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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today recognized Ukraine’s tremendous achievements in successfully standing up to Russian aggression in its fight for freedom. Thune noted that the Ukrainian people cannot sustain this war without military support from the United States and other free countries, and he called on European partners to make robust contributions to help put Ukraine in the strongest position possible to win the war.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, for more than 70 days now the Ukrainian people have endured.
“And more than endured.
“Have fought back.
“Have stood up to their invaders.
“And have achieved amazing things against a superior force – superior, at least, on paper.
“Many feared that Russia would crush Ukraine in days.
“Instead, Ukraine has not only withstood Russian aggression, but has inflicted humiliating defeats on Russia.
“Twelve – twelve – Russian generals have reportedly been killed.
“Russia has lost thousands of its troops, as well as hundreds of tanks and scores of aircraft.
“One estimate from British intelligence suggests that Russia may have lost more than a quarter of its ground combat strength.
“Ukrainians successfully pushed Russia out of Kyiv suburbs, have retaken territory outside of Kharkiv, and still – still – maintain a defiant hold at the steel plant in Mariupol despite being encircled by Russian troops.
“But at the same time we recognize Ukraine’s successes – and the fierce determination that has made them possible – it’s also important to remember the devastation this war has inflicted.
“Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed.
“Somewhere around 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes.
“And the list of Russian atrocities gets longer every day.
“Schools and hospitals intentionally bombed.
“Executions and mass graves.
“The deliberate targeting of civilians.
“Apparent war crimes.
“In a few short weeks, Russia has brought unimaginable devastation.
“The port city of Mariupol [Mary-a-pole] – once home to more than 400,000 people – has been reduced to rubble.
“The city essentially no longer exists.
“Across Ukraine, an untold number of homes and buildings have been destroyed.
“It will take years to rebuild and remove the imprint of Russian aggression from the landscape.
“And some things cannot be entirely recovered.
“Just last night, Russia intentionally struck civilian centers in Odessa, bombing a shopping mall and a consumer warehouse without regard for innocent human life.
“Mr. President, the Ukrainian people have displayed an incredible gallantry and resolve.
“They have embraced this fight and the cause of their country’s freedom.
“And they have not spent any time waiting around for anyone else to come and save them.
“In fact, a recent news story highlighted the fact that the Ukrainians not only continue to oppose the Russians, they’ve actually started rebuilding in places, even as the war continues to rage.
“But it’s also important to remember that the Ukrainian people cannot sustain this war without military support from the United States and other free countries.
“The weapons and military resources we have supplied are playing a crucial role in enabling Ukraine to continue standing up to Russian aggression.
“And it’s essential that we continue that support for as long as the Ukrainian people need it.
“At the end of April the president sent Congress a request for $33 billion in emergency supplemental funding for critical security and economic assistance to Ukraine.
“Negotiations are ongoing about how we iron out a few matters, and the topline number may change, but I hope that Congress can act quickly to get Ukraine the military equipment it needs, as well as humanitarian support to help the millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced.
“We also need to make sure that our European partners are making similar contributions to help put President Zelenskyy in the strongest possible position to bring this war to an end.
“It would be a tragedy for Ukraine to have bought all this time with our help, only to lose the initiative now.
“And so I hope that we can get this funding out the door as quickly as possible, and that Democrats will not slow things down by attaching extraneous funding requests or unrelated policy riders.
“$33 billion is a substantial sum of money.
“But as the news reports showing Ukrainian highways dotted with bombed-out Russian tanks attest, Ukraine is putting our military aid to good use.
“And the cost of inaction on our part – of allowing Vladimir Putin to destroy Ukraine and threaten NATO – would be much greater.
“We should not be so naive as to think that Putin’s campaign of Soviet expansion will end with Ukraine.
“There are rightfully concerns that he will seek to escalate into former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe or even further.
“He has already hinted at a willingness to use nuclear weapons – and he proved in Syria that he is certainly okay with the use of chemical weapons.
“(I hope defenders of the Iran nuclear deal are making note of what nuclear power looks like in the hands of a nation with a malign agenda.)
“We cannot allow Putin to think that he can pursue his expansionist dreams unopposed.
“And the United States and all NATO members must remain committed to our shared defense – and to supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom.
“NATO countries should also preserve our open-door policy to nations that are seeking to contribute to the collective security of the alliance.
“There can never be too many allies in the quest to preserve peace and maintain a strong defense against tyranny.
“And we should welcome any nation that seeks to help further those goals.
“Mr. President, currently Russia’s main areas of control span from east of Kharkiv through previously contested parts of the Donbas and now along the coast of the Sea of Azov and past Crimea in an attempt to fully block Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea.
“Russia has failed to capture Kyiv or break the resolve of the Ukrainian people.
“So now Putin wants to close Ukraine off from the world, which will harm not only Ukrainians, but also Ukraine’s trading partners that rely on Ukraine’s substantial agricultural capacity.
“Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, corn, and sunflower oil.
“And if Ukraine’s ability to produce and export these products is compromised – which is already happening – we’re likely to see not only price hikes but serious food shortages as a result.
“The World Food Programme reports that an additional 47 million people around the world could be facing acute hunger if the war in Ukraine continues.
“In a world in which hunger persists and famine looms, Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine threatens to cause casualties far beyond Ukraine’s borders.
“Which brings us back once again to the importance of supporting the Ukrainian people in their fight.
“Mr. President, as President Zelenskyy said the other day in reference to the United States and Ukraine, we defend common values – democracy and freedom.
“We do indeed, Mr. President.
“We do indeed.
“The Ukrainian people are currently giving their all to secure a future of democracy and freedom in Ukraine.
“Let’s continue to make it clear that they are not alone in that fight.
“And let’s make sure they have the tools they need to win this war and secure Ukraine’s freedom permanently.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”