February 21, 2024

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis participate in a CNN Republican Presidential Debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 10. Will Lanzoni/CNN

A fiery exchange over Ukraine during tonight’s CNN debate showed how GOP candidates Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis perfectly exemplify the chasm down the middle of the Republican Party on foreign policy.

She advocates traditional, hawkish Ronald Reagan-style internationalism. He is a devotee of Make America Great again isolationist populism.

Haley explained why she supports continued military aid to Ukraine as it battles for its survival as an independent nation after Russia’s unprovoked invasion.

“This about preventing war,” Haley said, “This is a pro-American, freedom-loving country.”

She said that if Russia triumphed in Ukraine, US NATO allies in the Baltic and eastern European countries would be next. “You have to be a friend to get a friend,” she said, warning the US should stand by allies it would need in time of crisis – for instance after the September 11 attacks in 2001. And she warned a victory for Russia in Ukraine would also be a win for China.

DeSantis mirrors former President Donald Trump’s skepticism about Ukraine. He asked when the conflict would end and warned the US could spend hundreds of billions more dollars in keeping Kyiv afloat. He accused Haley of caring more “about Ukraine’s border than our southern border” and lambasted her tenure as America’s permanent representative to the United Nations, even though many US allies saw her as a vehicle for former President Donald Trump’s global bull in a China shop act.

“You can take the ambassador out of the United Nations but you can’t take the United Nations out of the ambassador,” DeSantis said.