Putin Has Again Invaded Another Sovereign Country
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Ukraine:
“Last week, Putin again invaded the sovereign territory of a neighboring country.
“Sadly, it was long clear that attempts to invoke genteel international norms would not move this self-styled Tsar.
“Putin only cares about norms insofar as he wants to rewrite them. He only cares about the peaceful international order insofar as he wants to disrupt it.
“Like his Soviet predecessors, Putin has always rejected the post-war order that held up states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity as sacrosanct.
“Putin and Xi Jinping of China both want to replace this peaceful order with spheres of influence. They want to bend other countries to their will, and redraw borders by force.
“Make no mistake. This crisis does not and will not end with Ukraine.
“And the reason isn’t simply that appetites grow with the eating. Confrontation with the West is Putin’s main objective. He wants to restore Russian empire. He’s said explicitly he wants NATO rolled back to its 1997 borders.
“We have a dictator trying to dismember a U.S. partner. Trying to decapitate its democratically-elected government.
“Does anybody thinks this stops here? Does anybody think that Europe, or for that matter Taiwan, will be safe if the world lets this stand?
“We will only deter further Russian and Chinese aggression if Putin is made to pay a significant price.
“Massive and sustained sanctions that undermine his ability to wage war, now and into the future, will be necessary. But sanctions alone will not suffice.
“Russia has massive currency reserves. It has options to blunt economic pain and to impose counter-costs on America and our partners, at least in the near term.
“The sanctions that would hurt Moscow the most would also have a significant impact on our friends in Europe. So there will continue to be resistance to maximalist sanctions.
“To date, the Biden Administration has sent mixed messages about its own sanctions policy. For months we heard that prospective sanctions were being drafted to deter Putin’s aggression. But last week, the President said he and his advisors never thought sanctions would deter Russia. Now they’ve finally imposed some sanctions, but short of everything that’s available.
“To what end exactly? What is the Administration’s coherent plan?
“I believe we should have used more of these tools prior to this brutal escalation to deter Putin and to weaken his capacity to wage war. Now we must use these tools aggressively to impose massive costs for Putin’s aggression, to demonstrate to other aggressors that we mean business, and to degrade Putin’s longer-term ability to threaten NATO and compete with the West.
“But ultimately, sanctions are no substitute for military power. They are no substitute for the steps we must take to help Ukraine now and defend ourselves in the future.
“Moscow and Beijing will only be deterred from aggression if they see concretely that military force cannot achieve their objectives and the costs of military aggression will be too high.
“In the immediate term, we must ensure the Ukrainians can adequately defend themselves and impose costs on Russia that prove prohibitive.
“The Administration brags about giving $650 million to Ukraine last year. But the manner in which it did so deserves scrutiny.
“When Putin built up forces along Ukraine’s border last spring, the Biden Administration delayed an arms assistance package for months.
“A headline from last June read: ‘White House freezes Ukraine military package that includes lethal weapons.’
“Even as Putin began directly threatening Ukraine last fall, an assistance package languished for weeks at the White House before it was approved.
“This weekend, the Administration rushed to announce another $350 million in military assistance. For which weapons? On what timeline? And how will the weapons reach the brave Ukrainians who have lost ground?
“Congress must use its oversight tools to ensure we are providing Ukraine the weapons it needs as quickly as possible. The same goes for helping to shore up our NATO allies’ defenses along the Eastern Flank.
“And we need to identify what shortfalls, red tape, and limiting factors have slowed our assistance so we are better prepared to help the next partner in need.
“As I have warned repeatedly, we cannot afford to move at the speed of bureaucracy.
“Beyond the immediate crisis in Ukraine, American presidents beginning with President Biden must recommit our nation to a longer-term challenge.
“72 years ago, Harry Truman led the West in rebuffing the Communist assault on South Korea and contesting Soviet dominion over Europe.
“America made sure NATO would not be a toothless political alliance, but a capable military fighting force. This meant sustained investment in American and allied military strength. Defense funding was the precondition for impactful diplomacy that kept the Cold War from going hot.
“Now it is this President’s job to seriously meet the growing threats posed by Russia and China. The United States and our allies and partners must understand that the core of our competition with Russia and China is the military dimension.
“President Biden’s first budget proposed to cut defense spending in real terms. Congress had to take bipartisan action to beef up the NDAA to correct his error.
“Clearly more investment is needed. Congress must keep strengthening defense capabilities as we work on appropriations. But President Biden must lead by example. The President’s next budget request must include at least a 5% increase in defense spending above inflation.
“Russia and China have prioritized military modernization for decades. They have invested in specific tools — like long-range air defenses and hypersonic weapons — that are designed to push the U.S. and our allies farther away from the fight.
“We are behind in this competition. Let me say that again. We are behind.
“Hypersonic weapons; Nuclear force modernization; Power projection; Global presence – These things cost money. It is a small price to pay for keeping security threats off our shores.
“I’ve criticized NATO allies who failed to contribute fully to our collective security, but I’m a strong supporter of the transatlantic alliance. I am encouraged by how our partners have responded, however belatedly, to the growing threat posed to our collective security.
“For example, I applaud the courageous decision by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz this weekend to seek an emergency appropriation of 100 billion Euro for the German military, effectively doubling Germany’s military budget this year.
“He wants Germany to fulfill its pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense. He wants to build liquid natural gas terminals and make other energy investments to finally dial down Germany’s dependence on Russia.
“If our wary European friends are finally shaking off their slumber and getting serious, then certainly the United States of America can do the same.
“President Biden must lead this charge and lead it now.”
Related Issues: NDAA, Russia, China, History, Senate Democrats