Several of the highly-buzzed Republican presidential hopefuls have responded to Tucker Carlson’s questions pressing their stance on the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
Last week, the Fox News host challenged the already-declared candidates as well as several prominent Republicans who have sparked chatter of potentially entering the 2024 race to answer a questionnaire that asked the following: Is opposing Russia in Ukraine a vital American national strategic interest? What specifically is our objective in Ukraine, and how will we know when we’ve achieved it? What is the limit of funding and materiel you would be willing to send to the government of Ukraine? Should the United States support regime change in Russia? Given that Russia’s economy and currency are stronger than before the war, do you believe that U.S. sanctions have been effective? Do you believe the United States faces the risk of nuclear war with Russia?
Two of the three declared presidential candidates, former President Trump and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, responded to Carlson’s inquiry as well as former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was the only declared presidential candidate who did not respond to Carlson’s inquiry. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, all who have signaled a potential White House bid, also did not respond to the questionnaire. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton declined to comment
Trump said, “No, but it is for Europe,” adding that European allies “should be paying far more than we are, or equal.” DeSantis told Carlson, “While the U.S. has many vital national interests… becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.” Noem pointed to China as being the “primary external threat” to the U.S. instead of Russia, saying the war in Ukraine “should be Europe’s fight, not ours.” Ramaswamy says it’s not vital to oppose Russia while stressing it is vital for the U.S. to have energy independence, insisting that had Europe relied more on the U.S. for oil and gas instead of Russia, the invasion might not have happened.
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Meanwhile, Pence touted the “Reagan doctrine” of fending off enemies on their shores to prevent America’s direct involvement, telling Carlson, “There is no room for Putin apologists in the Republican Party. This is not America’s war, but if Putin is not stopped and the sovereign nation of Ukraine is not restored quickly, he will continue to move toward our NATO allies, and America would then be called upon to send our own.”
Scott says it is a vital national interest to degrade Russia’s military. Christie similarly states, “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a national security issue that threatens our alliances and our standing in the world,” adding “this is a proxy war being waged by Russia’s ally China against the United States” and that “it would be naive to call this anything but Chinese aggression.”
Abbott did not specifically address this question.
Trump said the objective is to “help and secure Europe, but Europe isn’t helping itself,” telling Carlson it’s “very unfair” for the U.S. to largely foot the bill, especially since Europe “takes advantage of us on trade and other things.” DeSantis said “peace” is the objective while Pence told Carlson “victory for Ukraine” and having its sovereignty restored is the objective. Christie similarly said the objective is to “assist Ukraine sufficiently to enable them to defeat Russian forces and restore their sovereignty.”
Ramaswamy said the objective is to “respect any prior legal treaty commitments the U.S. has made,” citing The Budapest Memorandum that established Ukraine’s sovereignty. However, he added the U.S. achieved one objective in exposing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “paper tiger” over his weak military capabilities while two outstanding goals would be to deter Putin from future aggression and “nudging” Europeans to “take care of themselves.”
Noem did not specifically state what the objective in Ukraine is but told Carlson, “If we had a president who pursued peace through strength, Putin never would have dared to invade Ukraine.” Neither Abbott nor Scott specifically laid out an objective, either.
DeSantis told Carlson the U.S. “should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders,” adding that providing F-16s and long-range missiles would be “off the table.” He also said, “Our citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine.”
Ramaswamy said he would “limit any further funding or support to Ukraine” as president, adding European allies “need to do more, a lot more — it’s their backyard, it’s their borders.” Someone said “We should not waste taxpayer dollars at the risk of nuclear war,” adding “We’ve already over-extended ourselves in our largesse to Ukraine.”
Trump responded by saying it would “strongly depend” on him meeting with Putin but stressed “Europe must pay.”
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Pence said he does not support sending a “blank check” but warned “withholding or reducing support will have consequence” and that “the cost will be far greater” if Putin invaded NATO allies. Abbott slammed President Biden’s “blank check foreign policy,” telling Carlson, “Throwing money at Ukraine with no accountability or objective is clearly failing.” “Before [Biden] sends any more money or assets to Ukraine’s border, he must enforce our immigration laws and secure our southern border,” he added.
Scott called for having “accountability for every single dollar spent,” telling Carlson there would be “no such thing as a blank check” in that situation. Christie did not address whether there is a limit of funding and materiel but said, “It is on us to assist our democratic allies in defending themselves against authoritarian aggression.”
Both Trump and Ramaswamy flatly said, “No.” Name replied “Not at this time,” warning of a potential destabilization of Europe and nuclear escalation. DeSantis knocked regime change policy as being “popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists” and suggested Putin’s successor “would likely be even more ruthless.” Pence responded by suggesting the question should be posed to the Russian people.
Christie said supporting Ukraine “is not about regime change in Russia; it is about respecting the sovereignty of free nations.”
Scott did not provide a response to this question.
Trump answered, “No, they have not been effective. Just the opposite.” Ramaswamy similarly replied “clearly not,” adding “Russia is stronger because of higher oil and gas revenue owing to higher prices.”
DeSantis said the Biden administration’s policies “have driven Russia into a de facto alliance with China” and since China has not been abiding by any embargo, “Russia has increased its foreign revenues while China benefits from cheaper fuel.” Noem said the U.S. “has come to rely far too heavily on financial sanctions as a weapon of deterrence,” adding “Sanctions against China, Iran, and Russia have bolstered the Russian ruble and enabled China to establish trade in Chinese money rather than in US dollars.”
Meanwhile, Pence rejected the premise of the question, telling Carlson “Russia’s economy and currency are not stronger than before the war.” He insisted Russia’s economy is “in free-fall” and that its ruble is “still afloat because of the extremely costly measures Russia has taken to keep their currency at pre-war levels in the face of sanctions.” He also added that Russia is being “propped up by China” and without its support, “Putin could run out of money by as soon as 2024.”
Neither Abbott, Scott nor Christie addressed this question.
Trump responded by saying, “It depends on who the president of the United States is” but that it is “absolutely” a risk under President Biden. Noem also slammed the Biden administration for “taking us quickly up the escalatory ladder with a series of provocative actions and statements,” adding, “We are closer now to the use of tactical nuclear weapons than we have ever been.”
DeSantis warned escalated U.S. involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war “would risk explicitly drawing the United States into the conflict and drawing us closer to a hot war between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.”
Ramaswamy told Carlson the risk of nuclear war grows “the more that China begins to back Russia.” He called out the U.S. for giving up “negotiation leverage” as Russia has “brazenly violated every nuclear arms control treaty” and added “The global defense establishment must dig its head out of the sand and buck up to the fact that China, who is not constrained by any nuclear arms treaty, is secretly building up its nuclear stockpile.”
Pence called Putin “the small and bullying leader of Russia,” saying his nuclear threats a “bullying tactic” but stressed the U.S. “will not be bullied.”