DeSantis defends Trump’s Russia policy after praise from Putin

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) defended former President Trump’s policy on Russia on Sunday, after praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin spurred criticism from others in the GOP.

“The idea that Trump is some type of lackey for Putin — that’s just false,” DeSantis told Howard Kurtz on Fox News’s “MediaBuzz”.

“He had a very, very strong Russia policy,” DeSantis added. “He actually provided a lot of support, defensive support for Ukraine. And so I think the idea that somehow he wants to be buddy-buddy with Putin, I know there’s circles that say that, but I don’t really see that as being the case. I think he’s been strong.”

DeSantis continues to poll in second place behind Trump in the Republican primary, but he has struggled to close the gap despite Trump’s mounting legal troubles.

Putin in public remarks last week blasted the prosecutions of Trump as a sign of rot in the U.S. political system, and he praised the former president’s promise to bring Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky together to end the war within 24 hours of taking office.

Putin said Trump “says he will resolve all burning issues within several days, including the Ukrainian crisis. We cannot help but feel happy about it.”

“We hear that Mr. Trump says that he will solve pressing problems in a few days, including the Ukrainian crisis. Well, this cannot but bring happiness. This is good,” Putin said.

Other Republicans jumped on Putin’s comments as proof of Trump’s overly cozy relationship with the Russian dictator.

“Get it straight. Trump is under indictment because of his conduct. He played with fire and is getting burned,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a fellow presidential candidate, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “And now his best buddy is coming to his defense. If you are on the same side as Putin, you might want to rethink your position…”

“Putin has now officially endorsed the Putin-wing of the Republican Party,” wrote former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a longtime Trump critic. “Putin Republicans & their enablers will end up on the ash heap of history. Patriotic Americans in both parties who believe in the values of liberal democracy will make sure of it.”

DeSantis also dodged a question asking him whether he believed Trump would halt aid to Ukraine if elected back to the White House.

The Florida governor has said he does not support escalating the United States’s involvement in the war. He has also had to walk back comments he made describing the nature of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute.”

“Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker pressed the former president on Putin’s comments in an interview last week.

“I like that he said that because that means what I’m saying is right,” Trump said. “I would get him into a room, I would get Zelensky into a room and I would get a deal worked out.”

Trump previously called the Russian president a “genius” for recognizing two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Trump also told Welker that he has a “very good relationship” with Putin, saying that it shouldn’t be a negative thing.

“I got along with him really well, and that’s a good thing, not a bad thing,” Trump said. “Getting along is OK. But I got along through strength. And the war would have never happened. Now what happened, it’s so bad.”

Tags Donald Trump Howard Kurtz Ron DeSantis Ron DeSantis russia Russia-Ukraine war ukraine Vladimir Putin