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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Has Suggested That France Would 'Fold' If Invaded By Russia

Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida and a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has said France would not put up a fight if Russia invaded, as it did in Ukraine.

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"A lot of other places around the world, they just fold the minute there's any type of adversity," DeSantis told reporters at a press event at South Florida University in Tampa on Wednesday.

"I mean can you imagine if he (Vladimir Putin) went into France? Would they do anything to put up a fight? Probably not."

The governor also began the event by angrily attacking students present on the stage with him for wearing masks against Covid-19. "You do not have to wear those masks," DeSantis said, pointing a finger.

"I mean, please take them off. Honestly, it's not doing anything and we've got to stop with this Covid theatre. So if you want to wear it, fine, but this is ridiculous."

Federal authorities have relaxed mask guidance in much of the US but the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 950,000 – and more than 70,000 in Florida alone.

Anyone French who saw DeSantis's remark might remember the bad jokes ("cheese-eating surrender monkeys") and Orwellian doublespeak (French fries renamed "Freedom fries") that followed Jacques Chirac's refusal to back the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Amid much online mockery of DeSantis's remarks, Maggie Haberman, a New York Times reporter, tweeted: "He went to Yale."

DeSantis also went to Harvard, to study law. Before entering politics, he was a Jag or US navy lawyer in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay.

He regularly polls second in surveys of likely contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, behind Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, after dissing the whole of France, he had praise for Ukrainians fighting the Russian invasion.

"And so those folks are stepping up," he said, "but it's, there's a lot of problems I think between now and then and I think unfortunately it's going to end up very, very ugly over the next weeks and months."

He also offered his view of Putin's psyche, the evils of communism and whether the US should develop its own energy resources, at the expense of federal lands and efforts to fight the climate crisis, in order to lessen reliance on Russia.

"Look at what's going on and someone like Vladimir Putin," he said. "You know, I analogise him to basically an authoritarian gas station attendant."

"You look at their country, it's a hollowed-out country but for the energy. And yes they have legacy nuclear weapons, which makes them much more dangerous than if they didn't have those.

"And so (Putin is) being fuelled because America is not serious about energy independence. Right now Europe is not serious at all. So Europe is funding this guy. So he has the ability now to go in and flex muscle."

DeSantis also said Republicans under Trump "funded a lot of weapons for Ukraine... that has helped them put up a fight".

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