DeSantis blames Biden’s ‘posture of weakness’ for Russian flotilla off Florida coast

Gov. Ron DeSantis is blaming what he callled the Biden administration’s “posture of weakness” for a fleet of Russian warships sailing less than 30 miles off South Florida’s coast last week.

In response, the U.S. Navy earlier this week deployed warships and aircraft to track the Russian naval flotilla. But DeSantis at a Hollywood press conference on Friday said President Joe Biden isn’t doing enough to deter “bad actors” like Russia.

“We’re failing as a country with the deterrent capability, and I think it starts at the top with the president of the United States,” DeSantis said. “I think that history has shown that these bad actors, they respond to strength and they’re deterred by strength. They are not going to be deterred by weakness. They are not going to be deterred by confusion.”

DeSantis added: “They’re not going to be deterred by a president wandering around aimlessly at the G7.” The reference is to the leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations meeting in Italy this week.

U.S. officials told McClatchy and the Herald/Times last week that Russia would be deploying several naval vessels and aircraft for military exercises in the Western Hemisphere, including port calls in Cuba and possibly Venezuela. The Russian fleet – including a frigate, two smaller ships and a nuclear submarine – passed within 30 nautical miles off Key Largo on Tuesday on its approach to Havana, remaining in international waters but coming unusually close to U.S. shores, one U.S. official said.

The U.S. Navy deployed three powerful destroyers, a Coast Guard cutter and a maritime reconnaissance plane to track the Russian movements after learning that a nuclear submarine would be included in Moscow’s exercises – the first submarine deployment of its kind in the region since the end of the Cold War. Officials told McClatchy that they never lost track of the submarine on its voyage to Cuba before it surfaced in the waters of Havana’s port.

The Russian fleet is expected to continue exercises in the Caribbean before possibly making a port of call in Venezuela. U.S. warships would follow the Russian vessels on their way, an official said.

Moscow has conducted military exercises in the Western Hemisphere during the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations. But five years have passed since Russia last conducted air and sea exercises in the region, and past exercises have not included a nuclear submarine.

The Russian submarine, called the Kazan, is not carrying nuclear weapons, according to U.S. intelligence officials.