Ukraineby Senator Daniel Coats
Posted on 2015-02-10
COATS. Mr. President, each time I have taken to the floor to
comment on the Ukrainian crisis which I have done often the situation
in that hard pressed country is worse. Today we see renewed and even
more violent Russian aggression ripping off more ragged bites of
Now, ten months after Russia's invasion of its neighbor, we are again seeing calls for more assistance to Ukraine, including providing weapons that would better enable the Ukrainians to defend themselves. But still the White House dithers--baffled again by the complexities of a world that pleads for leadership. Once again we are absent not just leading from behind, which is bad enough, but in many cases not leading at all, and the world continues to look to us for guidance and for support in dealing with some of these crises.
The plight of Ukraine, torn to bits by Russian aggression, is among many foreign policy problems that have been aggravated by U.S. policy failures. Those failures have come from a White House isolated in a wasteland of confusion. The Obama administration has no coherent strategy for dealing with the world other than, in a now famous paraphrase, ``Don't do stupid stuff''--whatever that means. But not doing anything is stupid stuff, and a lot of times that is exactly what is coming out of the White House nothing.
At the same time, we in Congress need to look at ourselves. We must concede that Congress also has failed to grapple with these pressing issues particularly over the last ten months relative to Ukraine. We also have failed to live up to our constitutional responsibilities. We, too, have failed to offer or compel solutions when congressional action could have helped.
One way in which we can correct that record is by giving the Ukrainian crisis our renewed attention. I am happy to say, under Republican leadership, despite what we have been prevented from doing in the past ten months, we are now in a position to begin doing just that.
Why Ukraine, and why does it deserve our full attention? For the first time since the Second World War, a European state has invaded and annexed the territory of a neighbor. This outrageous contravention of every possible standard of state behavior in the modern world passed by without a response that could have reversed the outrage and without the reaction that might forestall it being repeated in other states bordering on Russia. We will see what happens.
Vladimir Putin's ruthless ambitions have been backed by a massive Soviet style propaganda campaign that continues to include outrageous, bald faced lying by the President of Russia and his most senior Russian officials. They continue to deny what has been obvious to the world and documented, verified facts about Russian troops and equipment flowing into Ukraine and the obvious intentions of further territorial expansion.
Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, invented the ``big lie'' theory that Putin is using to great effect. Hitler famously said that many people tell small lies, but few have the guts to tell really big ones, and when they do and the lies are repeated over and over, they become a new truth. Tragically, I believe we are at that stage in the Ukraine crisis.
At the onset of this crisis, I drafted and introduced a resolution supporting the territorial integrity of the Ukraine and condemning Russian aggression. Later, I created and introduced the Crimea Annexation Non recognition Act and the Russian Weapons Embargo Act. I also cosponsored the Russian Aggression Prevention Act and the Ukraine Freedom Support Act. Unfortunately, none of these measures emerged from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the previous session of Congress, all stymied by the committee's prior leadership. The only measure that did pass the Senate was one I coauthored and sponsored with Senator Durbin, a resolution condemning illegal Russian aggression in Ukraine. So the Senate's record of legislative inaction does not show a Senate that has dealt effectively with this international crisis.
It is more difficult to criticize the administration for being ineffective when we in the Senate have also failed to pass almost any meaningful legislation to provide the executive branch with the advice and guidance it so obviously requires. I trust the record will improve this year and that change will begin immediately. I believe this is happening, and we will see that on this floor shortly.
In the meantime, the civil war in Ukraine continues and, until last week, almost beneath the radar. With renewed vigor, separatists, newly armed and reinforced by Russia, are waging latest and continuing battles for territory in eastern Ukraine. There is little pretense at even trying to disguise the involvement of Putin's Russia in these renewed attacks. At least 6,000 people have been killed by combat in Ukraine, more than 1,000 of them since the latest so called cease fire allegedly took effect. At least half a million people are internal refugees.
But the even greater ongoing tragedy is the geopolitical catastrophe. A newly aggressive Russia, driven by destructive delusions of nationalistic destiny, poses a threat to the stability of the region and to Europe itself. This is a completely self-evident reality for our allies on Russia's periphery, including those such as Poland and the Baltic States, who in the past have been crushed into nonexistence by Russian aggression.
If we in Congress together with the executive branch and if the United States together with our European allies cannot respond to Putin's Russia in a way that stops this dangerous aggression, then he will have won. Putin is counting on the force of his troops and his propaganda machine to create a fait accompli to which we will have little or no reply. He is counting on our distraction and exhaustion to give him a free pass. He is counting on the political complexity of our democracy to obstruct sound policymaking. And he is counting on us to falter just at the moment when his violent aggression is paying off and his people are prepared for more.
I am speaking today to urge the Senate to work quickly to change Putin's calculations about the costs he and his nation will suffer should Russia not return to rational, responsible modern state behavior. Leading in this manner will not be easy. Yes, we are besieged [[Page S892]] with foreign policy issues. Yes, providing the needed Senate response and meaningful legislative proposals is difficult. Yes, ultimately the final responsibility and leadership rests with the President. But the Senate historically has been instrumental in developing and influencing U.S. foreign policy. At this critical time, we must do so again, and we must do so again particularly because so little comes our way from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.