EXCLUSIVE: Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “took the Chinese stance” on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when the would-be 2024 Republican contender called the war a “territorial dispute.”
During an interview with Fox News Digital on Friday, the South Carolina legislator and military veteran was asked if he was concerned about the current frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination — DeSantis, who is expected to announce a bid for the White House, and former President Donald Trump, who already has – both have a more skeptical view of the current level of US aid to Ukraine than more established members of their party.
“Governor DeSantis, whom I respect, is essentially taking the Chinese stance on the Russian invasion,” Graham said.
“China calls this a territorial dispute. This is not a territorial dispute. This is an invasion of a sovereign democracy by (Vladimir Putin’s) Russia, barbaric in nature.”
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Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the most vocal advocates of continued U.S. aid to Ukraine in Congress (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
He added that DeSantis “has a lot to be proud of as governor” but said, “I think any Republican going down the Biden road to, you know, getting weak in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine , invites more aggression.”
Graham said of Trump, whom he already supports for 2024: “If he were president again – I do believe that Putin would not have invaded under his watch – but I told President Trump that if you don’t see any connection between China going after Taiwan going, and Russia invading Ukraine, you don’t look very closely.”
DeSantis had said that “getting further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia” was not “vital” to US interests in a reply to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson. He argued, “The Biden administration’s virtual ‘blank check’ funding of this conflict for ‘as long as it takes’, with no defined goals or accountability, distracts from our country’s most pressing challenges.”
He also accused President Joe Biden of “driving Russia into a de facto alliance with China” and “supporting Putin’s war machine” with his renewable energy policies. Fox News Digital has reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment.
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the current level of US aid to Ukraine is not “vital” to US interests ((Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images))
Beijing has not taken an overtly public position against Ukraine. But Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid concerns that China could start arming Russia has raised alarm within the global community.
In the US, there is a growing divide within the GOP between those who grow weary of watching the federal government direct billions in foreign aid, and more established members of the party who argue that helping Ukraine prevent the illegal invasion of Averting Russia is vital to maintaining international stability.
Graham, one of the loudest voices in Congress for more aid to Kiev, said it was the duty of the US to “expose” Xi and Putin ahead of their upcoming meeting.
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(Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will meet later this month. Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
“China is a communist dictatorship. Putin is one of the most notorious foreign criminals of the 21st century,” said Graham. “It’s an axis of evil in its own way when you throw in Iran.”
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“But what I would do is really pressure China not to help Russia militarily, because that extends to war. And I would label Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism — that makes it harder for China to help Russia. “
Going a step further earlier in the interview, Graham now promised to “stop business as usual” until Russia was declared a terrorist state, in light of Putin’s recent war crimes allegations by the International Criminal Court.
“I’m going all in, stop going on the Senate floor, to make it clear that we need to label… Russia is a sponsor of terrorism under US law,” the senator said. “It would make Putin’s Russian state radioactive — more than it is now. It would put him in the category of … Iran, Syria, North Korea.”
Elizabeth Elkind is a political reporter for Fox News Digital.