Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is making a significant shift in tone toward the war in Ukraine, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” who should be held accountable, in another portion of a Piers Morgan interview teased in the New York Post.
DeSantis had previously labeled the war a “territorial dispute.”
DeSantis’ comments to Morgan come after he fielded criticism from Republicans including Gov. Chris Sununu, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. Marco Rubio for saying US support of Ukraine is not of “vital” national interest via in a statement to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.
In his fiercest rebuke of Putin yet, DeSantis told Morgan he thinks his statement to Carlson has “been mischaracterized.”
“Obviously, Russia invaded (last year) — that was wrong. They invaded Crimea and took that in 2014 — That was wrong,” DeSantis said.
Addressing the criticism for the first time, DeSantis attempted to clarify during the interview.
“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,” he said.
Morgan said he asked DeSantis if he thought Ukrainians would take issue with him labeling the war a “territorial dispute.”
DeSantis said in response:
“If I could snap my fingers, I’d give it back to Ukraine 100%. But the reality is what is America’s involvement in terms of escalating with more weapons, and certainly ground troops I think would be a mistake. So, that was the point I was trying to make but Russia was wrong to invade. They were wrong to take Crimea.”
President Joe Biden has made clear he will not send US troops to Ukraine to take part in the conflict.
Ultimately, DeSantis told Morgan he thinks Ukraine will prevail in the war.
“I do not think it’s going to end with Putin being victorious. I do not think the Ukrainian Government is going to be toppled by him and I think that’s a good thing,” DeSantis said.