Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) joined fellow Republicans on March 15 in criticizing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ comments that U.S. support for Ukraine was not one of its “vital” national interests.
“I speak for myself and I hope to be able to visit with a number of candidates or hopefuls and just explain the position where we are globally and how we can be a great convener,” Ernst, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Epoch Times following remarks at The McAleese “FY2024 Defense Programs” Conference in Washington.
“We need to be accountable for our taxpayer dollars, most certainly, but I believe it is in our national security interest.”
In response to a questionnaire from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, DeSantis, who is expected to jump into the 2024 presidential race in the coming months, said the United States should stay out of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
“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,” he said. “The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes,’ without any defined objectives or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges.”
“Our citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine,” he added. “We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted.”
Ernst, in her remarks to the conference, acknowledged that U.S. military dollars must compete with domestic issues including combating the fentanyl crisis.
She is not the only GOP senator to criticize DeSantis.
“It’s a misunderstanding of the situation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on March 14. “This is not a territorial conflict, it’s a war of aggression.”
“To say it doesn’t matter is to say war crimes don’t matter,” he said.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) echoed Graham’s point about war crimes.
“I think that we have to look bigger than just a conflict in Ukraine,” he said. “There’s a humanitarian crisis. There are war crimes being committed.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said, “I would argue, and I think the majority of people in this country recognize how important it is, that Ukraine repel Russia.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) rebuked DeSantis, a fellow Florida Republican, on March 14 and said the war is not a mere dispute over land.
“Well, it’s not a territorial dispute in the sense that any more than it would be a territorial dispute if the United States decided that it wanted to invade Canada or take over the Bahamas,” he 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,” Rubio said. “Obviously, he doesn’t deal with foreign policy every day as governor, so … I can’t compare that to something else he did or has said over the last few years.”
In Congress, DeSantis was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.