,” he said. “There are certain areas that are Russian-speaking areas, frankly.”
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida called the war a “territorial dispute” whose outcome does not materially affect the United States.
“While the United States has many vital national interests—securing our borders, addressing the readiness crisis with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party—it is increasingly embroiled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia are not one of them,” he told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in March.
After criticism from fellow Republicans, he backtracked, saying his comments were “mischaracterized” and that Russia’s invasion was wrong.
He has since approved a ceasefire, saying he wants to avoid a situation “where you just have massive casualties, massive expenses and end up with a stalemate.” He maintained his position that the United States should not get more involved.
The entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy opposes aid to Ukraine because, he argues, the war does not affect American interests.
He says he would go ahead with a deal that would offer sweeping concessions to Mr Putin, including ceding most of Ukraine’s Donbass region to Russia, lifting sanctions, closing all US military bases in Eastern Europe and barricading Ukraine of NATO. In exchange, he would demand that Russia end its military alliance with China and join the START nuclear treaty.
“I don’t think it’s preferable for Russia to be able to invade a sovereign country that’s its neighbor, but I think the job of the American president is to look after American interests, and what I think is the No. 1 threat to the US military is now, our main military threat, is the Sino-Russian alliance,” Mr. Ramaswamy. told ABC News. “I think that by continuing to fight in Russia, by continuing to arm Ukraine, we are driving Russia into the hands of China.”
Nikki Haley, a former ambassador to the United Nations, says it is “in America’s best interest” for Ukraine to repel Russia’s invasion, and that she will continue to send equipment and ammunition.
“Victory for Ukraine is a victory for all of us, because tyrants tell us exactly what they will do,” she. said on CNN. She added: “China says Taiwan’s next — we’d better believe them. Russia said Poland and the Baltics are next — if that happens, we’re looking at a world war. This is about preventing war.”
A victory for Ukraine, Mrs. Haley said, would “send a message” more broadly: warning China against invading Taiwan, Iran against building a nuclear bomb, and North Korea against testing more ballistic missiles. To Russia, it would mean that “it’s over”.
In speech at the American Enterprise Institute, she said President Biden was “too slow and weak to help Ukraine.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence supports aid to Ukraine and accused Mr. Biden of not delivering it quickly enough. In June, he was the first Republican candidate to travel to Ukraine, where he met with Mr. Zelensky.
Like Mrs. Haley, he described helping Ukraine as a way to show China that “the US and the West will not tolerate the use of military force to redraw international lines”, a reference to a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
This position distinguishes him from the president under whom he served. Criticizing Mr. Trump’s description of Mr. Putin as a “genius,” Mr. Pence said on CNN that he knew “the difference between a genius and a war criminal.”
He emphasized that he would “never” send US troops to Ukraine, and said he still did not want to accept Ukraine into NATO because he wanted to prevent the US from being forced to send troops. But he said he was willing to accept the country into NATO after the war.
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina supports aid to Ukraine and told NBC News that Mr. Biden “has done a terrible job explaining and articulating to the American people” what the interests of the United States are there, an argument Mr. Pence also made.
“First, it prevents or reduces attacks on the homeland,” Mr. Scott said. “Secondly, as part of NATO and land next to Ukraine, it will reduce the likelihood that Russia will have the weaponry or the will to attack on NATO territory, which would involve us.”
He supported a strong defense of Ukraine from the beginning, writing in March 2022 that the fight was “for the principles that America has always stood for.” That May, he voted for an emergency funding measure that went beyond what Mr. Biden had proposed. He accused Mr. Biden waited “too long to give too little support,” but Mr. Biden supported the increase.
Former governor Chris Christie of New Jersey said the United States should continue to support Ukraine until the war is “resolved.”
“None of us like the idea of a war going on and that we support it, but the alternative is for the Chinese to take over, the Russians, the Iranians and the North Koreans,” Mr Christie said. CNN town hallcalling the conflict a “proxy war with China.”
He added that “some kind of compromise” with Russia might be needed, and that the United States should help negotiate it after “Ukraine can protect the land that was taken from Russia in this latest incursion.”
Former governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas supports aid to Ukraine with audits to ensure funds are being used as intended. He said C-SPAN that American leadership was “important to support Ukraine and unite the European allies” against Russia, and that he disagreed with the more “isolationist view of Mr. Trump and Mr. DeSantis.”
Like several other candidates, he argued that allowing Russia to win would embolden it and other authoritarian countries to attack elsewhere.
“If we stand by and let this nation falter, it leaves a hostile Russia on the doorstep of our NATO allies,” he saidadding, “By taking a supportive and public stance in Ukraine, we are sending a message to Russia and China that their aggressive stance toward other nation-states is unacceptable.”
Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota pointed out that he supports military aid with “responsibility on every dollar.”
“Russia can’t get a win out of this, because if it’s a win for them, it’s a win for China,” Mr. Burgum. told KFYRtelevision station in North Dakota, adding that he wanted Europe to shoulder more of the financial burden.
He told CNN in June that the domestic turmoil in Russia created an opening that the US and NATO could exploit. “Let’s give them the support they need,” he said of Ukraine, without elaborating. “Let’s end this war now instead of making it a long one.”
Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami supports aid but wants to tie it to new NATO rules that require Europe to bear an equal burden.
In National Review essay, he said Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko had warned him that if Mr. Putin was not stopped, Russia and China would continue to attack the West, possibly including the United States. Mr Suarez added that Russia had to be defeated because it was part of a “broader resurgence of communist regimes”, although Mr Putin’s Russia is not communist.
Without naming him, Mr. Suarez criticized Mr. DeSantis’ position. “It doesn’t take a Harvard lawyer to see that the war in Ukraine is not a territorial dispute,” he wrote, shortly after Mr. DeSantis used that phrase to describe it. “It is a moral and geopolitical struggle between two visions of the world.”
Former Representative Will Hurd of Texas – who said from the start that the US should send Ukraine “as much weaponry as we can” – espoused a more hawkish policy than any other major candidate, arguing that the US should go far beyond providing equipment and weapons.
Mr. Hurd told ABC News that he supported establishing and helping to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine. NATO leaders and US lawmakers from both parties rejected that last year, saying they feared an escalation. Mr. Hurd dismissed that concern, arguing that Mr. Putin did not escalate when a mercenary leader threatened a coup.
He said the United States should help Ukraine take back not only the territory invaded by Russia in 2022, but also Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.