Background on the candidate’s statements, positions, and record on diplomacy, global development, and U.S. international affairs programs.
A combat-deployed Navy JAG officer, former Member of Congress, and current Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has spoken out on the need for the U.S. to invest in “hard power” to combat against threats to the United States around the world.
On the campaign trail, he has emphasized the U.S. military response to threats like China, calling for the U.S. to “invest more in our military” adding that “we need to project more hard power in the Pacific region.”
From his time in Congress to running for president, he has advocated for clear objectives for U.S. global engagement stating that his experience taught him that “if you’re going to commit to do military, whether it’s aid or whether it’s troops, you need to have a concrete idea of what you’re trying to achieve.” He added that, “From the time I got out of the sandbox and landed back in the United States 15 years ago until the present, I’ve always felt that.”
The governor was an active co-sponsor of legislation on a variety of global issues as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and as Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee on the Committee on House Oversight and Accountability. He was also co-sponsor of several pieces of global development legislation during his service in Congress.
Before being elected governor in 2019, DeSantis served for three terms as U.S. Representative for Florida’s Sixth District and was a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which has long focused on broadly reducing federal government spending. During his active-duty service in the Navy he supported operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and deployed to Iraq as a legal adviser to a U.S. Navy SEAL commander. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal and the Iraq Campaign Medal. After active-duty service, Ron DeSantis served as a federal prosecutor, and he continues to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
On U.S. global leadership:
- Over his years in public service, Governor DeSantis has expressed a desire for clarity in U.S. foreign policy and pursuing clear definitions of whether the U.S. has “achieved our objective.” He has spoken out against U.S. global engagement that he considers to be “a blank check policy.”
- As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, then Rep. DeSantis stated, “I constantly hear people say that Americans are war-weary, and I disagree with that. I think Americans are willing to do what it takes to defend our people and our nation.” He added that “I think that they are weary of missions launched without a coherent strategy.”
- DeSantis has also affirmed the importance of the U.S. Congress for helping to shape U.S. foreign policy, stating in a 2015 op-ed that Congress “must reassert its constitutional obligation to evaluate international agreements… and stand strong in our duty to defend the United States’ national security.” He has also stated that Congress has a responsibility to determine “which allies deserve our generous foreign aid.”
- While in Congress, DeSantis co-sponsored a significant number of bills on a range of global issues including the U.S. relationship with Taiwan, Venezuela, Iran, and Israel.
On global development and U.S. foreign assistance:
- While in Congress, then Rep. DeSantis co-sponsored important global development legislation, including the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 and the Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act of 2016. He voted against the Global Food Security Act of 2016.
- DeSantis also voted in favor of the Zika Response Appropriations Act of 2016, which appropriated resources for the State Department and USAID to strengthen the global response to the Zika virus.
- During his service on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he suggested in 2017 that UN votes should be a “consideration” for determining which countries should receive foreign assistance from the United States, noting that “for decades, U.S. has worked with allies at UN to provide hundreds of millions in foreign aid.”
- As a House member, the governor sponsored legislation to “halt foreign aid to Palestinian Authority” until steps were taken “to establish peace.”
- At the third Republican primary debate in November, DeSantis said, “We will stand with Israel in word and in deed, in public and in private.”
- A month prior to declaring his candidacy for president, Governor DeSantis led a trade mission to some of America’s closest allies including Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom. During the trip, the governor also made the case for the importance of global economic engagement for Florida’s economy. He cited how the state has worked to “create partnerships with other countries to create jobs and boost the economy.”
- In Congress, then Rep. DeSantis introduced a resolution in 2016 that supported the designation of a Sister Cities International Day and recognized the “lasting positive impact of Sister Cities International.”
On the global competition with China:
- Governor DeSantis has stated that “the number one issue that we face internationally is checking the growth and the rise of China.” As governor, DeSantis signed multiple bills into state law to push back on the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the state of Florida stating that “Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat – the Chinese Communist Party.”
- During comments at a campaign event in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the governor called for the increased deployment of U.S. military assets in the Pacific stating that “all China respects is hard power… You’re not going to negotiate with them.”
- In the House of Representatives, then Rep. DeSantis co-sponsored several bills related to Taiwan, including the Affirming the Importance of the Taiwan Relations Act.
- At the second Republican primary in September, DeSantis said of China, “They are our top geopolitical adversary by a country mile. Xi Jinping’s got huge ambitions not only in the Asia Pacific but as you mentioned earlier in our region. Ultimately we gotta beat them on the economy. So that’s what we’ll do as president of the United States.”
- Speaking at the fourth Republican primary debate in December about the stakes in the Indo-Pacific, DeSantis said, “Taiwan is important, not just because of semiconductors, it’s important because if China’s able to break out of this first island chain, they’re going to be able to dominate commerce and the entire Indo-Pacific. They will use that to export authoritarianism all around the world, including here in the United States.”
On the war in Ukraine:
- Governor DeSantis has had an evolving position on U.S. support for Ukraine during his service in Congress and his platform on the 2024 presidential campaign trail.
- Earlier this year, DeSantis described Russia’s invasion ofUkraine as a “territorial dispute.” But a few days later, the Governor clarified his view that Russia’s invasion is illegitimate calling Putin a “war criminal” who should be “held accountable.” He’s added on the campaign trail that “I’ve always thought Putin was a bad guy. I still think he’s a bad guy.”
- In national platforms during the campaign, DeSantis has questioned whether supporting Ukraine is in America’s “vital national interests.” He has stated that “it’s in everybody’s interest to try to get to a place where we can have a cease-fire.”
- During his tenure in the U.S. Congress and prior to the 2022 invasion by Russia, then Rep. DeSantis praised the Administration in 2018 for providing “lethal aid to Ukraine so they could defend themselves.” In a 2017 interview, he described himself as coming from the “Reagan school that’s tough on Russia.”
- The former House Member voted in favor of the Ukraine Support Act in 2014 and the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014.
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has gone from dismissing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute,” to saying at the second Republican primary debate in September that “it’s in our interest to end this war.”