Last week, Carlson asked the already-declared candidates and several notable Republicans who might entering the 2024 contest to answer a questionnaire that asked:
- 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 US sanctions have been effective?
- Do you believe the United States faces the risk of nuclear war with Russia?
Former President Trump and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, two of the three declared presidential candidates responded to Carlson, but former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley did not.
Other undeclared Republicans who answered included 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.
“Tucker Carlson Tonight” posted the answers in a Twitter thread Monday evening.
On the question of opposing Russia in Ukraine being vital to American national strategic interest, Trump replied, "No, but it is for Europe," and that European allies "should be paying far more than we are, or equal."
DeSantis told the Fox News host, "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." DeSantis has not yet announced a run for president, but in polling is second to Trump.
Noem said China is the "primary external threat" to the US instead of Russia, and that the war in Ukraine "should be Europe’s fight, not ours."
Ramaswamy said that it isn’t vital to oppose Russia, but emphasized that it is vital for the US to have energy independence, and had Europe relied more on the US for oil and gas instead of Russia, the invasion might not have occurred.
Pence told 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 and Christie agreed that it is a vital national interest to degrade Russia's military, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott "did not specifically address this question.”
When asked, “What specifically is our objective in Ukraine, and how will we know when we’ve achieved it?” Trump responded that the objective is to "help and secure Europe, but Europe isn't helping itself," adding that it’s "very unfair" for the US to cover the costs, especially since Europe "takes advantage of us on trade and other things."
DeSantis said peace is the goal, while Pence and Christie said the aim is for Ukraine to have its sovereignty restored.
Ramaswamy said the goal should be to "respect any prior legal treaty commitments the US has made," and used the 1992 Budapest Memorandum, in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for US protection, as an example. He added that the US had already achieved the goal of revealing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "paper tiger" due to his weak military but added that the way to deter Putin from aggression in the future was to nudge Europeans to "take care of themselves."
Noem, Abbott and Scott did not specifically present an objective.
Regarding the limit of funding and materiel the Republican hopefuls would be willing to send to the government of Ukraine, Trump responded that it would "strongly depend" on him meeting with Putin but emphasized that "Europe must pay."
DeSantis answered that the US "should not provide assistance that could require the deployment of American troops or enable Ukraine to engage in offensive operations beyond its borders." The Florida governor added that providing F-16 fighters jets and long-range missiles would be "off the table" adding, "Our citizens are also entitled to know how the billions of US taxpayer dollars are being utilized in Ukraine."
Ukrainian pilots were recently in Arizona learning how to fly the high-tech fighter jets.
Ramaswamy said he would "limit any further funding or support to Ukraine" and that allies in Europe "need to do more, a lot more — it’s their backyard, it’s their borders."
Noem stated, "We should not waste taxpayer dollars at the risk of nuclear war," remarking, "We've already over-extended ourselves in our largesse to Ukraine."
Pence said he does not support sending Ukraine a "blank check" but cautioned that "withholding or reducing support will have consequence" and that "the cost will be far greater" if Putin invaded a NATO ally. Similarly, Abbott criticized President Joe Biden's "blank check foreign policy," and told 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."
Scott added in the same vein that there should be "accountability for every single dollar spent," while Christie did not specifically address a funding limit but did say, "It is on us to assist our democratic allies in defending themselves against authoritarian aggression."
As to the question of the United States supporting regime change in Russia, both Trump and Ramaswamy said "No." Noem stated, "Not at this time," citing concerns of nuclear escalation and destabilization of Europe. DeSantis slammed the policy of regime change as being "popular among the DC foreign policy interventionists" and speculated that Putin's successor "would likely be even more ruthless."
Christie said supporting Ukraine "is not about regime change in Russia; it is about respecting the sovereignty of free nations," while Pence said the question should be asked of the Russian people and Scott did not provide a response.
When asked about the effectiveness of US sanctions on Russia, given that the country’s economy is stronger now that before the war, Trump believed that sanction had not been effective and said they had the opposite effect."
Ramaswamy agreed the sanction weren’t effective and added, "Russia is stronger because of higher oil and gas revenue owing to higher prices."
DeSantis claimed that Biden's policies had "driven Russia into a de facto alliance with China" and due to the fact that the communist country hasn’t been adhering to any embargo, "Russia has increased its foreign revenues while China benefits from cheaper fuel."
Noem stated that the US "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."
Pence told Carlson "Russia’s economy and currency are not stronger than before the war," and insisted Russia's economy is "in free-fall" and that the 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 said that without Russia being "propped up by China" that "Putin could run out of money by as soon as 2024."
Abbott, Christie and Scott did not answer the question.
Regarding the risk of nuclear war with Russia, Trump replied "It depends on who the president of the United States is" but that it is "absolutely" a risk under Biden.
Noem said that Biden had taken the 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 cautioned that escalating U.S. involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict "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 answered that the risk of nuclear war grows "the more that China begins to back Russia," and said the US gave 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 described Putin as "the small and bullying leader of Russia," adding that his nuclear threats were a "bullying tactic" noting that the US "will not be bullied." Abbott, Christie and Scott did not specifically addressed this question.
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