WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Taking a different position than his old boss on a key foreign policy issue, former Vice President Mike Pence told a gathering of Iowans Saturday that the U.S. must continue to help provision Ukraine in its war against Russian aggression.
While he repeatedly trumpeted “Trump-Pence” successes, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate definitely differs with potential top presidential race rivals, former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, on U.S. involvement in the war-torn European country.
“The war in Ukraine is not a territorial dispute, it is a Russian invasion,” Pence said during a discussion on foreign policy in Des Moines hosted by the Bastion Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based national security think tank. “I believe the United States of America needs to continue to demand that the free world join us in giving the courageous fighters in Ukraine the resources that they need need to repel the Russian invasion.”
Pence, who officially is weighing a run for the White House, was in the first-in-the nation-caucus state for the second time in a month. He was joined Des Moines’ River Center by former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) asked the politicos several questions related to national security and governance during the two-hour session — as she did of former South Carolina Governor and GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley earlier this month at the Bastion Institute’s first of several candidate forums. Haley said the war in Ukraine is a war “we have to win.”
Hogan, who has said he will not seek the Republican nomination but hasn’t ruled out a third-party run for president, sounded firmly in Pence’s camp on the Ukraine question, agreeing with the former vice president that the Biden administration’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan emboldened Vladimir Putin’s aggression.
“We’ve got to stand up for our allies and stand up to our enemies. We’re not doing either one,” Hogan said. He sees a kind of post-Cold War domino theory in play, asserting that Ukraine’s fall to Russia would lead to more aggression from the world’s tyrants elsewhere.
Trump and DeSantis assert the United States’ financial and military assistance in the war — at more than $115 billion and counting — is a mistake.
Pence’s comment on the “territorial dispute” was a direct hit on DeSantis’ recent statements on the war.
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness within our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural, and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,” DeSantis said in a survey of potential 2024 Republican candidates done by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
In Iowa Monday, Trump said he would quickly end the war through diplomacy if he were president. He said there’s never been “a more dangerous time for this country and the world.”
“I am the only candidate who can make this promise: I will prevent World War III,” he said.
Pence said peace through U.S. strength is the only way to check aggressors, asserting that funding Ukraine’s war efforts is in America’s broader strategic interests. The former vice president said he has met Putin, and anyone who thinks the Russian president is going to stop after Ukraine has “another think coming.”
“I truly believe this is a moment of testing for the free world,” Pence said. “To ensure peace in Western Europe we need to give Ukraine what they need… Some people say we can’t take care of getting our economy moving again, our border, taking care of the things here at home and doing that, but that’s a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth.
“We can do both. We can revive this country, secure this country, prosper this country and be the leader of the free world.”
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Mike Pence” by Mike Pence. Background Photo “Iowa State Capitol” by Tony Fischer. CC BY 2.0.