By Tim Reid
(Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, former U.N. Ambassador under the former President Donald Trump went after her 2024 rival Ron DeSantis for refusing to state whether they wanted Ukraine to win their war against Russia.
Trump, the Republican nominee for president, stated in recent town hall meetings that he wanted to see the war end but would also help Ukraine and Russia reach a settlement.
Florida Governor DeSantis said that Trump's closest rival for the Republican nominating contest, he supported a settlement in the war and that he hoped that fighting would end by the time that the next president took the oath in January 2025.
Haley, who is the only woman running for the Republican nomination in this race, slammed DeSantis after he said that Ukraine was "a territorial dispute" last year, a comment which drew widespread critics and that he later walked back.
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Haley said that it was not true for them to claim that the dispute is about territory, or that we should remain neutral. She made the remarks during a CNN town hall event televised in Iowa, the first state to nominate candidates.
She added, "It is in our national interest for Ukraine to win."
The issue of Ukraine divides Republicans because many primary party voters are isolationists.
Haley, 51, the former South Carolina Governor, announced her White House bid back in February. However, she now finds herself in an incredibly crowded Republican field, which will be double-digits by this week, with more candidates joining, including former Vice president Mike Pence.
Trump is the clear leader among Republican primary voters, with 49% of support. DeSantis comes in second with 19%. According to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in may, there is a huge gap between them and everyone else, including Haley. She has only 4% of the vote.
Haley, along with many of her opponents polling at single digits, are trying to distinguish themselves from DeSantis in the hopes that he will stumble and they can be the main alternative to Trump.
Some have begun to criticize Trump, after a long period of not attacking him for fear of alienating the hard-core Trump supporters.
She also criticised Trump on Sunday for congratulating Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea last week, after his country was elected as a member of the Executive Board at the World Health Organization. Trump has praised Kim Jong Un in the past.
Haley stated that "Kim Jong Un was a thug." "I don’t think we should celebrate dictators."
DeSantis, Pence and others also criticized Trump for congratulating Kim in separate events held over the weekend in Iowa. This is the state where the nomination battle will begin next year.