A Mere “Territorial Dispute”

Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis—presumptively Donald Trump’s most formidable opponent for the Republican presidential nomination—was forced to eat some crow. (Actually, if we can believe his characterization of his own remarks, the fowl he was eating was not of the Corvidae family variety. He never needed to eat crow because those of us who accepted his earlier remarks at face value were guilty of taking his words out of context. Thus, we must assume it was not crow he was eating later this week, but rather something more akin to chicken.)

His earlier remarks were as follows:

“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.”  See, DeSantis walks back ‘territorial dispute’ remark on Ukraine – ABC News (go.com)

Spirited Reasoners reading those words can come to only one conclusion; namely, that Mr. DeSantis felt Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not the sort of naked aggression our nation should condemn as violating international law. Nor should we consider the many examples of Russian crimes against humanity, by targeting residential buildings, churches, schools, and hospitals. Rather, the whole thing is a mere border dispute.

But according to him, we were wrong when we interpreted his remarks that way.

In his later “clarification,” which came only after a week’s worth of criticism from leaders of his own party, we believe he ate some crow—or maybe it was chicken—in the form of offering the following rather lame explanation:

“What I’m referring to is where the fighting is going on now, which is that eastern border region Donbas, and then Crimea, and you have a situation where Russia has had that. I don’t think legitimately, but they had. 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.”

No need, Mr. Santis. You’ve made things clear enough. If you had been President when Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine, you would have thumbed your nose at Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s desperate requests for Western assistance. You would have left Ukraine, and all its innocent victims, to suffer their fate alone.

Some Republicans, like former President Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nicki Haley, have criticized Mr. Santis’s comments as weak, not because they favor Russia, but because they echo positions already taken by Mr. Trump. Spirited Reasoners, on the other hand, are less worried about the perceived weakness of Florida’s governor (and that of Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley, for that matter). We are more worried about GOP willingness to sell out a friend of NATO, one who stands at the point of a spear pointing not only at Ukraine, but at NATO-member Poland, the Baltic states, and prospective NATO members like Finland and Sweden.

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