Where do 2024 candidates stand on Ukraine? Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, RFK Jr. want less U.S. involvement

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More than 500 days after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the war in Ukraine remains at the top of American foreign policy priorities.

As President Joe Biden discusses with allies at the NATO summit in Vilnius how to provide increased security guarantees for Ukraine, at home 2024 presidential candidates have been discussing their own views on the war in Ukraine.

In both parties, Democrats and Republicans are divided on the war in Ukraine and whether the U.S. should continue providing military aid for Ukraine.

Among Republicans, most presidential candidates are in favor of continuing to provide Ukraine with support. The two frontrunners, however, are the most skeptical candidates in their own party when it comes to sending Ukraine additional ammunition and weapons.

From left, former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
From left, former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

Here are the leading presidential candidates and their views on the war in Ukraine:

Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump, the current Republican frontrunner, has frequently suggested that the U.S. might be providing Ukraine with too much support.

Trump criticized American allies for not spending as much to support Ukraine during a CNN town hall in May. The former president also said the U.S. is depleting its own military stockpiles by sending aid packages to Kyiv.

"We've given away so much equipment," Trump said. "We don't have ammunition for ourselves."

Trump also repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding whether he wants Russia or Ukraine to win the war. In an interview with Fox News, Trump also declined to say whether he would consider allowing Russia to keep Ukrainian land as part of an agreement to end the war.

Instead, Trump has frequently claimed that he would end the war in 24 hours if reelected president. Trump has also claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin would have not invaded Ukraine if he won the 2020 presidential election.

Ron DeSantis

Alongside Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as the other major skeptic among Republican presidential candidates regarding American support for the war in Ukraine.

DeSantis also said that in a statement to Fox News in March that the war in Ukraine is a "a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia" and not one of the country's "vital national interests."

"We cannot prioritize intervention in an escalating foreign war over the defense of our own homeland, especially as tens of thousands of Americans are dying every year from narcotics smuggled across our open border and our weapons arsenals critical for our own security are rapidly being depleted," DeSantis said.

DeSantis later walked back his comments and called Putin a "war criminal." He also said it was "wrong" for Russia to invade Ukraine in 2022 and take Crimea in 2014, but DeSantis has maintained that the U.S. should not become more involved in the war in Ukraine.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur who has self-funded most of his 2024 GOP campaign for president, said Ukraine "should punch its own bully in the nose."

In an interview Monday night with Piers Morgan on Fox News, Ramaswamy said the U.S. has done enough to help Ukraine in the conflict.

"The U.S. has more than fulfilled its obligations under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994," he said. "But right now we need to focus on how we advance American interests."

Ramaswamy said he would end the war by negotiating a peace treaty that would freeze the current lines of control where they are − "a Korean War-style armistice agreement." He would commit to ensuring NATO does not admit Ukraine.

But he said he would demand Russia has to exit its military partnership with China. "The China-Russia military partnership is the single greatest military threat the United States faces."

Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has made criticizing Trump the focus of his campaign since entering the race in June, including taking aim at the former president over the war in Ukraine.

Christie criticized Trump for claiming he could end the war in 24 hours, saying "the only way he could do that is do what he normally does, which is bend down to Vladimir Putin and get him whatever he wants."

While he has also criticized Biden for not doing more to support Ukraine earlier in his presidency, Christie said he supports continued U.S. military aid for Ukraine and would seek to help end the war on terms that are acceptable to Ukrainians.

"We need to send them the military hardware that they need to be able to fight the war against Russia and we need to make sure that this war is ultimately resolved on terms that are acceptable to Ukraine," Christie told radio host Michael Medved.

Nikki Haley

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley previously served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during Trump's tenure as president. Haley has touted her past foreign policy experience since entering the 2024 race, frequently discussing her support for Ukraine.

Haley said in a CNN town hall that the war in Ukraine is "bigger than Ukraine."

"This is a war about freedom and it's one we have to win," she said. "When Ukraine wins that sends a message to China with Taiwan, it sends a message to Iran that wants to build a bomb, sends a message to North Korea testing ballistic missiles, and it sends a message to Russia that it's over."

Haley, however, said that American support should not come in the form of giving cash to Ukraine or putting troops on the ground, but rather by collaborating with allies to ensure that Ukraine has "the equipment and the ammunition to win."

Tim Scott

South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott has also said he would continue supporting the war in Ukraine as president.

Scott has frequently criticized Biden for failing to articulate "America's national vital interest in Ukraine." In explaining his own support for Ukraine, Scott has pointed to the war's ability to weaken Russia militarily.

"One of the most important priorities that we should have is degrading the Russian military," Scott told Fox News. "By degrading the Russian military, we’re preventing attacks on the homeland as well as our NATO partners."

Mike Pence

Former Vice President Mike Pence has distanced himself from Trump over the war in Ukraine. Pence said he is in favor of providing Ukraine with military support to fight Russia, most recently welcoming the Biden administration's decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.

Pence visited Kyiv late last month and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, marking the first visit to Ukraine by a 2024 Republican presidential candidate since launching their bid.

Pence has also said he believes it is important to support Ukraine now because if it loses the war, Russia might next attack a NATO ally and trigger a military response from U.S. troops.

In Ukraine, Pence told NBC News that supporting Ukraine is "advancing our national interest."

Will Hurd

Will Hurd, a former congressman from Texas, said he believes the U.S. government "should be supporting the Ukrainians more."

Hurd has quickly emerged as the strongest supporter for Ukraine among Republican presidential hopefuls, supporting policies that have failed to receive support from some of the most vocal pro-Ukraine lawmakers.

Most notably, Hurd told ABC News he supports the implementation of a no-fly zone over Ukrainian territory. In the first days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Zelenskyy requested the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Western military officials, however, declined to implement the no-fly zone because of the risk of escalating the conflict over a direct military confrontation.

Hurd has also insisted that he supports Ukraine reclaiming all of its territory from Russia, including the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Asa Hutchinson

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed Russia on his campaign website, writing that it is "a threat to our national security and a threat that must be taken seriously."

"We must be tough on Russia and that starts with not backing down from Putin," Hutchinson added.

He also said that he supports providing Ukraine with aid, but that he would want to ensure that the funds are spent as intended.

"America is strongest when we stand with our allies and those being oppressed," Hutchinson wrote in a tweet. "Standing with Ukraine means standing up to Putin."

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, who is challenging President Joe Biden in the 2024 Democratic primary election, has distanced himself from most fellow Democrats over his willingness to criticize U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine.

Kennedy called Ukraine a "pawn in a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia" and took aim at the Biden administration for not ending the war through a peaceful resolution. Kennedy also criticized Biden's controversial decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine.

Last year, White House press secretary Jen Psaki called the use of cluster bombs a “war crime.” Now President Biden plans to send them to Ukraine," Kennedy wrote on Twitter. "Stop the ceaseless escalation! It is time for peace."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Where the 2024 presidential candidates stand on the war in Ukraine