Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley alleged on the GOP debate stage Wednesday night that Russian President Vladimir Putin killed Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, tearing into political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy for “choosing a murderer” over pro-American Ukraine.
Haley argued Ramaswamy, who claims the U.S. is “driving Russia further into China’s arms” by giving billions to Ukraine, wants to “hand Ukraine to Russia” and “let China eat Taiwan.”
“You don’t do that to friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends. Ukraine, it’s a front line of defense,” Haley said in Milwaukee. “Putin has said… once Russia takes Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics are next. That’s a world war. We’re trying to prevent war. Look at what Putin did today. He killed Prigozhin. When I was at the U.N., the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy is a murderer. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country.”
Putin has so far remained silent since Russian aviation authorities said Wednesday that Prigozhin, whose mercenaries led a threatening but ultimately unsuccessful mutiny against the Kremlin in June, was listed as among the 10 people aboard a private plane that inexplicably crashed shortly after taking off from Moscow.
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Vivek Ramaswamy, and Nikki Haley participate in the first debate of the GOP primary season. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
The Russian government did not immediately confirm Prigozhin’s death, and Ukrainian President Voldymr Zelenskyy denied any involvement.
“Under your watch you will make America less safe,” Haley also charged Ramaswamy during the debate, adding, “You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows.”
Ramaswamy, however, painted his political outsider status as an asset contrasted against the Republican “professional politicians” in the race. He repeated his analogy, “If you have a broken car, you don’t turn over the keys to the people who broke it.”
Nikki Haley in the spin room following the Republican primary presidential debate hosted by Fox News in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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“The reality is that today, today Ukraine is not a priority for the United States of America,” Ramaswamy argued. “And I think that the same people who took us into the Iraq war, the same people who took us into the Vietnam War, you cannot – start another no-win war. And I do not want to get to the point where we’re sending our military resources abroad when we could be better using them here at home to protect our own borders, protect the homeland.”
Ramaswamy has campaigned on the promise of only defending Taiwan from a potential Chinese invasion until the United States achieves “semiconductor independence” in 2028.
Yevgeny Prigozhin of the Wagner Group speaks to a camera at an unknown location in a photo released Aug. 21, 2023. Prigozhin is widely presumed dead after an unexplained plane crash over Moscow. (Razgruzka_Vagnera telegram channel via AP)
“The real threat we face today is Communist China, and we are driving Russia further into China’s arms. The Russia-China military alliance is the single greatest threat we face,” Ramaswamy said Tuesday. “Nobody in either political party is talking about it.”
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Haley argued that the United States had given less that 3% of its defense budget to Ukraine, compared to European countries, which based on the percentages per GDP, had given more that the U.S. The former ambassador also accused Ramaswamy of threatening to cut funding for Israel, which Ramaswamy denied and praised Israel for its Iron Dome and border policies.