McCollum blasts Russia invasion of Ukraine urging community support
Minnesota Congresswoman Betty McCollum denounces Russian atrocities committed against the civilians in Ukraine and says Congress will continue to support freedom, Democracy and Ukraine’s struggle. In a letter to constituents, McCollum urges Americans who want to help Ukraine to make donations to USAID.
Over the past few weeks, as Russia continues its illegal, unjust, and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, I have received many calls and letters from constituents expressing their support for the Ukrainian people and asking how the U.S. can respond effectively.
We are all shocked at the atrocities committed by the Russian military at the direction of President Vladimir Putin. It is heartbreaking to see the senseless killing of innocents – including a fellow Minnesotan.
Now that the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations bills have been signed into law, I want to update you on the actions I’m taking in Congress to address the crisis in Ukraine, as well as what the Biden administration is doing to help the Ukrainian people.
As Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, it is my responsibility to allocate the funding priorities for the Department of Defense and ensure our allies in Europe have the tools necessary to deter Russian aggression.
Throughout this crisis I have been in constant contact with the Biden administration, our military leaders at the Pentagon, and diplomats from Ukraine, the Baltic States, and other European nations at the forefront of this conflict.
Congress is delivering on our commitment to provide Ukraine with defensive security assistance to repel Russia’s invasion of their land. Congress just passed, and President Biden signed into law H.R. 2471, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, which funds the entire U.S. federal government for the rest of this fiscal year. Included in H.R. 2471 is the Defense Appropriations Act for FY 2022, which I authored with $300 million to continue funding robust defensive security assistance for Ukraine. This legislation also provides an additional $13.6 billion in emergency funding for a whole of U.S. government response to the crisis in Ukraine.
When I attended the Munich Security Conference in February with Speaker Pelosi, we met directly with Ukrainian government officials, including the Mayor of Kyiv, to discuss what additional defensive assistance was required. Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, the U.S. has provided over $2 billion in defensive security assistance to Ukraine through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. Now that H.R. 2471 has been signed into law, Congress has continued to deliver on our commitment to help the Ukrainians defend their land.
When it comes to U.S sanctions on Russia, I strongly support the Biden administration’s strategy to work in conjunction with our European Allies and partner nations around the world to enact crippling sanctions on the Russian economy and to pressure Putin to end this war. It is critically important that sanctions enacted by the United States be done in concert with other democratic nations to ensure Russia has no options to circumvent the sanctions.
Measures taken by the Biden administration have included sanctioning the Central Bank of Russia, disconnecting Russian banks from the international banking messaging system also known as SWIFT, and enacting sanctions on major Russian technology and defense-related industries. Already, we have seen that these sanctions are working. The value of the Ruble has crashed, and Russia is close to defaulting on foreign debt payments.
The Biden administration has also sanctioned President Putin, his top military officials and political advisors, as well as several Russian oligarchs. These sanctions involve freezing and seizing assets abroad, and as President Biden announced in his State of the Union address, will also include seizing property and financial assets here in the United States. In the last week alone, President Biden has announced an end to importing Russian energy into the United States and has called for the revocation of Most Favored Nation status as a trading partner of the United States. I am strongly supportive of both measures.
On March 9, I voted in favor of H.R. 6968, the Suspending Energy Imports from Russia Act, when it passed the House of Representatives by a 414 to 17 vote. I also voted on March 17 in favor of H.R. 7108, the Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act, when it passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 424 to 8. These important pieces of legislation, in conjunction with actions already taken by the Biden administration, will continue to apply significant economic pressure on Russia to end the war.
Many of you have contacted me regarding the concept of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. I understand why many would think of this option, as it has been successfully used elsewhere in the world. In this case, enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would lead to a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia. In order for a no-fly zone to work, it must be enforced by U.S. and NATO aircraft. That would mean U.S. or NATO aircraft would have to shoot down Russian planes and helicopters flying into the no-fly zone. To protect our own pilots, the U.S. and NATO would also have to eliminate air defense targets inside Belarus and Russia. The Biden administration and our NATO partners are working very hard to avoid a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia, and I strongly support President Biden in his decision.
After hearing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to Congress on March 16, the most important thing the United States can do right now is to continue to work in lockstep with the European Union and nations around the world to impose and enforce severe economic consequences on Russia and Russian political leadership.
Already, we are seeing the devastating impacts of sanctions on Russia’s economy, as well as thousands of Russian citizens participating in anti-war protests in cities across Russia. Internal pressure on Putin will continue to rise because of these sanctions. The United States, in conjunction with our NATO allies in Europe and Canada, will continue to provide defensive security equipment that is effective, mobile, and delivering results on the ground right now for Ukraine.
The United States will also continue to provide humanitarian relief not only to Ukraine, but also to our friends in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and other European nations that have welcomed over three million Ukrainian civilians fleeing the violence.
Please know that I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and with the Biden administration to assist the Ukrainian people in the days and weeks ahead.
If you are seeking ways to help, visit USAID’s resources page. As always, thank you for being an informed and engaged constituent.
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