President Biden Must Get Tough in Tuesday Call with Putin
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding foreign policy:
“Last week brought new information about Russia’s military activities along its border with Ukraine. Heavily armed ground forces are mobilizing by the tens of thousands. It’s looking more and more like Vladimir Putin intends to redraw another border by force.
“The escalation of Putin’s ongoing war against Ukraine is an immediate threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty and to the security of its people. But as always with Putin, it’s also a test with much broader consequences. Can aggressive powers violate sovereign countries without facing serious consequence?
“Fellow authoritarians in Beijing and Tehran will be watching how the free world responds. And President Biden has an opportunity to set the tone when he speaks with Putin tomorrow.
“The stakes for the President’s call with Putin couldn’t be clearer. We know what happens when the United States fails to engage with Russia from a position of strength. We know what weakness and capitulation get us.
“Remember how President Obama treated arms controls and Europe-based missile defense as negotiable items that could be traded away in exchange for Moscow’s goodwill.
“Remember how he mocked Republicans – perhaps most notably our colleague, Senator Romney – who dared to suggest that we ought to take the threat of a revanchist Russia seriously.
“Remember the cuts to defense spending.
“Remember the dithering over whether to provide meaningful capabilities to Ukraine when Putin first invaded… And how useless our blankets and MREs were against Russian armor and Moscow-trained little green men.
“This weakness didn’t purchase a ‘Reset’. It produced a more emboldened Russia, willing to engage in more repression at home and more aggression abroad.
“And here we are today.
“Vladimir Putin is gearing up to escalate his violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. And if the free world doesn’t object, there’s no reason to assume he’ll stop there.
“So tomorrow, President Biden has both the opportunity and responsibility to tell Russia, and Ukraine, and our allies in Europe that the United States cares about sovereign borders and will help its friends protect them.
“If the free world is serious, its leaders – first and foremost, the President of the United States – will leave Putin no room to doubt that Ukraine’s sovereignty is inviolable. And by extension, they will signal to Chairman Xi that similar prospecting in the Pacific will come with prohibitive costs.
“If our leaders do not defend a fundamental tenet of the international order, we cannot be surprised by the chaos that will follow.
“So if President Biden is serious, he will convince Germany’s new government to abandon the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and instead try to reduce its dependence on the resources that enrich Putin and his cronies and give Moscow leverage over Europe.
“If the President intends to learn from the past and actually help Ukraine defend itself, he should expeditiously provide weapon systems that will materially help Ukraine defend itself, including against air threats.
“Finally, for the United States to lead the world’s response to authoritarian aggression, I hope President Biden will call on our allies to do more to contribute to our collective security.
“In Europe, NATO member states must treat their own military modernization as a top priority. And in the Indo-Pacific, our friends in Taiwan and elsewhere must commit the resources, training, and reforms needed to help them face down their own looming threats.
“Tomorrow’s call must mark a turning point for the Biden Administration’s approach to major power competition — from one where its words are pinned on hopes to one where its words and backed by strength.”
Related Issues: Russia