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tv   U.S. Senate Senators Portman and Shaheen on U.S. - Russia Tensions Over...  CSPAN  February 15, 2022 4:20am-4:45am EST

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not. mr. portman: i come to the floor tonight with my colleague from new hampshire, senator jeanne shaheen, to discuss the critical situation in ukraine. ukraine is an independent country. it's a democracy. it's an ally of ours. it's a country that is currently
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under siege. there is a threat of invasion by russia that grows every single day. right now there are more than 130,000 russian troops under the command of 100 tactical groups surrounding ukraine. this russian deployment includes nuclear-capable missiles, rockets, tanks, and artillery, and it's no longer just on the eastern border of ukraine, where there has been activity before, as we'll discuss; but now on the northern border where russian combat troops and heavy equipment have moved into the country of belarus, and also in crimea, russia has deployed amphibious ships and other ships to the south and has commissioned its flight system which could stop flights into the ukraine. so from the east, from the north and from the south ukraine is facing this threat. news accounts say additional equipment is actually being moved to the ukrainian border,
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not being pulled away. while there are differing views on whether russia has made the fine final decision as to whether to invade or not, floss question that they have amassed the capability needed to conduct a full-scale invasion of ukraine. let's not forget that russia has invaded ukraine twice in the past eight years, illegally annexing crimea and inserting troops and military equipment into the donbas region in the east. they have also targeted cyberattacks against private and public entities in ukraine and continue to use information to try to destabilize the democratically elected government of ukraine. by the way, the ukrainians have lost about 14,000 citizens in the last five years at the hands of the russians, 14,000. fathers, brothers. that would be as a percentage of our population like the united states losing about 115,000 people. that's more than we lost in
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vietnam and korea combined. actually, vietnam, korea, iraq, and afghanistan combined. think how we would feel. and let's not forget that russia continues day by day to conduct this low-grade but serious war against ukraine. we all hope that instead of an invasion russia chooses a diplomatic end to this current crisis. but we've got to treat this threat of an invasion as a very real and serious possibility. doing anything else would be irresponsible, given the massive mobilization and the past maligned behavior. and all freedom-loving countries have an interest here. ukraine is where the cause of freedom is under siege today. eight years ago ukrainians made a very deliberate choice. they stood up to a corrupt russian-backed government and they turned to the west, to the european union, to america. they said that they wanted to be like us. i was in ukraine in 2014 shortly
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after what is called the euromaidan. they sat there in makeshift tents in the cold because they believed that their hard-won freedom was worth it. in the protests against the russian-backed government, they lost 100 ukrainian citizens by the security forces of the russian-backed government. these individuals were called the heavenly hundred and still honored today by memorials at the maidan. they were willing to defend it then as they are today. i was there as an election observer with other american and european officials, mostly parliamentarians from europe, and we witnessed a fair and robust presidential election, with a huge turnout. i saw their patriotism and national pride. they are proud and consider themselves ukrainian, not russian. they have been a free and independent country for 30 years
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and since the protests in 2014 they have been on track toward a western-focused democracy and a free-market economy. it is their choice to be free and independent and no country -- no country -- has the right to take that away from them. i also want to highlight a change since 2014. that is in the proficiency of the ukrainian military and the great tragedy that would result from an illegal invasion of ukraine. ukraine's military will stand up, and they are ready. the military of today is a professional force that has been fighting this low-grade war with rube for the past eight -- with russia for the past eight years. it is not the military they had in 2014. they are instead battle-heartened today -- they are instead battle-hardened today. and they are better trained and better equipped than ever before. i've been to the line ever contact in the donbas region, the line of contact is where the russian troops are on one side and the ukrainian troops on the
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other, firing back-and-forth periodly. i've seen these troops from ukraine. they are tough. they know how to fight, and they will fight to defend their country. ukraine is a big country, a nation of 41 million people. in the capital city of kiev, there are almost three million people. think about the humanitarian disaster that will ensue if there is an invasion. millions displaced from their homes in the dead of the winter while fighting rages around them. this is not a sight anybody wants to see. by the way, the blood of these innocents will be on the hands a of the russians. and there will be significant russian casualties as well. and severe multilateral sanctions that will being devastating for the russian economy and targeted sanctions that will ensure that the era of russian oligarchs treating the west as their playground will be no more. in 2014, the ukrainian people
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rejected authoritarianism and chose instead democracy, freedom of speech, freedom to gather, respect for the rule of law, free markets, prosperity. they're not going back. despite russia's unrelenting efforts to restabilize ukraine, the people remain commitmented to this independent and sovereign democratic nation. they don't want repression or fear. they instead seek liberty and opportunity. moscow would have the world believe that somehow this massive unwarranted russian build-up is about trying to shore up its border against threats from ukraine and nato. this is false and should be rejected out of hand by america and its many allies. ukraine's military posture has always been defensive. they just want to be left alone. and unlike russia, ukraine has upheld its commitments under the minsk agreement designed for a cease-fire in the donbas region. nato is defensive and is no threat to russian territorial
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integrity. ukraine is not asking for us to fight this war for them. they are asking for increased military lethal assistance to help them defend themselves should russia make a mistake and invade ukraine again. and they are a it was a treaty. where yiewkan agreed to give up their nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees, from russia, the united states and the united kingdom, that we would all respect the independence and sovereignty of ukraine and refrain from the threat or the use of force against ukraine. these are commitments that must be honored. i know there's a lot that this country on congress are divided over today. we see it played out on the floor and media constantly. i will tell you, republicans and democrats alike are united in
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backing ukraine in this crisis. that's why it's so important my colleague from new hampshire is on the floor with me today. she's been a stall ward. we traveled to ukraine a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to meet with the leading officials there, including president zelensky, but also talked to the ukrainian people. we let them know on a bipartisan basis we support ukraine. we have a bipartisan consensus on the broad structure of aid package for ukraine. the sanctions, by the way, would cripple the russian economy. we have disagreement perhaps over preinvasion or postinvasion sanctions and how much on each, but we agreed on sanctions. it we also agree on assisting ukraine with further and much needed support. defense against cyber attacks, for example, that the russians are conducting and we expect more to come. disinformation attacks from russia. we agree, republicans and democrats alike, not just on sanctions, but providing more support to ukraine for these
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critical areas. of course, we agree on providing more military assistance to ukraine so they can defend themselves. we've come to a consensus on these issues. but we now need to work together, including the white house, to ensure we can step forward and put legislation or resolution on the floor to ensure that we're doing whatever we possibly can to make it clear what the consequences will be to actions -- act as deterrent to russia making a terrible mistake. this is a critical time for us to act and lead. it's time for us in the congress and for this government to speak with one voice. freedom in eastern europe depends on it, but so does the cause of freedom all around the world. i now yield to my colleague from new hampshire, senator shaheen. mrs. shaheen: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. ms. sha she'll: -- mrs. shaheen:
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i couldn't agree more with my colleague from ohio, mr. portman. we're here on the floor to convey the strong bipartisan opposition that exists in this senate to vladimir putin's unprovoked 'i aggression against our partner, ukraine. now, like everyone in this body, i've been closely following the deteriorating political crisis that has been fabricated by russia, because as senator portman says, ukraine has always been defensive, it's not been offensive going against russia. but russia intends to further undermine and threaten ukraine's sovereignty. this senate has a long history of supporting an independent and democratic ukraine. since russia's initial invasion in 2014, congress has provided more than $2.7 billion in security assistance and supporting its government in advancing critical reforms to help ukraine on its journey to
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greater euro-atlantic integration. i'm proud to have been vord in a number of those bipartisan efforts to support ukraine. as senator portman said last month, we traveled with a bipartisan delegation of seven senators, four democrats and three republicans, to meet with ukrainian president zelensky and other officials. we met with his national security team to discuss the russian threat and how the united states can help our ukrainian friends. the message from the ukrainians was clear. they see their future in partnership with the west. they share our democratic values and their people are proud of their hard-won independence. so, it's worth asking, if ukraine has made its sovereign wish clear, that it wants a future with europe, why does putin have more than 130,000 troops at its border? as senator portman pointed out so well, it's not just its
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eastern border with russia. it's its northern border with belarus. so, it's been said, but i think it's worth repeating, that this unprecedented russian threat to ukraine sovereignty is on putin. it's on no one else. he's designed this crisis to advance his own agenda. he wants to reconstruct the soviet union and re-create his own sphere of interest, and he wrongfully sees ukraine as part of this authoritarian future. but make no mistake. this isn't just about u.k. a. putin -- about ukraine. putin wants to rewrite the european security order for his benefit, and in blatant disregard for previous international agreements and treaties that russia has signed. senator portman talked about the pude pest memorandum -- the budapest memorandum.
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there have been other efforts to try and reduce tensions between russia and ukraine by europe, but putin has basically thumbed his nose at all of those efforts. he has shown repeated attempts to subvert democratic institutions in the united states, to attack our infrastructure, and to compromise the sovereignty of our allies around the globe. this is why what happens in ukraine matters here in the united states. it's important that we stand up for our values. it's important that we stand up to protect our national security. and it is critical that we continue to uphold and protect the transatlantic security order that has given us peace and prosperity for over 70 years, since the end of world war ii. as putin tries to dismantle and divide the very alliance that's kept your safe for over 60 years, it's -- over 70 years, it's all more important that we strengthen our resolve through a
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strong message of unbreakable unity. it's critical that the senate take up and pass bipartisan legislation that shows our support for ukraine and our opposition to russia and what putin is doing. i've been working toward this goal, i especially want to commend senator portman for his work and leadership, because he has also been working towards this goal. the senate foreign relations committee chairman and ranking member, senators menendez and risch, continue their efforts to find a bipartisan path forward, and i'm sure senator portman would agree with me that when we say we're committed to doing our part to forge a path forward on this legislation, we mean that's what we want to do, that this is an opportunity for us to show the rest of the world that we are united. and that's why we're here today, to send a strong bipartisan message to putin, to ukraine, and to our allies. we must lead by example and
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convey, as we've done to our ukrainian partner and transatlantic allies, that we must not leave any space for putin to sow further discord. therefore, the senate doesn't really have a choice. we must send a message of strong, uneqisk al, bipartisan re-- uneqiskal bipartisan resolve. for many years, senator portman and i and others in the ukraine caucus have worked closely to support the ukrainian people. we've traveled to kiev to ensure that the u.s. resolve for our ukrainian partners is absolute. we've teamed up to increase military assistance to ukraine. and we've spoken to ensure on the topic of ukraine that this senate speaks with one bipartisan voice. so, today, we stand united here on the floor of the senate to send an unequivocal message to putin -- you will not divide the senate. you will not divide the united
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states. and you will not divide the transatlantic alliance. diplomacy remains an option, i hope, to deescalate the situation, to pursue a peaceful resolution. but if putin decides to further invade ukraine, he will only succeed in uniting us all, democrats, republicans, americans, and the transatlantic alliance. sending a message of unmistakable resolve against his belligerence. i hope he chooses peace rather than war, but we plan to be ready. thank you, madam president. i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. mr. portman: i'd like to commend my colleague from new hampshire -- the presiding officer: will the senator from new hampshire hold? the senator from ohio. mr. portman: i'd like to comment my colleague from new hampshire for her strong statement. there should be no mistake here. the united states of america is
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united, as this place is united, this senate and the house, republican and democrat alike in stapg with ukraine. -- in standing with ukraine. if there were to be another invasion, the consequences would be devastating for russia. it would also, by the way, be very harmful to the stability of europe and to the cause of freedom all around the world, because then you would have an authoritarian country coming into a democratically elected, smaller country and invading it, as russia has already done with crimea and parts of donbas. this effort tonight on the floor is simply to make it very clear that regardless of what legislative vehicle we choose or resolution or other, there is no question that we are united as republicans and democrats in doing what is nonpartisan, which is standing up for freedom, which is what america has traditionally done. i thank my colleague. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire.
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mrs. shaheen: will my colleague yield for a question? mr. portman: absolutely. mrs. shaheen: as you point out, if this -- if putin does invade ukraine, as you said, it would be devastating for ukraine, for those of us who believe in freedom and the right of each individual countries to determine their own futures. but this would also be the biggest conflict in europe since world war ii, isn't that correct? mr. portman: that's correct. if there is an invasion, it would be the first time since 1945 that we've seen this kind of maligned behavior, not just an invasion but even the buildup of troops that we've seen and the so-called hybrid attacks, cyber attacks, disinformation attacks, which is why so many in europe are alarmed, particularly go the baltics -- in the baltic, lithuania, latvia, estonia,
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romania. countries on the border realize this isn't going to end in ukraine if this happens. it will send a message that we no longer have this post-world war ii security system in place in europe that has kept the peace. so, my hope is that we will continue to see not just unity on the floor of the senate and in the house and the white house to stand up for ukraine, but among our allies, because all of us are engaged in this. i must say, i think what russia and vladimir putin have done well in the last several weeks is unified the it transatlantic alliance is ways i've rarely seen it. nato is stronger than ever. you listen to the secretary general of nato, he sounds exactly like we do, meaning this shall not stand and cannot happen. and so i think this is going to bring us together. but deterrence is what we're all
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about, a peaceful resolution, a backing off, and the ability to allow a free and independent people of ukraine to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected. may i ask my colleague from new hampshire a question? mrs. shaheen: yes. mr. portman: we have seen on the floor of the senate lots of back and forth on partisan. i made the assertion earlier that i see colleagues on both sides of the aisle being unified on this. i certainly feel that among my republican colleagues. can you speak to it as to your democratic colleagues? mrs. shaheen: i'm certain the presiding officer would agree with me that in the democratic caucus we're also united with the republican caucus and wanting to support ukraine, to ensure that they can determine their own futures. and to hold vladimir putin accountable. and as you say, hopefully
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diplomacy will win out. there will be some way in which we can work with vladimir putin to address some of his concerns. we certainly are not going to allow putin and russia to determine ukraine's future, to say to ukraine you can't join nato, to say to europe and nato you can't expand and to europe if countries want to join. but hopefully he will choose a path that is going to be good, not just for europe and the united states and ukraine but for russia because in the long run, as german chancellor said to us last week when he met with a number of senators, he said, in the long run, this will not be good for russia, for their
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energy future because europe is going to get off russian energy a lot faster if russia invades ukraine, and it's not going to be good for russia's standing either in europe or in the world. so hopefully putin will choose the reasonable approach, he will choose diplomacy, and he will not choose war. and it's our job, the trans-atlantic alliance, those of us here in congress, to hold putin accountable if he makes the wrong choice, to make sure that they, we put in place crippling sanctions, that we provide the assistance that ukraine needs in fighting russia and that we make it clear to the world that the world order that we have defended for the last 70 years, we are going to continue to defend.
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