Ron DeSantis Enters the Moscow Primary

The following is part of The Moscow Primary, an irregular series on yours truly’s speculations regarding the views of the 2024 Republican nomination contest from the most important player: the Kremlin.

Governor DeSantis gave strong hints that he intends to compete with Donald Trump for Moscow’s love last month. He made it explicit last night. One could argue that DeSantis scored a political trifecta for the pro-Putin crowd: he refused to call Ukrainian victory an objective; nor would he call it a vital American interest; and he did all this response to Tucker Carlson’s questionnaire, no less.

The Guy Asking the Question Matters

For the uninitiated, Tucker Carlson is inarguably the most watched Putin sympathizer in America. The alternate universe he presents to his viewers on Eastern Europe came through in one of his questions he put to the candidates: “Given that Russia’s economy and currency are stronger than before the war, do you believe that U.S. sanctions have been effective?”

That is a flat out lie. Even Moscow has admitted that the Russian economy contracted by more than 2% this year, after expecting (before the war and sanctions driven by it began) to have 3% growth (Moscow Times). Unless one was willing to directly challenge the unreality of that question (which no one did), the best response to Carlson’s query is no response at all.

Bad Form Meets Bad Substance

For DeSantis, however, the whole point of the exercise is to make the Kremlin feel better about him. So joining up to Carlson’s nonsense is a net positive in the Moscow Primary.

The governor began by lying about what Biden has said (again) on Ukraine:

The Biden administration’s virtual “blank check” funding of this conflict for “as long as it takes,” without any defined objectives or accountability…

As I’ve noted before, Biden has defined the objective (emphasis added).

I am in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelensky and to confirm our unwavering commitment to democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

In other words, the objective is Ukraine wins back the territory Russia stole from it. DeSantis may disagree (wrongly) with that objective, but pretending the objective doesn’t exist is delusional at best.

In a DeSantis Administration, Russia Gets to Keep What It Stole

DeSantis did provide an objective of his own: “peace.” Not a peace via victory for Ukraine, though. In fact, he went so far as to explicitly rule out giving Ukraine F-16s, or anything that would allow it to “engage in offensive operations beyond its borders.” Considering that Ukraine is already getting weapons with that capability (Insider), DeSantis is clearly calling for a reduction in support. The implication is obvious: should DeSantis be elected, Russia would get to keep what it stole. One should note Trump was equal to DeSantis in this, insisting that all aid to Ukraine would stop so long as Russia merely stopped trying to add to its ill-gotten gains.

Revisionist History with the Chinese Communist Party

DeSantis also peddled the theory that the Ukraine war – and American support to the defenders – “have driven Russia into a de facto alliance with China.” I already debunked this nonsense, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are Xi and Putin themselves, before the 2022 invasion began (New Yorker).

“Friendship between the two States has no limits,” they vowed in the communiqué, released after the two leaders met on the eve of the Beijing Winter Olympics. “There are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”

Doesn’t sound like Russia needed much “driving,” did they?

What This Means

DeSantis’ statements will have major implications in two areas. Within what passes for the GOP “establishment,” they will exacerbate the isolationism already running rampant. We can expect a lot more “normal” Republicans in the House and Senate to sound like KGBob on Ukraine. The more obvious impact will be visible next year, however.

Why? Because DeSantis has made it abundantly clear: he is entering the Moscow Primary. Now he and Trump will have to out-appease each other to win over the Kremlin. I’d still give the edge to Trump (he’s had a lot more practice), but DeSantis isn’t going down without a fight. Moreover, unlike the primary and caucuses over here, there is only one voter in the Moscow Primary.

He’s keeping his preference secret … for now.

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