The defense topics likely to come up at first debate

Wednesday night’s debate will not include former President Trump, who has touted a plan to end the war in Ukraine within 24 hours. Still, Republican candidates will almost certainly touch on the war.


Divisions over how to best manage the deadly conflict have split among the aspiring presidential crowd.


All eyes will be on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who earlier this year called the war a “territorial dispute” before walking the comments back.


DeSantis, the second highest polling candidate in the race after Trump, has also said defending Ukraine is not vital to U.S. national security.


Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur turned GOP presidential candidate, may also come under fire for his comments calling to freeze the lines in Ukraine and end the war. 


Ramaswamy has doubled down on his criticism of the Ukraine war in recent weeks, alleging without evidence that Hunter Biden has something to do with Washington’s support for Ukraine.


“The fact that we’re sending hundreds of billions to Ukraine without Biden even once articulating why it advances U.S. national interests reeks of corruption,” he wrote on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter, this week.


Republicans have also broadly targeted what they call “woke” policies and programs at the Pentagon, such as support for diversity, equity and inclusion programs or climate change initiatives. 

Republicans generally deride the Pentagon for those policies, but they might clash on the details on the debate stage.


A monthslong hold from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) on more than 300 military nominees has attracted frustration from at least two GOP presidential candidates.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have supported Tuberville’s protest against a Pentagon reimbursement policy for servicemembers who travel to get an abortion.


But they criticized the senator’s method, which is impacting the military.


“I appreciate what Tuberville’s trying to do,” Haley said earlier this month. “I do. Like it’s totally wrong that the Department of Defense is doing this. But have we gotten so low that this is how we have to go about stopping it?”

While the war in Ukraine is attracting the most attention from Washington at the moment, some Republicans have said that’s a distraction from what they say is a larger threat in Beijing.
Chinese ambitions to unite with the self-governing island nation of Taiwan, with military force if necessary, is another leading GOP defense concern.


The candidates are likely to also touch on China’s military buildup in the Indo-Pacific and Beijing’s spreading ties across the globe.


Stay tuned to on Wednesday night for full coverage of the debate.

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