Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley criticises Trump and DeSantis over Ukraine war

Former UN ambassador makes case for continued support of Kyiv, during town hall meeting

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley said it was in the best interests of the US for Ukraine to win. AP
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Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley argued for the continued support of Ukraine during her town hall meeting with CNN on Sunday night while also attacking former US president Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on their positions.

Ms Haley went after Mr DeSantis for saying the war in Ukraine was a “territorial dispute”. The Florida governor was forced to walk back the comment after it drew criticism from his Republican colleagues.

Meanwhile, Mr Trump has gloated about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said he could help settle a negotiation between Moscow and Kyiv.

“For them to sit there and say that this is a territorial dispute – that's just not the case, or to say that we should stay neutral,” Ms Haley said during the meeting in Iowa.

“It's in the best interest of our national security for Ukraine to win.”

The town hall meeting gave Ms Haley the opportunity to separate herself from the rest of the Republican field, which is expected to grow even more this week with former vice president Mike Pence and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie joining the race.

As is the case with many of her rivals, she is polling well behind her former boss, Mr Trump, who leads the field with an approval rating of about 54 per cent, FiveThirtyEight's national polling average showed.

Meanwhile, Ms Haley is polling at 4.5 per cent while Mr DeSantis, seen as Mr Trump's chief rival for the party's nomination, is at 21.1 per cent.

Ms Haley also criticised Mr Trump for his praise of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his congratulatory message after the isolated country was admitted to the executive board of the World Health Organisation.

“I don't think we should congratulate dictators,” Ms Haley said.

The former South Carolina governor also spoke on the federal government's role in restricting abortion rights. She said that, as president, she would seek to find a consensus measure that could pass through Congress, such as banning late-term abortions.

Ms Haley also criticised “red flag” gun laws that allows officials to seize firearms from people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Reuters contributed to this report

Updated: June 05, 2023, 1:25 PM