Portman Statement Following Video Conference Call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Members of the House & Senate Ukraine Caucus Express Solidary with Ukraine
CINCINNATI, OH – Following a video conference call today with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and more than 20 members of the House and Senate to discuss the security situation in Ukraine, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, issued the following statement:
“Today we had an opportunity to hear directly from President Zelenskyy about the ongoing Russian troop buildup along the Ukraine-Russia border and to express our strong solidarity with the people and the democratically-elected government of Ukraine. During the call, President Zelenskyy discussed the Russian threat on his borders, the appreciation for U.S. military assistance, and his strong opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“As the Co-Chair of the Ukraine Caucus I have worked closely with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support Ukraine—diplomatically, militarily and economically. Now, as Russia positions more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border—threatening the freedom and territorial sovereignty of our ally—we must stand with Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian military has made great strides in its increased proficiency and professionalism. It is a battle-hardened force that has benefitted from four years of material and training support from the United States and if necessary is prepared to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“As we discussed on the call today, our commitment supporting Ukraine was underscored recently when the Congress passed the FY 2022 National Defense Authorization Act that increased our military support through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. The initiative has been extended through 2022 and its funding increased from $250 million in FY 2021 to $300 million next year with at least $75 million specifically designated for lethal assistance. The funds are used to help train, equip, and provide support for the Ukrainian armed forces in their effort to defend their independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity against Russian aggression. The United States must continue to increase the amount of defensive lethal military weaponry it sends to Ukraine and tailor it to the threat they will face so Ukraine can better defend itself.
“We also discussed the recent Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe brokered cease fire in the Donbas and the possibility of diplomatic dialogue that could lead to improvements of Ukraine's security situation. As the U.S. and Russia move closer to convening talks about Ukraine and other issues, President Zelenskyy stressed that any future talks about Ukraine's future must include Ukraine.
“I will continue to urge the Biden administration to immediately impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The certification of this pipeline is a grave threat to Ukraine as it gives Russia the ability to deliver natural gas to Europe without transiting Ukraine. Furthermore, Russia will use the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to exact geopolitical concessions from Europe, as it has already done with the government of Moldova and by refusing to alleviate the current energy crisis.
“We also talked about democratic reforms in Ukraine. In addition to our continued support for Ukraine, I am encouraged by the efforts of President Zelesnkyy and other Ukrainian leaders to continue to promote additional reforms in order to further position Ukraine for EU and NATO integration. We must hold Russia to its international commitments, including those that promised Ukraine territorial sovereignty and independence. President Putin’s demands for a sweeping dialogue to reset the security situation in Eastern Europe should not be recognized when they are made at the barrel of a gun. I strongly urge the Biden administration to begin to increase military assistance, including lethal assistance, to our allies. Russia must know that any offensive military actions it takes against Europe will be at a high price.
“Seven years ago, in the Revolution of Dignity, Ukraine and its people stood up to their Russian-backed leaders and turned to the West. They have chosen to stand with us. Now, the United States must stand with them.”