Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) on Sunday said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) controversial remark describing Russia’s war with Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” may be attributed to “primary politics” as the governor considers whether to jump into the 2024 presidential race.
“Look, I don’t think it’s a territorial dispute, while he may be taking territory, and it’s technically accurate to say that there’s territory being taken. This is bigger than that for us,” Rounds said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I think primary politics may very well have something to do with it,” the senator said of the Florida governor’s comments.
DeSantis, who has not formally announced he’ll run for president but is considered a top potential challenger to former President Trump, recently called Russia’s year-long war on its neighbor a “territorial dispute” and criticized the Biden administration for its continued support for Kyiv.
Rounds said on Sunday that China should be the Biden administration’s top focus, but noted he thinks “what’s going on in Ukraine can’t be separated out from the major issues surrounding the United States’ relationship with China.”
The Republican senator said that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan back in 2021 “sent a message” to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. was pulling back from the international scene, “and that maybe they could test the waters about whether or not we would actually exercise our capabilities internationally in the future.”
“So, taking out the issue of Afghanistan — and then moving into the fact that Putin now test the waters by walking in, or attempting to take over, a sovereign state right next to them that we had, back in 1995, agreed that they would have sovereignty over that specific part of the land, well, Xi Jinping looks at that and says, ‘I’m going to watch this very carefully,'” Rounds said.
“Because Xi Jinping would like Taiwan. And he’s already committed that, one way or another, he’s going to get it back. He wants to see how we respond and whether or not we can keep our allies together, whether or not NATO stays together or whether or not it strengthens NATO. So, this is a bigger picture than just territory,” the senator stressed.
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This story was originally published March 19, 2023, 11:06 AM.