McConnell Remarks on Ukraine, Russia, and the Biden Administration

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding foreign policy:

“President Biden also campaigned on strengthening America’s partnerships and renewing our global leadership. Well, how has this Administration performed?

“The Administration that campaigned on restoring alliances abandoned a coalition of loyal partners with its disastrous and fatal retreat from Afghanistan.

“The Biden Administration green-lit Vladimir Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Senate Democrats blocked us from sanctioning it.

“This pipeline will help Putin gain even more leverage over Western Europe, and further isolate Ukraine.

“As we speak, Putin has massed more than 100,000 Russian troops along the border of Ukraine.

“If these forces cross into Ukraine, it will not be a new invasion or a ‘re-invasion.’ It will represent a major escalation of an ongoing occupation.

“Ukraine’s been fighting a Russian-backed war on its own soil for eight years now.

“Eight years ago, I tried to warn President Obama that Putin is only deterred when the world imposes real costs on his misbehavior. 

“But the Obama Administration sent Ukraine non-lethal support. And the sanctions it imposed and coordinated proved not to be as tough as advertised. The Obama-Biden Administration failed to end Putin’s invasion or compel compliance with the Minsk accords.

“The Biden-Harris team must not repeat the Obama-Biden team’s grave mistakes.

“But yesterday, on live television, President Biden telegraphed passivity and weakness exactly when our allies can least afford it.

“Our President seemed to state — I pray unintentionally — that he expects Putin to escalate in Ukraine, and in any case, Putin can do what he wants.

“‘That decision is totally, solely, completely a Putin decision. I suspect it matters which side of the bed he gets up on.’ What on Earth?

“‘My guess is he will move in. He has to do something.’ President Biden thinks Putin ‘has to do something’? What does that even mean?

“Why is our President speculating like a passive observer on the sidelines?  He isn’t a pundit. He isn’t Putin’s psychoanalyst. He’s the President of the United States!

“And will America hold Russia accountable if it escalates? Here was the message from our commander-in-chief. ‘It depends on what [Russia] does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and then we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.’

“‘It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion’? Does this mean President Biden will not actually authorize the tough response that his own Administration officials have spent weeks promising?

“This was a moment to deliver a powerful warning to the Kremlin that Ukraine’s sovereignty is inviolable. That we would stand with her people. That the costs of escalation would be devastating. 

“It was a moment to reassure our partners in Kyiv and our allies along NATO’s Eastern Flank that America had their back.

“It was a moment to call for NATO’s unity, not to expose and appear hamstrung by NATO’s divisions.

“It was a bizarre and devastating performance. Especially, I would add, for our friends on the front lines. President Zelensky’s defense minister has already shot back. ‘We should not give Putin the slightest chance to play with quasi-aggression or small incursion operations. This aggression was there since 2014. This is the fact.’

“I suspect our own Secretary of State, who is in Europe to meet our allies and the Russian Foreign Minister, was also shocked. 

“Minutes later, White House staff put out a frantic statement laying out a completely different position than what President Biden had expressed. By then, of course, significant damage had been done.

“But the damage can be undone. The President of the United States is never powerless.

“President Biden needs to clean up his remarks. He needs to clearly state American resolve and clearly demonstrate American leadership.

“He should call Ukrainian President Zelensky and America’s NATO allies most threatened by Russian aggression.

“He should rally allies and partners around the world to defend Ukraine and the international system that is being threatened by Putin.

“His Administration should be using every waking moment, right now, to expedite our delivery of real defensive capabilities to Ukraine.

“The President must cut the indecision and red tape that has slowed us and our partners down.

“President Biden should finally, at long last, get around to nominating an Ambassador to Ukraine, a position he has left empty for 12 crucial months.

“He should send U.S. forces to shore up NATO’s Eastern Flank — not if and when Putin escalates, but now, before it’s too late.

“And he should encourage our treaty allies to do likewise.

“But while alliance unity is important, the lowest common denominator of NATO’s most nervous members cannot be allowed to restrict American actions.

“Whatever course other nations choose to chart, we cannot afford to let Moscow underestimate our resolve to impose serious, crushing costs in response to any further incursion against Ukraine.

“Our friends and America’s reputation deserve nothing less.”


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