On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Swift Action on Ukraine Emergency Supplemental Package, Highlights Ukrainian Battlefield Successes, Commends Finland, Sweden on NATO Application

May 18, 2022 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Last night, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the United States’ continued support to Ukraine. With a strong bipartisan vote from the House, Portman noted his hope that the emergency supplemental bill will be quickly passed by the Senate and then signed into law. This is the 12th consecutive week Senator Portman has spoken when the Senate has been in session about Ukraine, their defensive military efforts, and what the U.S. and our allies can do to counter Russian war crimes. Portman highlighted recent Ukrainian battlefield successes against Russian forces, underscoring that the Ukrainians can win this war if they are provided the necessary weapons and equipment. While Vladimir Putin thought that his illegal invasion of Ukraine would tear NATO apart, Senator Portman noted that the invasion only further united the alliance and encouraged Finland and Sweden to join forces against Russian aggression.

Portman is a consistent voice in support of Ukraine. As Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, Portman has traveled to Ukraine numerous times and seen firsthand the struggle of Ukrainian refugees as they have fled from their homeland.

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

 “I come to the floor today for the 12th consecutive week while the Senate has been in session to talk about the illegal, unprovoked, and brutal assault on Ukraine being carried out by Russia. We started these discussions before the invasion, this latest invasion even occurred, and unfortunately every week as I talk about it there are more and more examples of brutality as the Russians continue to bomb innocent civilians in Ukraine. But also we've been able to talk about some progress that we've made in helping Ukraine and that has been very effective in helping Ukraine help itself. This is a classic fight for freedom. The importance of our humanitarian aid, our weapons, and our material support have been all in that cause. And the impact cannot be overstated. Since February 24th when the invasion began, we have provided $13.6 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds for military, humanitarian, and economic aid for Ukraine. By the way, it's made a huge difference to keep Ukraine from being totally overrun by Russia. You remember that the Russian objective here looking at this map was to take over the entire country.

“Starting with Kyiv, remember they surrounded Kyiv at one point. Now they have a been pushed out altogether. The Russian have now been forced to just focus on the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine where there continues to be very fierce fighting. These darker red sections are sections that they took – the Russians took – back in 2014. The lighter red is the sections of Ukraine they're trying to take now. And the blue, you can see here, is where the Ukrainians have made progress, including you can see around Kharkiv, which is a major city here in eastern Ukraine, you can see where there's quite a bit of blue. In fact, in one case all the way to the Russian border where the Ukrainians have pushed back the Russians. So, our support has made a difference. But that support, the $13.6 billion in aid has now been depleted and it's necessary for us to re-up, including just providing basic munitions, so that the Ukrainians can continue the fight with ammunition, but also to provide heavier weapons because down in this area, that is what's required.

“As the Russians use more and more artillery and other heavy weapons to try to push back the Ukrainian positions, the Ukrainians must respond in kind. Without the support that we have provided, Russia would have destroyed a lot more of Ukraine, killed a lot more innocent civilians and they would have achieved a victory that would have been damaging, of course, to Ukraine and its people, but also damaging to us and our national interests and a safer world because had they been successful, there would be a much more dangerous volatile world – thinking an authoritarian country can just come into a peaceful democratic neighbor and take over another country. So again the fighting continues, but we along with so many of our allies, over 40 countries, over 40 countries have stepped up to say we are with you, Ukraine. You're an independent, sovereign country. You're an ally and we want to support you. They have never asked for us to do the fighting for them, by the way, but they have asked for us to help them have the tools to be able to survive and to be able to push back against the brutal Russian assault. The administration has now submitted what's called a supplemental request for funding.

“The House passed it last week 368-57, strong bipartisan support. Last night and earlier today, we had the first two procedural votes on the Senate action on this same supplemental spending bill. The votes were 81-11 last night and 88-11 earlier today – again strong bipartisan support for this funding. This package includes $40 billion, nearly $40 billion, for munitions, for weapons, for training to stop Russia. It also provides funds for humanitarian aid. Remember, there have been millions of refugees both internally and who have left the country. There are about five or six million refugees still out of the country and at least seven million or eight million refugees inside the country. This has been an unprecedented level of humanitarian aid that has been needed. But also economic support to a country that's been devastated, literally flattened in many areas by this Russian assault. And funds to support our troops who are in the countries neighboring Ukraine, joining other NATO forces. That funding is also here. Some of these troops came from Germany. Some came from the United States, but it's an effort to be sure that we are supporting and bolstering these other countries in the region – Romania, Slovakia, Poland, the Baltic countries, Latvia Lithuania, Estonia, to be sure that they are not going to be subject to these same attacks, those preventive measures have been put in place. That's also costly. $40 billion is a lot of money. And we have to be sure that it is spent wisely and not wasted.

“I'm glad to see we were able to get some changes in the administration's request to task the Department of Defense, the Department of State, USAID inspectors generals from all three of those entities with oversight of the spending and provide them with sufficient resources to do that. So these inspectors general in those three entities are there to ensure the money is properly spent. Additionally, the funds in this bill for urgent budget support to Ukraine's government will be subject to an especially stringent oversight mechanisms. These funds will be placed in a separate auditable account and their use will be governed by a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine. The MOU will prescribe strict guardrails for transparency and accountability that will ensure that these funds are not diverted to corrupt interests, but instead used to help the government of Ukraine provide for its people in their hour of need. I'm glad that language was included and added to the supplemental. The supplemental bill also mandates that the use of these funds will be notified to Congress. I think this is very important. Most of our foreign assistance to other countries is subject to strict notification requirements like these. It's only appropriate these funds have a similar mechanism in place.

“If Congress is going to appropriate these large amounts of taxpayer dollars to support Ukraine, I think it's essential that we have sufficient congressional oversight. So strong bipartisan support for this funding in the House and in the Senate, but also insurance that we have effective oversight of our assistance to Ukraine. By the way, effective oversight also will require us to have a diplomatic presence in Ukraine, a permanent one, to help ensure these funds are spent properly, both the military funds and the humanitarian funds and the economic aid. I've been calling for the administration to reopen our embassy in Kyiv which is here, the capital city, for the past several weeks. I hope we do that as soon as possible. My understanding is that the team in Kyiv, which has been mostly in Poland, sometimes going to Lviv, wants to get back to the capital. There are probably a couple dozen countries – I heard Israel moved their embassy back today – a couple dozen countries that have already moved back to Kyiv so it's time for us to do so as well, while understanding it's dangerous and we respect the service of those foreign service officers, but we have got to be sure they are there to provide a clear line of communication with the Ukrainians, ensure that this $40 billion in funding is properly spent, but also ensure that we are able to have a go-between at a high level which is one reason we need to get our ambassador over there to Ukraine as soon as possible.

“Good news is we had a good hearing with that ambassador just last week and my hope is that we can get her moving even later this week. With regard to the funding, the $40 billion to help, again, to continue to push back so that Russia doesn't turn the tide, that funding I hope will be sent this week. What you just heard from the Majority Leader is that he has set up a vote for Thursday which will be a cloture vote and then I hope we have the final vote that day too. Cloture is the next procedural vote. Let's not slow this thing down on either side of the aisle. Let's get this done. I wish we'd gotten it done last week and we should have. But every day that we delay means we're putting at risk more Ukrainian civilians, putting at risk more of the Ukrainian military, because they don't have the munitions for existing weapons, they don't have the heavier weapons they need to counter to be able to counter the Russians. So this is not a time for us to play partisan politics. It's time for us to get this assistance to the president's desk, hopefully he will sign it immediately, and begin to re-up this commitment we've made to help Ukraine defend themselves. As you probably know, it took constant urging if this Congress, on a bipartisan basis, to get the administration to finally begin providing the level of lethal support that the Ukrainians needed to survive this war against Russia. Some of us were pushing for more before this latest invasion as well. But we cannot afford to backslide now.

“It's really important that we continue to help them to be able to defend themselves.  And again, we're not alone in this. There are many countries around the world, including, obviously, the other NATO allies who are also helping out. I understand there's only enough existing presidential drawdown authority, that's the authority they're using for the munitions and the weapons, to do one more partial transfer of arms. So this is urgent we get it done now. This supplemental will fix that problem. It raises the presidential cap to $11 billion and the drawdown authority. It also provides $6 billion for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a program that I co-wrote back into law in 2015. This money will fund training, equipment, and advisory efforts to boost Ukraine's combat capacities, professionalize its military further and bring it up to NATO standards. That was very important, to have them prepared as they are. Over the past seven years, it has helped turn Ukraine's army into a powerful, professional fighting force. It has proven to be at least Russia's equal on the battlefield. The bravery and determination of these troops is the single most important weapon they have. But the training and the equipment, the munitions, and so on are essential for them to be able to take that bravery and that perseverance, that commitment, and to be able to be such an effective fighting force. Additionally, the supplemental includes $4 billion in foreign military financing to provide Ukraine with the American-made weapons and equipment that its troops need. It also has $3.9 billion to support enhanced U.S. troops deployments to Europe, such as the 82nd Airborne, which is here in Poland. I got to see them when I was over in the region recently. They're doing an amazing job ensuring that there is protection for Poland against the possibility that Poland could be dragged into this conflict, but also to help ensure that the arms transfers are occurring from countries all over the world.

“All this vital funding will ensure that we can continue to support Ukraine and our other eastern allies who are threatened by the Russian aggression. We just can't allow any gap in the support. We must not adjourn this week until we're finished with this so the vote is supposed to be on Thursday. I hope it is. But until we have final passage of this measure and it goes to the president's desk, we cannot leave this week. In my view, Congress must stay in session. At this time in this war, it's also time for us to take a breath and hold the administration accountable for giving us a long-term strategy so that we in Congress can be a bigger part of the conversation about how to move forward. I think that is not unreasonable given where we are and a number of us on a bipartisan basis are calling for that. Give us a long-term strategy so we know where we are. I know there have been concerns that we have been spending a lot of money on weapons and equipment from our military stockpiles to Ukraine without adequately refilling our own supplies. But this supplemental funding bill, and one reason it's a higher number, fixes that. It provides $9 billion to replenish our stocks with javelins, stingers, howitzers, rifles, vehicles and other equipment needed to keep America safe. So part of the funds that we're providing here are for Ukraine but really they're for updating our own stockpiles. That's good for our own military.

“I'm also aware of a concern that some of our manufacturers cannot make these weapons fast enough for both the stock piling for our weapons and providing weapons to Ukraine. The supplemental bill addresses that, too. Providing $600 million to ease choke points in our industrial supply chain. That will ensure we have the capacity to produce enough missiles to simultaneously help keep the Ukrainians in the fight and keep our own stockpiles full. Last week at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I asked the Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Karen Donfried what the administration's definition of victory was. And she said, well, that's for the Ukrainians to decide. Well, I guess that's fair, but the Ukrainians have already defined what victory looks like for them. They want all of their territory back. It's their sovereign territory that Russia has already taken, the darker red and wants to take now in the lighter red and wants to go even further. So that is what the Ukrainians say victory looks like. Last week Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said, and I quote, ‘victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories.’ On Saturday the foreign ministers of the G-7 countries, that’s the biggest economies of the world, except for China, so it's our allies in all of this, our Secretary of State Tony Blinken was there and he endorsed this view saying in a statement that, ‘we will never recognize borders that Russia has attempted to change by military aggression.’

“I appreciate the Secretary of State saying that and I hope the rest of the administration adopts that position. During recent testimony, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier of the Defense Intelligence Agency called the war situation a stalemate. Well, this is not optimal. It is giving the Ukrainian forces time to regroup, forces in this area, and to be able to train on some of the new western weapons we and our allies have donated. Soon more of our 155 millimeter M triple seven howitzers, as an example, will be deployed to the front lines. This will give the Ukrainians the capability to outrange the Russians where they can sit back and use the artillery to push the Russians back without being in danger themselves. And when combined with surveillance, including surveillance drones, this will allow the Ukrainians to even the odds on the battle field. So that's all arriving now and beginning to come and that's good news to report tonight. It's going to make a big difference. In fact, we have recently seen just how effective artillery can be in Ukraine. We just learned yesterday that last week as a Russian battalion tactical group was attempting to cross a river in Ukraine, called the Seversky Donets river, Ukrainian artillery men sighted them and opened fire. Over the next several minutes under a Ukrainian bombardment, it is estimated that Russian forces suffered almost 500 casualties, including killed, wounded, and missing in action and also lost almost 80 vehicles, including infantry fighting vehicles, and T-72 main battle tanks.

“This map shows images of the actual bridge and what actually happened. Here is the attack. Here's some of the Russian tanks we talked about and other armored vehicles. Here's what's left of the bridge. Here is some more images of the road coming in and some of the vehicles that were destroyed. The pontoon bridge they had been using to cross the river right here, you can see, was totally destroyed, sending some vehicles plunging into the water below. This Russian advance was completely halted at immense cost. Again, it makes a difference if you have these weapons and you have the surveillance, you have the ability to do this. It was such a significant defeat for Russian forces that even the pro-Russian military bloggers, who have toed the Kremlin line for the war thus far, have now begun to publicly question the competency of the Russian military leadership on social media. This is precisely why we and other countries need to keep sending heavy weapons and ammunition, including artillery, and better artillery, so the Ukrainians can continue to inflict defeats like this on the Russians and push them out of their territory. The Ukrainians are succeeding, first, because of their bravery, their tenacity, their skill. But also because the United States and our allies are placing in their hands the tools they need to succeed. Let's not forget that President Putin said he launched this war because Ukraine had NATO aspirations and that a NATO country on their border was a threat. I think he thought that this would be intimidating to NATO and would split NATO. Now, because of the invasion, Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership.

“President Putin thought it would split NATO. Instead, NATO is actually getting stronger. America and the world should recognize this as a major shift in the power structure of Europe. This is a big deal. Finland, Sweden – Sweden has been traditionally neutral –  and other European countries now see clearly the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and his desire to recreate the Soviet Socialist Republic. Early in the conflict, Putin threatened both Finland and Sweden with, quote, ‘grave consequences’ if they sought to join NATO. This sound familiar? Same thing he said about Ukraine. Remember, Finland shares a border with Russia, about 810 miles. To the Finns, the threat of Russian troops is very real and it's on their border. Finland is not dependent on Russia as some other nations are. In fact, they barely get 5 percent of their energy from Russia, and they're working to even cut that down further. Good for them. They're not afraid of Russia but rather, they see the benefits of a defensive alliance based on common, shared, democratic values. That's what NATO is about. It's not offense, it's defensive and that's what Finland and Sweden both see. We should be encouraged by Finland's increased military spending, which they just increased to about two percent of their G.D.P. That's the NATO target of two percent. I commend Finland for that. They need to set an example for other members of the alliance.

“They also just augmented their Air Force and they are among Europe’s most effective and largest armed forces per capita. They're able to mobilize an army of 280,000 troops and 600,000 reservists. Sweden also increased its military spending this year, for the biggest increase in 70 years. This is all positive because it puts actions behind the words and sends the message to Russia, to Vladimir Putin, that freedom-loving countries are not going to stand idly by while allies are invaded or intimidated. All we want to do is live in peace, but we're not going to stand by while this aggression occurs. The Senate has a role to play here, because these two countries, Sweden and Finland, will come before the United States Senate to be confirmed as members of NATO. We should do it as soon as we possibly can. In addition, the administration should press other countries to approve this very quickly. I heard today the Turks may have concerns, based on other issues. I hope no country stands in the way of this. This will make NATO a more effective fighting force. It will augment NATO’s ability to be able to be an effective, again, peaceful, defensive alliance. In addition, the administration should press the world to approve NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, a move that would strengthen the security structure and posture for free nations around the globe. I've talked about a variety of sanctions in my remarks over these past 12 weeks.

“I won't go over all those sanctions. There are trading sanctions, eliminating Russia's preferred tax status, there are banking sanctions and of course energy. Europe, unfortunately, is continuing to buy Russian gas and oil. They say they're going to stop buying Russian coal by August. I hope that's true. But they now send about $870 million a day to Russia. Think about that, $870 million a day. To help fund the war machine. One reason Russia's economy hasn't totally collapsed is because of that. Because they're still getting a lot of receipts for energy. Not just from China and India, which we all know about, and we regret, but also from the EU countries that are way too dependent on Russia. We're not as dependent, so it's easier for us to cut off their oil and gas supplies, which we did, to our credit. But we need to back up those European nations now with some of our own. We have plenty of gas in this country, as an example natural gas, that can back up what Russia is providing now, and we have a loose agreement to do so. We ought to tighten than agreement and ensure we're not sending these million, these hundreds of millions of dollars every day to Vladimir Putin to fund his war machine. Especially when Russia not only continues its onslaught on Ukrainian defensive combatants, but also noncombatants. We need to act. What they're doing is committing this war crimes. We've all seen them. We all know that.

“I've called on the International Criminal Court, which by the way is announcing an investigation, to follow in Ukraine's footsteps and take the next steps and begin an actual war crimes tribunal. We know enough now. We continue to hear about this every day, and every day we don't act the stories get worse. I think this could be a deterrent if we moved forward more aggressively. Six million Ukrainians have been forced out of their country and according to UNICEF, thousands of innocent Ukrainians have been killed, including hundreds of children. Since February 24th, Russian troops have engaged in rape and other forms of sexual violence across Ukraine. These victims, Ukrainian women and girls, have been cruelly targeted. We have a moral obligation to step up here. The whole world does. I was glad to hear that a court in Kyiv began hearings last Friday on a case against Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian solider to go on trial for alleged war crimes. He is accused of shooting and killing a 62-year-old civilian man in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Sumy in late February, just a few yards from his home. Apparently, this has all been recorded. But this is just a drop in the bucket. Ukrainian's prosecutor has said her office is currently investigating more than 10,000 alleged war crimes by Russian forces, involving more than 600 suspects. It will take a vast amount of time and resources to hold these criminals to account, and the U.S. should help Ukraine in this regard.

“I'm glad the supplemental funding bill before the Senate right now includes funding to do just that, $400 million to investigate and document war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. My hope is that holding these Russians accountable will have this strong deterrent effect. To Russian commanders and to Kremlin officials who are backing this brutal and unjustified war, the message is very simple – the world is watching. They're watching you. The world is watching for war crimes, and they're being recorded. You have a choice -- say no to the orders to attack and kill your innocent neighbors in Ukraine, your neighbors who only want to live in peace. By the way, there's a special designation in U.S. law for countries that provide support for international terrorism. They're called state sponsors of terrorism. In my view, Russia has now earned that notorious designation. We should vote on that here in the United States Senate, and further isolate Russia from the community of nations. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, along with three of our other colleagues, went to Kyiv over the weekend to meet with President Zelenskyy. In that meeting, he reports that the issue of Russia being designated a state sponsor of terrorism came up. And he agreed, as the Republican Leader here in the United States Senate, that we should move forward with that legislation. Speaker Pelosi has also been to Kyiv with a delegation. I'm glad they both went, and I hope both of them will agree on that designation, which is something that President Zelenskyy has asked for, and also again to ensure that we not only provide this aid package as soon as possible this week, but we continue to provide whatever help is necessary for our allies in Ukraine.

“I close tonight with a few thoughts on our leadership, not abroad, but here at home. And not the leadership of the U.S. government, but instead of leadership of the people of America, because it's not just the U.S. government that's supporting Ukraine in its hour of need. Since this terrible conflict began, everyday Americans across the country have stepped up to provide much-needed assistance, humanitarian assistance, economic aid. The Ukrainian defenders, the refugees, and the first responders are deeply grateful. In March, in Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine sent out a request for surplus or expired personal protective gear to provide Ukrainian territorial defense forces who had asked for them. I'm proud to say Ohio answered that call. Altogether more than two dozen law enforcement agencies across Ohio have donated 2,000 pieces of personal protective gear, including 71 vest carriers, 45 helmets, 1,880 pieces of body armor. With the help of the Fund to Aid Ukraine, a nonprofit located in Parma, Ohio, this badly needed equipment will soon make its way into the hands of brave Ukrainian defenders who are fighting for their lives as they endure Russia's brutal onslaught. This organization has now given 24 pallets of supplies and over seven tons of medical supplies to Ukraine as well. I'm grateful to them and for all of the law enforcement agencies who sacrificed their time and resources to organize this effort to provide personal protective gear. In addition, MedWish International in Cleveland, wish is a highly effective nonprofit I met with last month, has partnered with the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio headed by Marta Liscynesky, to provide individual first aid kits and other medical equipment to Ukrainian first responders, defenders and civilians. And Cleveland-based KOACORE delivered 17,000 individual first aid kids to the front lines. With this donation, Ukrainian first responders running into the rubble of schools and apartment buildings and homes, will be able to save more lives.

“When I was on the Polish-Ukrainian border in March, I saw Marta, who is head of the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio, and also another Ohio friend, Andy Futey, who is president of the Ukrainian World Congress – I got to see them in action, delivering these humanitarian supplies to refugees and helping to organize the effort. I saw how this affected refugees at the border. They came up to us with tears in their eyes, almost all women and children, the men had been left behind to fight, and they pleaded with us to continue the help. They pleaded with us to, as they said, close the skies, to stop these bombs, just constant bombardment of their families. They talked about how their homes had been destroyed, how members of their family had been killed or maimed, how the unspeakable crimes being committed by these Russian soldiers were something that many of these families had endured. We didn't have all the answers. We haven't closed the skies. But we did say the American people are with you, and talked about some of these incredibly generous Americans who stepped forward. As the Russian forces intentionally target these Ukrainian civilians to spread fear and panic, this display of generosity from the people of Ohio, the people of every state represented here in this body, reassures these Ukrainians that we have their back, America, not just our American government, but America, the people of America care. I'm proud of that. I'm proud of how people have given their time and resources to help those in need.

“In Cincinnati, my hometown, we organized a fundraiser last week for what's called World Central Kitchen, and their good work that they're doing all throughout Ukraine and in the border areas. This fundraiser went to support World Central Kitchen's work and the Kharkiv sister city efforts. Cincinnati and Kharkiv are sister cities. I was involved in that group a few decades ago and I remember at the time, we were so proud to be a sister city to Kharkiv because it resembled Cincinnati in many ways – a beautiful city with a river running through it, like the Ohio River runs through Cincinnati. Today, Kharkiv has been nearly flattened. It has been nearly totally destroyed. But, as we talked about this map, look what's happening. They’re pushing the Russians back from Kharkiv and they will rebuild and it will be beautiful again. I saw the good work that World Central Kitchen does when I was on the Ukrainian-Polish border. Chef Jose Andres, here from Washington, D.C., and his brainchild, World Central Kitchen, is doing amazing work. I volunteered with a few colleagues serving food to refugees at one of his 60 pop-up restaurants in the border regions – dozens more in Ukraine itself. There's much more to be done to help Ukraine get through this. Help them defend themselves, help them push back the Russians, help them deal with the humanitarian crisis, help them rebuild, help them survive this brutal Russian onslaught and rebuild their homeland they love so much. We are inspired to do more. Both because this is in our national security interests – Vladimir Putin's victory is our loss – and because we are inspired by the resiliency and fortitude of the Ukrainian armed forces and the Ukrainian people. They have truly shown the rest of the world what bravery and patriotism is all about. I yield back my time.”

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