McConnell on Ukraine: “Here Is What President Biden Should Be Doing Right Now”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Ukraine:
“This morning, members of Congress received an update on the situation in Ukraine directly from President Zelensky.
“His presentation was powerful and heart-wrenching. It reinforced our sympathy, our outrage, and our resolve.
“President Zelensky’s courage and leadership have earned the attention and admiration of the entire free world.
“He has marshaled Ukraine’s brave and defiant resistance against Russian invasion. He has steeled the resolve of his people beyond what anybody expected and offered the entire world a masterclass in leadership.
“This morning, President Zelensky didn’t mince words about what Ukraine needs – urgently – to keep up the fight: more lethal capabilities and heavier sanctions against Russia. And especially the air defense systems that we should have helped Ukraine get weeks ago.
“His people face a long and difficult road ahead. And the entire world knows what they’re up against. The scale of Russia’s aggression wasn’t just foreseeable. It was foreseen.
“For 30 years, every step toward democracy and sovereignty in eastern Europe has tempted the wrath of revanchist autocrats like Putin.
“That’s why I’ve asked the Biden Administration – early and often – to demonstrate America’s commitment to our allies and partners most squarely in Russia’s crosshairs.
“Last June, eight months before the Russian invasion began, I urged the President to ‘provide serious, lethal support to Ukraine and other vulnerable states on the front lines of Putin’s aggression.’
“In December, I specifically called on President Biden to deploy extra U.S. forces to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank.
“I urged his Administration to expedite and expand shipments of lethal aid like anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.
“But as we know, a security assistance package for Ukraine sat at the White House for months before being approved. Once approved, efforts to transfer the weapons moved at the speed of bureaucracy.
“And the President waited until February to order U.S. personnel to the front lines.
“The Biden Administration had over a year to get this right.
“They had a year to translate rhetorical support for NATO into leading real collective defense. But they took five months to even nominate an Ambassador to the Alliance.
“On the campaign trail, President Biden called Putin a ‘KGB thug’.
“But after one week in office, he announced an agreement with the Kremlin to extend the New START treaty for 5 years, reducing our leverage to get a better deal that caps Putin’s nuclear ambitions.
“As the threats to Ukraine gathered, whenever an opportunity to act has presented itself, the Biden Administration has hesitated until the political pressure became overwhelming or balked outright.
“Since Russia’s invasion began, the Administration has publicly shot down efforts from a NATO ally to get working aircraft to Ukrainian pilots. And last Monday, the White House scuttled a bipartisan Congressional bill to end normal trade relations with Russia only to make a public show on Friday of calling for the exact same action.
“At every step of the way, the self-deterred White House has insisted its hesitation and restraint was aimed at avoiding escalation. But at every step Putin has escalated.
“Now, three weeks into Putin’s invasion, the reality on the ground is evolving. It is harder now than it would have been a few months ago to keep the pipeline of weapons, supplies, and intelligence for Ukraine’s brave resistance open. Russia’s air offensive in particular is hitting a deadlier, more aggressive stride.
“But as I’ve been saying for months, it’s not too late for the Biden Administration to do the right thing. Here is what President Biden should be doing right now.
“One: He should use the money and authorities we’ve just provided him to expand the scope of our lethal aid to Ukraine to include more effective, longer-range air defense capabilities.
“That means working with NATO allies with urgency to get Ukrainian pilots more aircraft and munitions, and facilitating the transfer of weapons Ukraine’s forces are most familiar with, like air defense systems from countries with stockpiles of Soviet legacy systems. President Zelensky specifically pleaded for these air defense systems this morning.
“Two: President Biden should deploy more U.S. forces to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, and use the new drawdown and loan guarantee authorities to help harden the defenses of our frontline allies and partners.
“Many of these partners are generously helping Ukraine, and we should help them backfill their inventories with more modern, American capabilities that will improve NATO’s interoperability and bolster deterrence.
“Three: On his trip to Europe next week, President Biden should go beyond Brussels. He should go to countries like Poland, Romania, or Lithuania to meet with NATO eastern flank allies. And he should look beyond NATO to deepen our diplomatic and security cooperation with important American partners like Finland and Sweden.
“And finally: If President Biden wants the United States to lead our allies by example and keep pace with adversaries like Russia and China, the place to start is with robust investments in our own defense capabilities. The coming year’s appropriations process is an opportunity to finally show we’re serious.
“Vladimir Putin has proven to the world that he is willing to stoop low in pursuit of power. And he has shown us exactly how he responds to weakness.
“We cannot afford to stay behind the curve. America must lead, and lead with strength.
“A few minutes ago President Zelensky reminded us that the United States is the leader of the free world.
“So it’s time we acted like it.”
Related Issues: National Security, History, Senate Democrats, Russia, America's Military