Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk spoke to Senator Rick Scott of Florida on Thursday, and pressed him on the issue of Ukraine and American spending on Ukraine's war effort. Scott was one of the sponsors of the Ukraine Supplemental
Appropriations Act of 2022, which authorized $40.1 billion in US spending for Ukraine across many federal agencies from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Justice, through the Department of Defense. Additional bills authorized another $16 billion in spending.
Kirk asked Scott, given his stated principles of putting America fist, how spending $40 billion on another nation's war effort helps the US. "So putting America First," Kirk began, "I struggle to see how and why sending $56 billion to Ukraine puts our country first."
"Here's here's how I looked at it," Scott said. "I worry about money. And so part of me he says, 'oh, gosh, just a lot of money.' The other part of me says that if Ukraine is willing to defend their own freedom, just like Israel—I admire Israel, we do support them financially, but they don't want American men or women on their soil to defend them.
"The Ukrainians are in the same position," Scott said, "they're willing to defend their freedom. And if we don't, if we don't stop Russia there, then if they get to Poland, worse, we're in it." Scott spoke of the US treaty with NATO that says America will militarily defend Poland should Russia seek to invade.
"They're already bordering Poland," Kirk said, "they already have a million people in a military base in Kaliningrad."
Russia has a formidable military base in Kaliningrad, with nuclear weapons, its Baltic fleet, and tens of thousands of soldiers. The base is only about a 2 hour drive to Gdansk, in Poland, and a little more than 100 km from the border.
"Whether these are good treaties or bad treaties," Scott said, "they're right next to Lithuania, too," which is another NATO nation since joining the alliance in 2004.
"That was my that was the way I looked at it," Scott said, "the way I looked at it was right, it's a lot of money. And is it: are we going to be better off to have spent that money to stop Russia there? Are we going to be in position that they're going to invade Poland?" Scott noted the conflict between the money spent, and the relative impact of that money, versus the impact of potential Russian incursions into NATO territory.
"These are tough decisions," Kirk said, "but do you think it's actually working?"
Scott emphasized that in this area, he did have some concerns. He said that per the briefings he gets, "they're doing well," but that "we've not given them the resources to be able to push Russia back."
"Here's what I believe," he said, "if we're gonna do this, we need to do it to win. We don't do it to a draw. We do it to make sure Ukraine wins. Because otherwise we'll be doing this— they'll be coming back for another $40 billion at some point— we'll be doing this for just like Afghanistan, we'll do it forever. We can't. And it's not right to the American taxpayer. And so, we should be giving the weapons [so] that they can win. They have will to win. I couldn't tell you know what's going to happen."
"What do you think would be too much?" Kirk asked.
"Well, you hope not to have to do anymore. You's hope that— that's a lot of money, right?"
"It's the GDP of North Dakota. We don't even know where the weapons are," Kirk said.
"Right," Scott said.
As the two men wrapped up, it was notable that the conversation could be had in a reasonable way.
"This is what I tell Republicans and lawmakers," Kirk said, "if you're gonna have disagreement, then you know, let's have spirited discussion about it.
Right, and it's okay," Scott said. "But let's have this fight over something.
"Yes, not just abstractions," Kirk rejoined.
"I tell people, you don't have to agree with my plan. What's yours?" Scott said.
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