A not inconsiderable proportion of Americans have long had enough of their country playing the role of world policeman – especially conservative Americans. Donald Trump took this up in his first election campaign and advertised that he wanted to stay out of affairs in distant countries in the future. He even considered NATO to be obsolete. In fact, Trump was then elected to the White House. Although he did not withdraw from the military alliance, the wish of many compatriots for "America First" remained. Til today.
The next US presidential election campaign has already begun, and Ron DeSantis, a possible Republican candidate for the presidency, shares concerns about US foreign engagement increasing again, for example in Ukraine. Becoming further embroiled in a territorial conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not a "core national interest" of the United States, the Florida governor replied to a questionnaire sent to potential presidential candidates. Giving Ukraine a blank check without defining clear goals and checking what is happening with the money distracts from the main challenges at home, he wrote.
The statement is primarily a criticism of Joe Biden's course. His government has so far supported the country attacked by Russia with around one hundred billion dollars and the aid would continue "as long as necessary," as the US President never tires of emphasizing. In view of a planned budget of almost seven trillion US dollars, this sum seems almost manageable. Still, many right-wing Republicans view the spending as "waste."
When Donald Trump, also in campaign mode, recently gave the main speech at the right-wing conservative CPAC meeting, he said that as US President he would stop aid to Ukraine. "We will never again pump unlimited money into endless wars," he promised the cheering crowd. At the event, far-right MP Marjorie Taylor Greene also received a round of applause for her call for a cut in support to Ukraine. "We have already done enough and should instead be pushing for peace in Ukraine, not bringing the world to the brink of World War Three," Greene said.
According to surveys, fewer people in the US support Ukraine support than at the beginning of the war. 48 percent of Americans say unreservedly yes to money and arms sales from the US government. Last June it was 60 percent. 29 percent are now against the aid. The dividing lines within the Republican Party are not that clear, but they do exist, as the contradiction to DeSantis' statement shows.
"To say that supporting Ukraine isn't important is like saying that war crimes aren't important," said Lindsey Graham, a conservative South Carolina senator. He also pointed out that the aggression of Russian President Vladimir Putin would not stop in Ukraine. "If you don't understand that, you don't listen to what he says."
Other Republicans are also surprised at the information provided by their party colleague. Marco Rubio, who sits on the foreign affairs committee, said of DeSanti's interpretation of the war: "This is not a territorial dispute. It would be like the US invading Canada or the Bahamas. Just because someone claims something doesn't mean that it belongs to him too," the Republican said of Putin's claim that parts of Ukraine are actually Russian.
John Thune, also a Senator, believes the issue will keep his Conservatives busy for a long time. While he doesn't share DeSantis' point of view, he said: "He's not alone in this. There will probably be other presidential contenders with the same view, as well as Republicans across the country." Although foreign policy is rarely a major campaign issue in the US, support for Ukraine could be different. And so the US election campaign and outcome would once again radiate to distant Europe.
Sources: DPA, AFP, CNN, PBS, The Guardian