What They Are Saying About Russia, Sanctions and Ukraine
WASHINGTON — On Monday night, Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and on Tuesday, the Biden administration imposed significant sanctions on the Russian Central Bank and other banking interests.
On Wednesday, a senior administration official said, another round of sanctions will go into effect against “Russian elites and their families” whom the White House sees as in or near the inner circles of the Kremlin and who play a role in at least some of its decision-making.
Many of these “elites” are expected to be selected from a classified report the Treasury Department sent to Congress in 2018 naming senior political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation.
So far today, the talk among the few lawmakers that have returned to Capitol Hill or stayed through the break revolves around a supplemental spending bill intended to help aid Ukraine in the event of a military conflict with Russia, and a possible $1 billion humanitarian aid package that would go along with it.
The federal government has already committed to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help stabilize the Ukrainian economy.
Also happening today, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, lifted his long-standing hold on State Department nominees in the wake of the Biden administration placing sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Not surprisingly, the fast-moving developments have inspired a lot of commentary on both sides of the aisle. Below is a compendium of what’s being said and by whom.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“Russia’s launch of a premeditated war against the sovereign nation of Ukraine is an attack on democracy and a grave violation of international law, global peace and security. Putin’s unprovoked actions will cause devastating loss of life and a diminishing of Russia in the world order.
“The leadership of President Biden and our allies to demonstrate overwhelming resolve is crucial in this moment of heartbreak and suffering for the Ukrainian people. We are united with unprecedented strength and coordination in our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. I reiterated this message when I spoke with Rada Speaker Stefanchuk this morning. As Members of Congress demonstrated and saw firsthand at the Munich Security Conference, Putin has failed in his attempt to splinter our alliance, and, as President Biden stated today, ‘NATO is more united and more determined than ever.’
“The response of America and our allies will be severe, ongoing and devastating for Russia, economically, diplomatically, and strategically. President Biden has made clear throughout Russia’s escalation that we will continue to impose costs on Russia that will leave it weakened in every way. These include the further steps announced today of sweeping and catastrophic sanctions on financial institutions, companies and individuals critical to the Russian economy and of further military support to bolster NATO. As always, we will continue to fully support the people of Ukraine with humanitarian assistance and weapons to defend their country.
“Congress is closely monitoring the situation, including with a briefing from the Administration today and with a classified in-person briefing next week. The United States Congress joins President Biden and all Americans in praying for the Ukrainian people.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“As I stated several days ago, it was clear that Putin’s initial aggression was just a small foretaste of what this thug had planned for Ukraine. Now we are watching his full brutality unfold. But this behavior will not stop with Ukraine. Russia’s aggressive ambitions threaten the core interests of the United States, NATO, and the West, as strong voices like Senator Romney have been warning for years.
“Sadly, deterrence after the fact is not deterrence at all. The President should have exercised his extensive authorities to impose certain tough sanctions early enough to actually deter invasion and weaken Russia. We should have ensured that the pipeline of lethal aid to Ukraine was flowing far sooner. And we should have sent more reinforcements to support NATO’s eastern flank allies earlier.
“The entire world is now watching how we respond. For its part, Congress would support truly devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and its enablers.
“As I’ve said before, the United States and NATO must redouble our material support for Ukraine’s resistance, further shore up our allies, get serious about energy independence, and invest in the capabilities needed for long-term military competition with Russia and China. Here in Congress, upcoming defense spending measures will provide an opportunity to lead by example.
“Moving forward, how America leads the response from all freedom-loving nations will be measured carefully by our friends, by our adversaries, and by history itself. We cannot afford to fail this test.
Rep. Andy Kim, D-N.J.
I just got off the phone with Ukrainians who say the situation is worse than what’s reported. Some are fleeing and amassing at the Poland border. Others, especially those without cars, are taping windows, hunkering down with wet blankets in case of shelling as air raid sirens go off in Kyiv.
As of now, people I talk to say electricity,communications, and utilities like water haven’t been shut off yet, though I’m hearing other reports of internet outages. There were serious concerns that Russia would do cyber attacks to cripple communications networks, air traffic, etc. during first wave attacks.
No one knows yet the full extent of the war, but one thing is clear: an extraordinary number of lives of innocent people are at risk. Even if we don’t know people in Ukraine, I beg us to not turn blind eye to this violence.
Statement by President Biden on Wednesday Afternoon on Nord Stream 2
“Since Russia began deploying troops to the Ukrainian border, the United States has worked closely with our allies and partners to deliver a strong, unified response. As I said when I met with Chancellor Scholz earlier this month, Germany has been a leader in that effort, and we have closely coordinated our efforts to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia further invaded Ukraine.
“Yesterday, after further close consultations between our two governments, Germany announced that it would halt certification of the pipeline. Today, I have directed my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers. These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate.
“Through his actions, President Putin has provided the world with an overwhelming incentive to move away from Russian gas and to other forms of energy. I want to thank Chancellor Scholz for his close partnership and continued dedication to holding Russia accountable for its actions.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
“President Biden made the right decision today. Allowing Putin’s Nord Stream 2 to come online would have created multiple, cascading, and acute security crises for the United States and our European allies for generations to come. Today’s announcement is critical to preventing such scenarios.
“Today’s announcement should be followed by additional steps inside the Biden administration and in Congress to permanently lock in sanctions. Putin believes that Nord Stream 2’s activation is a fait accompli now that it has been physically completed, and that any barriers or sanctions are only temporary. His aggression toward Ukraine is based on that assessment, and the only way to change his decision calculus is to convince him Nord Stream 2 will never come online.”
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform
“I strongly condemn Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and the threat that Vladimir Putin’s actions pose to the lives of innocent civilians and the freedom of the Ukrainian people.
“President Putin’s apparent decision to invade Ukraine comes after he has repeatedly shown he has no respect for international norms, including by annexing Crimea, poisoning and imprisoning political dissidents and opponents, and launching state-sponsored cyberattacks.
“The Oversight Committee stands alongside President Biden and our congressional colleagues in supporting the people of Ukraine and swiftly and severely responding to Putin’s destabilizing activities in Eastern Europe.”
Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security
“Russia’s latest violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty is a blatant act of aggression that disregards the democratic freedoms of 44 million Ukrainian citizens and violates Moscow’s obligations under international law. Like Adolf Hitler before him, Putin’s actions endanger the peace and security of Europe and the free world.
“I fully support President Biden’s efforts to unite the 30 nations of NATO to defend democracy from Putin’s attacks against the principles of freedom and self-governance that have been the foundation of the rules-based international order since the end of World War II.”
Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
“The security of the United States is inextricably tied to upholding the universal commitment to international law, sovereign borders and every nation’s right to self-governance. Putin’s moves in Ukraine are an affront to the democratic will of the Ukrainian people to determine their own future, and a flagrant and dangerous challenge to international law and security. Putin’s theater of lies is fooling no one — sending Russian troops into eastern Ukraine is the beginning of an invasion and a blatant violation of both international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty. The world must respond appropriately. This illegal escalation poses the greatest security threat to Europe and the world in decades.
“I commend President Biden’s strong and swift response, uniting our NATO allies in combating the belligerent Russian threat, and I stand ready in Congress to support and bolster these actions to hold Putin accountable.
“It is critically important for Congress to demonstrate, with broad bipartisan support, the U.S. commitment to international law and security, and the independence of the people of Ukraine. Congress must ensure the U.S., with NATO and our European partners, is fully equipped to counter Putin and Russia’s warmongering and revanchist ambitions.”
Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz.
“I am horrified by the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin in invading the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The United States and its allies must move swiftly and immediately with the strongest of sanctions against Russia. Any aggressive actions taken by Russian separatists in the Donbas should be looked upon as an attack by the Kremlin against a sovereign nation and further violation of the Minsk agreements and international law.
“We must support Ukraine economically and continue to defend its democracy, as we have done for decades. This conflict could very well lead to countless deaths of women, children and Ukrainian families, and the sanctity of democracies in Eastern Europe and around the world. I pray that a ceasefire comes quickly.”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Chairman of the Senate Intel Committee
“I just returned to Washington after several days of meetings with our partners and allies in Munich and in London. My takeaway from those meetings is this: the West has never been as resolute or as unified in standing up to Putin’s brazen, reckless and illegal course of action. The United States and our partners stand with the cause of democracy and with the people of Ukraine at this perilous moment.
“Along with my colleagues in Congress, I support President Biden’s measures to impose significant costs on Russia and its autocratic government in response to its unjustified and unacceptable aggression. Those announced today by the president, taken in coordination with our allies, are a good first step, and we must be prepared to impose additional costs on Putin if he carries through on his threats to further invade Ukraine.
“I will also support measures to bolster the readiness and deterrence of the NATO alliance. While we do not want escalation between nuclear powers, there must be no mistake regarding NATO’s readiness to protect its members and deter Russia’s aggression. Putin’s misguided and dangerous actions will only act to further unify this decades-strong alliance of nations.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“Vladimir Putin’s latest invasion of Ukraine is an indefensible violation of international law, regardless of whatever false pretext he offers. There has always been a diplomatic solution to this situation. Tragically, Putin appears intent on rejecting it. The United States must now work with our allies and the international community to impose serious sanctions on Putin and his oligarchs, including denying them access to the billions of dollars that they have stashed in European and American banks.
“The U.S. and our partners must also prepare for a worse scenario by helping Ukraine’s neighbors care for refugees fleeing this conflict. Finally, in the longer term, we must invest in a global green energy transition away from fossil fuels, not only to combat climate change, but to deny authoritarian petrostates the revenues they require to survive.”
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio
“Russian aggression towards Ukraine is a crisis with global implications. Since Russia’s 2014 invasion, the United States has provided Ukraine with security assistance to help Ukraine defend itself and improve interoperability with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. … Today, President Putin continues to threaten Ukraine’s sovereignty and innocent Ukrainian lives in his pursuit of re-establishing a Russian Federation that more closely resembles the Soviet Union than a responsible global state in the post-Cold War era.
“President Biden and his administration must consider enacting sanctions that make further invasion prohibitively costly to President Putin and the Russian Federation. As well, he should proceed with the following actions:
1) Appoint a U.S. ambassador to Ukraine without further delay.
2) Detail specific punitive sanctions the United States will levy and how he intends to enforce them.
3) Immediately reimpose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
4) Expeditiously provide additional lethal aid and any needed humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian people.
5) Continue to engage diplomatically with both the Ukrainian government and the Russian government with firm resolve.
“As a cosponsor of the Never Yielding Europe’s Territory Act, H.R. 6742, which would impose real costs on the Putin regime by enacting severe sanctions and provide support for Ukraine before, during and after Russian escalation, I am pleased to see many of America’s allies taking action to this extent. I urge the Biden administration to do the same. This administration is in no position to speak on sovereignty given their handling of the southern border.
“As demonstrated by his insistence that Donetsk and Luhansk are now no longer part of Ukraine, Putin has shown he has no intention of backing down from taking sovereign Ukrainian territory by force. President Biden and Congress must act swiftly to show that Putin’s actions against a sovereign and democratic Ukraine will not be tolerated.”
Blue Dog Communications Co-Chair Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.
“Escalating Russian aggression must be met with multilateral sanctions of unprecedented severity and scope, the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, and the continued provision of offensive and defensive weapons to Ukraine so the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people can defend their homeland.
“Russia must pay a swift and steep price for their actions. On the home front, Democrats and Republicans should set aside their partisan differences and stand united as patriotic Americans in the face of Russian aggression, consistent with the adage that ‘politics stops at the water’s edge.’”
Blue Dog National Security Task Force Chair Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-N.J.
“As a Navy veteran and former Russian policy officer, I traveled to Ukraine and spoke to President Zelenskyy a few weeks ago. Putin’s recognition of separatist movements in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine is a clear violation of the 2015 Minsk Protocol.
“The U.S., the EU and our NATO allies are united against Russia’s aggression and attempts to destabilize Ukraine. The deployment of so-called ‘peacekeepers’ to the Donbas region of Ukraine is an extension of Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, the first time a sovereign nation in Europe had been invaded for territorial gain since World War II. It is time for the U.S. and our partners to levy stiff sanctions against Putin’s regime.”
Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
“Through his rhetoric and actions, Vladimir Putin has turned his back on the Minsk process and diplomacy in favor of escalation and invasion of a sovereign country.
“Every indication suggests these actions will almost certainly be used as a prelude to even further aggression and an even larger invasion. If that occurs, many Ukrainians could die. The humanitarian consequences could be catastrophic. And the threat will not stop with Ukraine. All the free nations of the world will be affected if Putin’s aggression is allowed to stand unchallenged.
“The world is watching. Our allies, our adversaries and neutral countries will all judge the West by our response — and plan their futures accordingly.
“As he escalates his war against Ukraine, Putin must be made to pay a far heavier price than he paid for his previous invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. This should begin, but not end, with devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and its enablers. The president should waste no time in using his extensive existing authorities to impose these costs.
“Our NATO and EU allies must likewise take action to impose significant costs on Putin. Germany’s suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a welcome but overdue announcement and must be turned into [a] permanent cancellation.
“We must also stand by the brave Ukrainians fighting to protect their sovereignty. The United States and all friends of Ukraine must ensure a pipeline of support, including arms flow[ing] to Ukrainians resisting Russian aggression.
“We must also shore up NATO’s defenses along its eastern flank and make clear that aggression against NATO countries will be met with an overwhelming collective response.
“Finally, the United States and our allies across the world must fully acknowledge the growing threats posed by decades of Chinese and Russian military modernization. We need to rebuild our atrophied ability to deter and defend against aggression by these adversaries. That means we must invest more robustly in our own military capabilities to keep pace. Our budgets have to reflect reality.
“America and its partners are strongest when we act together, but the collective response to these threats must be led by Washington, by President Biden and his administration.”
Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
“I condemn in the strongest of terms Vladimir Putin’s recognition of the Luhansk and Donetsk so-called People’s Republics. With this decision, President Putin has decided to reject serious attempts at a diplomatic resolution to this fabricated crisis. Furthermore, he is showing to the world that this crisis is not about NATO enlargement but about his fear of an independent, Democratic and free Ukraine.
“Moscow’s assault on another country’s sovereign territory calls for a multilateral response, including punishing sanctions and continued financial and military support for Ukraine. The signals and concrete action so far by the Biden administration and European capitals have been encouraging. There is more on the table. Contrary to the Kremlin’s goals of dividing us, its fomented crisis is swiftly reaffirming our commitment to the NATO alliance and bringing the transatlantic community together.
“I stand in support of Ukraine’s desire for a Democratic, Euro-Atlantic future, and I stand with its people in the face of this renewed assault on its sovereignty and territorial unity.”
Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla.
“A career in law enforcement taught me that the only thing a bully understands is strength. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is an outrage. It is unprovoked, the act of a coward, despite attempts by Russia to falsely manufacture an excuse for war. Now, we must show President Putin our nation’s unwavering resolve, and impose the toughest sanctions in history against the Russian government, oligarchs and enablers of the so-called ‘independent’ states in Ukraine’s sovereign territory.
“We must keep Americans in the region safe, prevent further escalation and work with our European allies to support the Ukrainian people with arms and humanitarian assistance. Putin and his corrupt regime must pay a personal price for the lives that he is taking and the chaos he is causing. The German government’s decision to halt Nord Stream 2 is just the beginning. I have led efforts in Congress to target Putin, the oligarchs who support him and their criminal financial networks. I call on Congress and the administration to continue these efforts. Russia’s corrupt leaders must face the penalties for starting a war of conquest.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“To President Biden: You said a couple years ago that Putin did not want you to win because you’re the only person that could go toe-to-toe with him. Well, right now, Mr. President, you’re playing footsie with Putin. He’s walking all over you and our allies. … President Zelenskyy of Ukraine rose to the occasion when he gave his speech in Munich. He told the audience the western world, the smart people, that everything you’ve done is now in question. It didn’t work. [Ukraine] is being savaged. You need to adjust your policies. … So, I thought that the President of Ukraine did his part, now it’s time for Congress and the president of the United States, working with western allies, to give … a firm and forceful response to Putin that this will end sooner rather than later.
“All I can say is, I support President Biden’s decision to beef up [the] American presence and NATO allies surrounding Russia to make NATO stronger, not weaker. We have one president at a time. President Biden is the president of the United States, and to the extent that I can help him push back against Putin and bring stability to the world, I will gladly do so. I will not be part of an appeasement movement that will lead to further conflict.
“I’ve been on the phone with Democratic senators for the last two days. We’re talking about an emergency supplemental bill to be created next week that would create a task force of the Department of Justice, Department of State, Treasury and maybe DOD to go after the oligarchs who enrich themselves from Putin’s misadventures. It’s now time for that crowd to lose their yachts, lose their luxury apartments and to pay a price for being part of a thuggish group — a nation-state that really is a mafia-state.
“I want the [Russian] oligarchs to understand what’s coming their way — the price that you’re going to pay. I literally want to work with the British government and the German government to have a sort of united front, because a lot of these assets are in London. They’re in Berlin. They’re in New York. These assets have been generated by an association with Putin to the detriment of the Russian people and world stability. That’s one thing that I think is very bipartisan. I want to see cops go in and take apartments, fine art, and seize yachts from a bunch of thugs and crooks. I want to put money on the table to have more weapons for Ukraine to fight. I want more protection when it comes to cyber, and I want to go at this big, and I want to go at it hard.”
Dan can be reached at email@example.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue
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