Live from Poland: Portman Joins CNN’s State of the Union to Discuss Russia’s Invasion on Ukraine
Senator Portman joined CNN’s State of the Union this morning from Mylny, Poland, near Ukraine, to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – he is currently in Poland with a bipartisan group of colleagues to meet with Polish officials, visit refugee sites and reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to Poland, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe. Russia continues to expand its assault, now bombing western Ukraine, just miles from Polish border. Portman urged the administration to do more to help Ukraine, specifically helping facilitate the transfer of fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine, which are critical tools in Ukraine’s fight to protect its homeland.
Portman also discussed rising gas prices in the U.S., which the Biden administration has blamed on the conflict in Ukraine. Portman highlighted many of the administration’s own policies that have stifled domestic energy production since President Biden took office in January of 2021. He urged the administration to reverse course and support expanding domestic energy production, which will not only help lower energy costs and protect our economic security, but also strengthen our national security.
Portman also spoke about the generosity of the Polish people and government, which he has been able to see firsthand. Poland has welcomed over a million Ukrainian refugees since this conflict began, and volunteers continue to provide food, water, and shelter to the many more who arrive each day.
PORTMAN ON SEEING UKRAINIAN REFUGEES FIRSTHAND CROSS THE BORDER INTO POLAND:
“It's concerning that it was a western Ukraine attack. They have typically been in the south and the east and around Kyiv so the people who are here on the border could hear it, even though it's 15 miles away. Also, Dana, you should know, we are meeting with refugees here as they come over, 100 a minute are coming from Ukraine. A number of them were from Lavriv, this city that was just bombed last night. They decided this morning, after having been bombed through the night, that they were going to leave. It's also leading, obviously, to more refugees coming across the border. It's very sad, it’s very emotional, people talking about their homes being destroyed, talking about having to leave their loved ones behind, a lot of grandmothers with grandchildren. People are just distraught and the message they're giving us is loud and clear, as you can imagine, which is close the skies because the skies are where the bombs are coming, whether the missile attacks or airplane attacks or the artillery. They want help, and the Ukrainians who we talked to today are obviously desperate trying to find their way right now with the hope to go home someday, but really no assurance and they’re really looking for more help.”
PORTMAN ON THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION REFUSING TO HELP SEND POLISH AIRPLANES TO UKRAINE:
“I don't know why that would be true. The Russians have complained about everything. Vladimir Putin has said that the sanctions are an act of war. They certainly complained when we provided stingers directly from the U.S. government, which can knock down an airplane and have been successful in doing that at lower attitudes. We have given them helicopters as recently as January we provided them U.S. military helicopters. Those are directly from the United States. In this case this would be Poland providing these airplanes, which are soviet-style planes, old planes, MiG29s. Also two other countries, Slovakia and Bulgaria, that have these airplanes. What we've heard directly from the Ukrainians is they want them badly. They want the ability to have better control over the skies in order to give them a fighting chance. I don't understand why we're not doing it. We initially gave the green light, as you know, last weekend. The Secretary of State said it was going to give the green light and for some reason now we're blocking it. I don't understand why this is any worse from the Russian point of view than other things we've already done or that we're talking about.
“Well, again, we've sent lots of weaponry through military bases. In fact, we were just with the 82nd Airborne last night who are here in Poland, thank God, and they're doing a terrific job. This is what we've been doing all along. I don't see that change. I do think what Jake Sullivan said today is encouraging in the sense that he talked about at least providing Ukraine with the anti-aircraft systems they need to be able to better protect themselves. We've already provided those for Poland, the Patriot system. The systems he's talking about are probably also these Soviet-era systems, like the S-300, which is not the top of the line, but is very effective still. Poland and other Warsaw bloc countries have them. At a minimum, let's get those into Ukraine and stop talking about it and let’s do it. But the airplanes are also essential. To me, Vladimir Putin and the Russians seem to be saying everything is escalatory, and yet they're escalating every single day by coming into Ukraine with these weapons. There's discussion, as you know, of them using vacuum bombs and cluster bombs, cluster bombs against civilian targets. This is an illegal, this is a brutal totally unprovoked attack and increasingly they're choosing civilian targets. As they escalate, what the Ukrainian people are asking for is just the ability to defend themselves, give them the ability to try to stop some of this Russian superiority in terms of air power to be able to save lives and hopefully end up with a peaceful solution to this. If we don't figure out a way to help Ukraine push back, that's much less likely.”
PORTMAN ON THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION’S ACTIONS TO REDUCE AMERICAN ENERGY PRODUCTION:
“No, with all due respect, let's be specific. When the president was elected, he said we're going to cut off Keystone, which is North American energy, which is what we're talking about. That was over 800,000 barrels per day, more than the Russian oil, which was 600,000 barrels a day. Second, he issued an Executive Order stopping exploration on public lands and water, public waters. Finally, he's rewriting this legislation that is now a regulation that has to do with permitting called Waters of the United States. All of this is leading to less North American energy production. Specific policy decisions have been made.
“First of all, oil prices started to go up long before there was any invasion of Ukraine, as you know. Oil prices went up for a lot of reasons, but one is the fact that this administration made it a priority of theirs to stifle domestic production of fossil fuels. There's no secret to that. The campaign talked about it and the president did it when he got elected. He had a right to do it. I disagree with him. That's a fact. That affected the price of oil, again, long before the Ukrainian issue became a factor. Second, you talk about these leases. If oil companies could know that they could make billions of dollars in investments which is what some of these are, like the Keystone XL pipeline, and have it end up with oil and gas being able to be available on the market, they would certainly do that. Keystone XL pipeline, yes, it was going to come on shortly, but more importantly, people who had invested billions of dollars, including Canadians who are very upset by this, found out what can happen with an administration that wants to stifle production. There's a lot of lack of certainty and a real concern about making those investments now. My own state of Ohio, as you know, is now a natural gas producer. Also we have some oil and some wet gas. We hear this from these companies. All I'm saying is, what we should be doing is continuing to produce as much oil and gas as we can right now because it's a national security, as well as an economic security, issue. At the same time, continue our work on renewables, continue to try to make that transition. But we're not ready for that transition, so in the meantime we have got to be able to be energy independent again. This is, again, as we see, a national security issue as we're unfortunately seeing very clearly now in this crisis.”
PORTMAN THANKING THE POLISH PEOPLE FOR HELPING UKRAINIAN REFUGEES:
“In this crisis we have seen the absolute worst of humanity, that's these indiscriminate bombings of civilians, we've also seen today the best of humanity. The Polish people have opened their hearts and opened their homes to these folks from Ukraine. Already about 1.2 million people have come from Ukraine to Poland alone and it’s unbelievable. We saw cars lining up with volunteers ready to pick up Ukrainian refugees and take them to their home. There are 10,000 people online who have offered a home to these refugees. They're very appreciative of it. Today, I was at a number of volunteer activities, including Jose Andres' group, which is World Central Kitchen, you're probably aware of them. They’re serving food to the refugees there. They're doing an awesome job. World Health Organization was there with volunteers. We are seeing some really generous outpouring of support for the Ukrainian refugees. I certainly appreciate that.”