Thirty years ago in Moscow, the red flag of the Soviet Union was lowered for the last time as the USSR officially dissolved. The collapse of that “evil empire,” as Ronald Reagan called it, was a seismic event. Millions who had suffered under communism became free, and hopes grew that Russia itself might become a free democracy willing to respect its neighbors. Sadly, those hopes have long vanished under the rule of Vladimir Putin, whose campaign to rebuild the Russian empire is now pushing Europe to the brink of war. Having seized parts of Georgia in 2008 and parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014, Putin is now posturing to invade the Ukrainian heartland, threatening the peace of Europe and our national interests.
For months, Putin has been laying the groundwork for an invasion. Since December he has sent upwards of 100,000 heavily armed troops to the Ukrainian border. He has also moved troops into neighboring Belarus – dangerously close to the Polish border – where he claims to be planning military exercises. More recently, Russia launched a cyberattack on the Ukrainian government, and U.S. intelligence indicates Russia is planning a “false-flag” operation to create the illusion of Ukrainian hostility, giving Putin a pretext to invade. These shameless tactics are reminiscent of the way Adolf Hitler and the Nazis took over large portions of Europe.
Senators Meet with Ukrainian President
To address this crisis, I recently traveled to Ukraine with a bipartisan group of Senators. We met with Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as well as the Foreign Minister, Defense Minister, and other high-ranking Ukrainian officials. Our delegation was united in agreement that the West cannot stand for continued Russian provocations. President Zelenskyy expressed gratitude for our visit and urged the U.S. to put tough sanctions on Russia to deter further aggression. He also encouraged us to provide more weaponry to the Ukrainian military, which we and several other countries have already begun to do. Even as we departed from the airport in Kyiv, I saw a British C-17 offloading missiles for Ukraine’s self-defense.
Putin appears ready to invade at any moment. It is uncertain what he will do, but his own record suggests he will inflict as much harm as the West allows. What is certain is that Ukraine will put up a fierce fight. Millions of Ukrainians remember life under the Iron Curtain and have no desire to be subjugated again to Moscow. Some 14,000 Ukrainians have given their lives fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014, and they are prepared to make additional sacrifices to defend their sovereignty.
U.S. Must Show Strength to Prevent War
How the West handles this crisis is absolutely vital to American interests. China is watching our every move, looking for signs of weakness that might greenlight their own planned invasion of Taiwan, an important U.S. economic partner. A show of American weakness now, particularly after President Biden’s disastrous exit from Afghanistan, could unleash a host of new challenges to the free world.
So far the President has not inspired confidence. His efforts to talk Putin out of his escalations have failed, and recently, in a major gaffe, he suggested that the West would be divided on how to respond to a “minor incursion” into Ukraine – giving Putin all the more reason to invade.
The time for diplomacy alone has ended. As our Commander-in-Chief, Mr. Biden needs to start treating Putin like the international bully he is: a man who has jailed, poisoned, and killed his political opponents, and who is now manufacturing a dangerous crisis in order to cement his own power as a modern-day Stalin. Putin needs to know that starting a war will cost him dearly.
This item is Sen. Roger Wicker’s Weekly Report and is provided by the Senator’s office.