On Senate Floor, Portman Calls for Bipartisan Action to Counter Russian Aggression Towards Ukraine

February 9, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor discussing Russia’s escalating threat to Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty. 

Portman made the point that he believes bipartisan action is possible, and it is his hope Congress will be able to come together to pass legislation that will deter a Russian invasion, and ensure Ukraine and its patriotic people remain strong in their quest for freedom.

A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.

“Mr. President, I come to the floor this evening to urge that Congress speak with one voice at a critical time on an urgent matter. The fight for freedom is being waged in Ukraine right now, and the outcome is going to have profound effects, not just in Eastern Europe, but around the globe. Russia has invaded Ukraine twice in the last eight years, illegally annexing Crimea, inserting troops and offensive military equipment into the Donbas region in the east. They've initiated cyber attacks against public and private entities in Ukraine, and they continue to use disinformation to try to destabilize the democratically elected government in Kiev. Now, the Russians have gone further by amassing more than 100,000 troops under the command of 100 tactical groups on Russia's Ukrainian border. This Russian deployment includes Rockets, tanks and artillery, and is no longer just on the Eastern border of Ukraine, but now on the Northern border, where Russian combat troops and heavy equipment have moved into Belarus and in Crimea, in the Black Sea area.

“Let me give a little history as to how we got here. Eight years ago, Ukraine made a choice. The people of Ukraine stood up to a corrupt Russian backed government in 2014 and made a conscious decision to turn to the West, to the European Union, to the United States. I was in Ukraine in 2014, shortly after what is called the Euromaidan or the Revolution of Dignity. When I was there in 2014, the Revolution of Dignity barricades were still up. And in the center of town, the Maidan was still occupied by Ukrainian Patriots who were determined that their country not go backwards. 

“The Ukrainian people at that time rejected authoritarianism. They said instead, they were choosing democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom to gather, respect for the rule of law and free markets. Turning to us. Despite Russia's unrelenting efforts at destabilization over the past eight years, the Ukrainian people are more committed than ever to an independent, sovereign and Democratic nation. And Ukrainians today are increasingly patriotic and opposed to the Russian efforts to destabilize their country. They don't want state control, repression, and fear. They choose Liberty and prosperity. Moscow would have the world believe that somehow this massive, unwarranted Russian buildup is about trying to shore up its border against some threats from Ukraine and NATO. This is, of course, patently false. 

“Ukraine's military posture has always been purely defensive. And unlike Russia, Ukraine has upheld its commitments under the Minsk agreements, which were designed to ensure a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, in the Donbas region. NATO, of course, is a defensive alliance and is no threat to Russian territorial integrity. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently told reporters that 'the significant movement of Russian troops into Ukraine's neighbor Belarus is the biggest Russian deployment there since the Cold War.' And Russian troop numbers in Belarus are likely to climb to 30,000 with the backing of special forces, advanced fighter jets, short range ballistic missiles and  S-400 ground to air missile defense systems. This is new.

“By the way, Ukraine is not asking for us to fight these wars for them. They have been in a war with Russia over the past eight years. They have lost over 14,000 Ukrainians to this battle, including at the line of contact where there's been a hot conflict. I've been to the line of contact. I've seen it. I've seen where the Russian snipers have killed Ukrainian soldiers. I've talked to the soldiers from Ukraine who are determined, committed and patriotic. 14,000 people. If you compare the population of Ukraine to our population here in the United States of America, that would be the equivalent of us losing about 120,000 Americans over the past eight years to an enemy. That's more people than we lost in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan combined. Think how we would feel. This is how the Ukrainians feel.

“Ukraine is not asking for us to fight their war for them but they are asking for increased lethal military assistance to help defend themselves should Russia make a big mistake and decide to invade further into Ukraine. When it comes to our allies, I've been pleased that most have really stepped up to help Ukraine during this crisis. The British have provided anti-tank missiles. When I was in Ukraine recently with a congressional delegation as we left the airport, this was about three weeks ago, a cargo plane arrived, an American made cargo plane, with weapons from the UK. The United Kingdom was providing antitank weapons to Ukraine. I saw them being unloaded and I saw the smiles on the faces of the Ukrainians knowing that this will give them a better chance to defend themselves. We appreciate the Brits. 

“The Canadians have helped. Specifically, recently, providing important training on some of the new equipment they're getting. The Danes have helped with additional funding and the Baltics have transferred weapons, as well. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania have all been strongly supportive. Poland has been so supportive. So many others. We need all of our allies to step up like that. Certainly all of our NATO allies. But really all freedom loving countries around the world, this is where the cause of freedom is being fought right now. 

“My hope is that Congress can come together and speak with one voice. Republicans and Democrats alike. Pass bipartisan sanctions and legislation and an aid package that sends a strong message of support to the Ukrainian people. A message that we stand with them in their fight for freedom. But also sends a strong message to Russia that if they choose to invade further, the armed conflict will carry a heavy cost. The sanctions will be devastating. And finally, legislation that sends a strong message to the world that the United States stands with its allies in Eastern Europe and throughout freedom loving countries across the world. The time to speak is now, with one voice. The world is listening and watching.”