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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the urgent need to provide Ukraine with the defense equipment it needs to stand up to the ongoing Russian aggression. Thune noted the importance of developing energy resources in the United States to ensure that our nation never has to rely on countries like Russia for essential energy supplies.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate.
“Americans who walked by a newsstand on Monday were met with the wrenching picture of a Ukrainian family killed by Russian shelling – a mom and her two children, struck down as they attempted to flee along a main evacuation route from Irpin to Kyiv – an evacuation route that Russia shelled.
“Yesterday the world saw pictures of the devastation after a maternity hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine – a maternity hospital, Mr. President – fell victim to a Russian airstrike.
“President Zelensky reported that there were children buried under the rubble.
“One newspaper reported, and I quote, ‘The bombing took place during what was supposed to be a ceasefire in Mariupol so that civilians could evacuate. It marks the fourth time a so-called ‘humanitarian corridor’ out of the city has failed because Russian forces opened fire.’
“‘The fourth time a so-called ‘humanitarian corridor’ out of the city has failed because Russian forces opened fire.’
“‘Opened fire.’ On civilians. On parents trying to save their children.
“This is what Russia is doing.
“Mr. President, the scenes in Ukraine are unreal.
“They are scenes that we thought had finally been left behind in the dust of European history.
“Apartment buildings with their sides sheared off.
“The smoking ruins of homes and businesses.
“A school reduced to rubble.
“In two short weeks, Vladimir Putin has wrought an unimaginable amount of devastation.
“The damage he has done will take years, if not decades, to rebuild.
“The scars may last much longer.
“And for what, Mr. President?
“For one man’s vision of a Russian empire.
“Vladimir Putin wants Ukraine, and he is apparently willing to destroy Ukraine to get it.
“Destroy Ukraine, and devastate his own nation.
“Because Russia is suffering too as a result of Putin’s war of aggression.
“There are no smoking ruins of apartment buildings in Russia, but there is the senseless waste of so many young Russian lives – soldiers and conscripts sent to die in Ukraine for a war that is not their own.
“There is Putin’s brutal crackdown on protesters and journalists.
“And there is the economic devastation his nation will suffer – is already suffering – as a result of sanctions and companies’ decisions to pull out of Russia to protest its unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
“Vladimir Putin is laying waste to two countries.
“Mr. President, these have been dark days for Ukraine.
“But the devastation in Ukraine has been met with determination.
“This is Ukrainians’ fight, and they are not shrinking from it.
“The Washington Post recently reported that more than 66,000 Ukrainians who were outside the country have returned to answer President Zelensky’s call to arms.
“That’s 66,000 Ukrainians who could have sat in safety outside Ukraine who have returned to help defend their country.
“Outnumbered as they are, the Ukrainian people are standing fast.
“And they are slowing down and in many places holding off the Russians.
“Soldiers and civilians alike have taken up arms to defend their nation.
“And it is clear that the spirit of Ukraine, now roused, will not be quenched.
“But, Mr. President, no matter the resolve of the Ukrainian people, Ukraine cannot hold out alone.
“Without military, intelligence, and humanitarian support from other free nations, Ukraine may fall.
“We can’t sit by and let that happen.
“Congress is currently considering legislation to send additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
“I hope that we will be able to take a vote on this aid very, very soon.
“As I’ve said before, the United States was too slow to send aid to Ukraine and sanction Putin in the lead-up to Russia’s attack.
“We can’t afford to make the same mistake again.
“I commend President Biden for doing the right thing this week and banning American imports of Russian energy.
“Every dollar we send to Russia to purchase energy is a dollar that Russia can use to prosecute its war in Ukraine.
“Now we need to focus on developing our energy resources here at home – all of them, both conventional and alternative – to ensure that our nation never again has to depend on countries like Russia for essential energy supplies.
“We should also take this oil ban a step further by enacting the bipartisan Crapo-Wyden bill to suspend permanent normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus.
“The bill would also direct the U.S. trade representative to seek to suspend Russia from the World Trade Organization.
“A nation that flouts the rules and makes a mockery of diplomacy should not enjoy a seat at this table.
“Mr. President, I heard directly from President Zelensky in a Zoom call Saturday, and he made a powerful appeal for help from the West.
“Among other things, President Zelensky requested that we help close the skies over Ukraine.
“One solution that has been offered to help protect Ukrainian air space is for Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia to provide their MiG-29 jets to Ukraine.
“We need to do everything we can to keep Ukraine in this fight – including helping to pave the way for Ukraine to get the air defense resources it needs.
“Poland has stepped up and expressed a willingness to provide its MiGs, but we now find ourselves at a dead end as to how to facilitate the transfer to Ukraine.
“We need to find a solution, and I encourage the administration to find a way to safely navigate the logistics of such a transfer.
“After all that Ukraine has managed to do, it would be a tragedy to see the country lose its fight because the United States and other NATO countries could not agree on how to get the Ukrainians the resources they need.
“And, Mr. President, while we should be cautious about what Putin may choose to do as his losses grow and his off-ramps dwindle, the United States and NATO cannot allow Moscow to dictate our actions.
“To do would not only be to surrender Ukraine, but to give the green light to despotic governments the world over, from China to Iran.
“Mr. President, on Saturday President Zelensky delivered an address to the Ukrainian people.
“‘Free people of a free country!’ he began.
“‘Free people of a free country.’
“That, Mr. President, is what Ukrainians are fighting for – to be a free people in a free country.
“And I think their fight is very close to the hearts of the American people.
“For after all, for what did our forefathers fight, but to be a free people in a free land?
“To have the right to determine their own destiny and live free of oppression.
“‘Free people of a free country.’
“Long may the Ukrainians remain so.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.