Dec 20, 2021
Since the beginning of December, news outlets around the world have been covering a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. In this episode, get the full back story on the civil war that has been raging in Ukraine since 2014, learn what role our government has played in the conflict, and hear Victoria Nuland - one of the highest ranking officials in the Biden administration's State Department - testify to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee about the Biden administration's plans if Russia decides to use its military to invade Ukraine.
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S.1605 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
Sponsor: Sen. Scott, Rick [R-FL]
December 8, 2021
President Biden briefly stopped and spoke with reporters as he departed the White House for an event in Kansas City, Missouri. He began by addressing the Omicron variant, saying that the Pfizer vaccine is showing encouraging results against the COVID-19 variant. When asked about Russian President Putin and Ukraine, President Biden said if Putin were to invade Ukraine, there “will be severe consequences.” He went on to say that putting U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine is currently “not in the cards.” close Report Video Issue
Biden: We hope by Friday, we're going to be able to say and announce to you that we're having meetings at a higher level, not just with us, but with at least four of our major NATO allies and Russia to discuss the future of Russia's concerns relative to NATO writ large. And whether or not we can work out any accommodations as it relates to bringing down the temperature along the eastern front.
Biden: We have a moral obligation and a legal obligation to our NATO allies if they were to attack under Article Five, it's a sacred obligation. That obligation does not extend to NATO, I mean to Ukraine, but it would depend upon what the rest of the NATO countries were willing to do as well. But the idea of the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not in the cards right now.
Biden: Meeting with Putin. I was very straightforward. There were no minced words. It was polite, but I made it very clear, if in fact, he invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences, severe consequences. Economic consequences, like none he's ever seen or ever had been seen in terms of ease and flows. He knows his immediate response was he understood that and I indicated I knew he would respond. But beyond that, if in fact, we would probably also be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure particularly those on the Eastern Front. In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide the defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well.
Senate Committee on
December 7, 2021
Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, testified at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. policy toward Russia. She addressed President Biden’s earlier call with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said that Russia would suffer severe consequences if it attacked Ukraine. Other topics included the use of sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, the cooperation of NATO and U.S. allies, Russia’s use of energy during conflict, and the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline
00:20 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): As we meet here today Russia is engaged in one of the most significant troop buildups that we have seen along Ukraine's border. To nyone paying attention, this looks like more than posturing, more than attention seeking. The Kremlin's actions clearly pose a real threat of war.
00:40 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I want to be crystal clear to those listening to this hearing in Moscow, Kiev and other capitals around the world. A Russian invasion will trigger devastating economic sanctions the likes of which we have never seen before.
00:59 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I proposed a suite of options last month in an amendment to the NDA. The Russian banking sector would be wiped out, sovereign debt would be blocked, Russia would be removed from the Swift payment system, sectoral sanctions would cripple the Russian economy. Putin himself as well as his inner circle would lose access to bank accounts in the West. Russia would effectively be cut off and isolated from the international economic system. Let me be clear, these are not run of the mill sanctions. What is being discussed is at the maximum end of the spectrum, or as I have called it the mother of all sanctions, and I hope that we can come together in a bipartisan way to find a legislative path forward soon, so that we can achieve that.
1:51 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): If Putin invades Ukraine the implications will be devastating for the Russian economy but also for the Russian people.
2:24 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): But is the Kremlin really ready to face a bloody, persistent and drawn out insurgency? How many body bags is Putin willing to accept?
6:03 Sen James Risch (R-ID): This is a clearly clearly bipartisan matter.
7:40 Victoria Nuland: First, let me review what we are seeing. Over the past six weeks, Russia has stepped up planning for potential further military action in Ukraine, positioning close to 100,000 troops around Ukraine's eastern and northern borders and from the south via the Crimean peninsula. Russian plans and positioning of assets also include the means to destabilize Ukraine from within, and an aggressive information operation and an attempt to undermine Ukrainian stability and social cohesion and to pin the blame for any potential escalation on Kiev, and on NATO nations including the United States. Russia's military and intelligence services are continuing to develop the capability to act decisively in Ukraine when ordered to do so, potentially in early 2022. The intended force, if fully mobilized, would be twice the size of what we saw last spring, including approximately 100 battalion tactical groups, or nearly all of Russia's ready ground forces based west of the Urals. We don't know whether President Putin has made a decision to attack Ukraine or to overthrow its government. But we do know he's building the capacity to do so.
10:42 Victoria Nuland: Since 2014 The United States has provided Ukraine with $2.4 billion in security assistance including $450 million this year alone
12:00 Victoria Nuland: Diplomacy remains the best route to settle the conflict in Donbas and address any other problems or grievances. The Minsk agreements offer the best basis for negotiations and the US is prepared to support a revived effort if the parties welcome that.
15:16 Victoria Nuland: You might have seen a press conference today that commission Chairwoman van der Laan gave in Brussels in which she made absolutely clear that the EU would also join in very consequential economic measures of the kind that they have not employed before.
23:26 Victoria Nuland: It's also important, I think, for President Putin to understand as the President conveyed to him today, that this will be different than it was in 2014. If he goes in you will recall then that our sanctions escalated somewhat gradually as he didn't stop moving. This time the intent is to make clear that the initial sanctions in response to any further aggressive moves in Ukraine will be extremely significant and isolating for Russia and for Russian business and for the Russian people.
24:51 Victoria Nuland: As you know, energy is the cash cow that enables these kinds of military deployments. So Putin needs the energy to flow as as much as the consumers need it. But more broadly, we have been counseling Europe for almost a decade now to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, including our opposition to Nord Stream 2 and our opposition to Nord Stream 1 and our opposition to to TurkStream and TurkStream 2 and to have come to find alternative sources of hydrocarbons but also to continue their efforts to go green and end their dependencies.
30:55 Sen. Todd Young (R-IN): President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov have repeatedly indicated that they seek to deny any potential path to NATO membership for Ukraine and other Eastern European countries. Does the administration view this demand is a valid issue for negotiation? Victoria Nuland: No we do not and President Biden made that point crystal clear to President Putin today that the issue of who joins NATO is an issue for NATO to decide it's an issue for applicant countries to decide that no other outside power will or may have a veto or a vote in those decisions.
32:22 Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): Senator Portman and I offered an amendment to this year's NDAA in that vein to increase military assistance and raise the amount of assistance that could go to lethal weapons.
33:21 Victoria Nuland: But we will not be shy about coming to you as we as we need support and the bipartisan spirit here is really gratifying.
34:08 Victoria Nuland: At the NATO ministerial last week, there was a commitment among allies that we needed more advice and more options from our NATO military authorities with regard to the consequences of any move by Russia deeper into Ukraine and what that would mean for the eastern edge of the alliance and what it would mean about our need to be more forward deployed in the east.
34:44 Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): Belarus now that it is seems to be totally within Russia's control also presents another front for the potential for Russia to invade Ukraine. Can you speak to whether we view what's happening in Belarus in that way? I know that Ukrainians view it that way because we heard that when we were in Halifax for the international security forum and met with some Ukrainian officials. Victoria Nuland: Well, as as you know, Senator, the situation in Belarus is just tragic and really concerning in many, many ways, which is why the administration along with the European Union in a multilateral way increased sanctions just last week, including blocking the sale to us or to Europe of one of the great sources of Lukashenko has money potash, etc, and sanction some dozens more Belarusians responsible for the violence and intimidation there and particularly now for the weaponization of migrants pushing you know, accepting them from third countries and then pushing them against the EU's border in a very cynical and dangerous way. But I think you're talking about the potential as Lukashenko becomes more and more dependent on the Kremlin and gives up more and more of Belarus is sovereignty, something that he told his people he would never do that Russia could actually use Belarusian territory to march on Ukraine and or mask, its forces as Belarusian forces. All of those -- Those are both things that that we are watching, and it was particularly concerning to see President Lukashenko would make a change in his own posture with regard to Crimea. He had long declined to recognize Russia Russia's claim on Crimea, but he changed tack a week ago which is concerning.
39:08 Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): If there's one thing that Vladimir Putin aught to understand is how unified we are. I mean, there are many things that divide us politically in this country. But when it comes to pushing back on Russian aggression, supporting countries like Ukraine that are trying to develop their freedom, free themselves from their legacy of corruption from their former involvement with the Soviet Union, we are very strongly united.
39:56 Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): What we impose on them and how and how harmful it would be to Russia, you know, unfortunately to Russian people.
40:36 Victoria Nuland: What we're talking about would amount to essentially isolating Russia completely from the global financial system with all of the fallout that that would entail for Russian business, for the Russian people, for their ability to, to work and travel and trade.
41:41 Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): I can't think of a more powerful way to punish Russian aggression than by rolling back what progress has been made, and if at all possible, prevent the Nord Stream 2 from ever being completed. Is that something that is being discussed with allies is that something's being contemplated? Victoria Nuland: Absolutely. And as if, as you recall from the July U.S.-German statement that was very much in that statement that if that any moves, Russian aggression against Ukraine would have a direct impact on the pipeline, and that is our expectation and the conversation that we're having. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): So again, direct impact is one thing, but I'm literally talking about rolling back the pipeline. Loosely define that but I mean, taking action that will prevent it from ever becoming operational. Victoria Nuland: I think if President Putin moves on Ukraine, our expectation is that the pipeline will be suspended. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI): Well, I certainly hope that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would take up legislation to go beyond just suspending it but from ending it permanently.
44:28 Victoria Nuland: I think we can, and I know this is close to your heart as well, need to do better in our Global Engagement Center and in the way we speak to audiences around the world and particularly on these kinds of subjects.
55:04 Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): But something different has happened in that country since what has been referred to as the Revolution of Dignity. I got the chance to be there on the Maidan during the midst of that revolution with you and Senator McCain.
58:56 Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT): The Three Seas Initiative is a really important initiative linking essentially the ring of countries that are either former republics or satellite states of the Soviet Union together. They're begging for US participation in their projects necessary to make them more energy independent of Russia. Isn't this an opportunity for the United States to step up and take some of these customers away from Russia's gas station? Victoria Nuland: Absolutely, as we have been doing with our support for more LNG terminals around Europe for many years, as we are doing now in our support for, you know, green alternatives, not just in the United States, but in Europe as well. And many, many US companies are involved with that. But that particular belt of three C's countries is absolutely crucial, as you've said.
1:11:19 Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): I visited to Maidan in 2014. The tires were still smoldering and the Revolution of Dignity changed everything. You know, Ukraine decided to turn to us and to the West, and to freedom and democracy. And it was a momentous decision. They chose to stand with us. And now it's our turn to stand with them. And we've done that over the years. I mean, if you look at what happened with regard to the Ukraine security assistance initiative, which I co authored. Over the past six years, the United States has transferred defense articles, conducted training with Ukrainian military. We have been very engaged.
1:12:05 Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): This week we have the NDAA likely to be voted on and likely it will include an increase in that lethal defensive funding.
1:12:14 Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH): What defensive weapons has Ukraine ask for and what is the State Department willing to provide them under an expedited process?
1:18:44 Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA): My concern is this: if the United States and the West's response to a military invasion is sanctions, but no military response, obviously, we're providing military aid to Ukraine. And we've been generous in that way. But if we are not willing to help a Ukrainian military, that's 50,000 people matched up against Russia, I would think that China would conclude, boy, the West sure, I'm going to come to the aid of Taiwan, if we were to do something on Taiwan. Because China would conclude, we're much more militarily powerful than Russia is. And the status questions about Taiwan and sovereignty are a little bit murkier than those about Ukraine. And there's no NATO in the Indo Pacific, we have allies in the Indo Pacific but we don't have a NATO with a charter, with a self defense article. I think China would determine, if the West responds to a military invasion went as far as sanctions but no further, that the United States and other nations would be extremely unlikely to use military force to counter a military invasion of Taiwan. And I think Taiwan would likely conclude the same thing. So I'm very concerned about that. And I wonder, is that a fair concern that I have about how the Chinese and the Taiwanese would view the West's unwillingness to provide more significant military support to stop an invasion by Russia? Is my concern a fair one? Or is my concern overwrought? Victoria Nuland: Senator, in this setting, I would simply say that this is a moment of testing. And I believe that both autocrats around the world and our friends around the world will watch extremely carefully what we do, and it will have implications for generations. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA): And those and those implications could go far beyond Ukraine. Victoria Nuland: They could go well beyond Europe. Yes.
1:22:00 Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Then I would imagine that he's already been publicly messaging what his asks are. The first is that we would pull back NATO forces from anywhere near their western border. The second is to completely rule out the admission probably not just of Ukraine, but Georgia as a member of NATO. And the third is to stop arming Ukraine. Of those three conditions that he's publicly messaged already, would the United States agreed to any of those three? Victoria Nuland: All of those would be unacceptable.
1:41:11 Victoria Nuland: And in fact you could argue that in the Donbas he did take control of some 40% of Ukraine's coal reserves which were a major energy input
1:42:04 Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ): I hope the one thing that anyone in the world who is watching this hearing today takes away is that even on some of the most contentious issues of the day, on this one, there is overwhelming, broad, bipartisan support for Ukraine there is overwhelming bipartisan support for its territorial integrity, there is overwhelming bipartisan support for swift and robust action. And after conversations with some of the members of the committee, I look to galvanize that in some tangible way legislatively as we wait for the days ahead as to what may or may not happen.
August 31, 2021
Secretary Lloyd Austin: As you know sir, President Biden has approved a new $60 million security assistance package including Javelin anti-armor systems and more to enable Ukraine to better defend itself against Russian aggression.
Secretary Lloyd Austin: Now this department is committed to strengthening our Strategic Defense Partnership. The US Ukraine strategic defense framework that Minister Tehran and I will sign today enhances our cooperation and advances our shared priorities, such as ensuring that our bilateral security cooperation continues to help Ukraine countering Russian aggression and implementing defense and defense industry reforms in support of Ukraine's NATO membership aspirations, and deepening our cooperation in such areas as Black Sea security, cyber defense and intel sharing.
June 30, 2021
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual call-in question and answer session with citizens from around the country. During this 70-minute portion, he answered questions on relations with Ukraine, the European Union, and the United States, reiterating that whatever sanctions are imposed against Russia, his country’s economy will prevail.
Putin: I have already said that it is impossible and it makes no sense to try to restore the Soviet Union by a number of reasons and looking at the demographic processes in a number of former Soviet republic, so it's unreasonable effort to do because we can face a lot of social problems that will be possible to resolve and some issues like the ethnic groups, in various regions, but what should we do about Russia itself without the geopolitical realities and about our internal development?
Putin: Why is Ukraine not on the list of countries who are Russia's adversaries? Another question: are you going to meet with Zelensky? Well, why Ukriane is not on the list of adversaries? That's because I do not think that the Ukrainian people are our adversaries. I said it many times and I will say it again. The Ukrainians and Russians, that's one people, one nation.
Putin: What I'm worried about is a fundamental thing. They are trying to open up military bases near or inside Ukraine. Making the territory of Ukraine, the territory that's close on the border with Russia a military platform for other countries is a threat to the security of Russia. And this is what worries us. This is what we have to think about.
January 23, 2018
00:06:15 Joe Biden: They cannot compete against a unified West. I think that is Putin’s judgment. And so everything he can do to dismantle the post-World War II liberal world order, including NATO and the EU, I think, is viewed as in their immediate self-interest.
00:24:15 Haass: In the piece, the two of you say that there’s no truth that the United States—unlike what Putin seems to believe or say, that the U.S. is seeking regime change in Russia. So the question I have is, should we be? And if not, if we shouldn’t be seeking regime change, what should we be seeking in the way of political change inside Russia? What’s an appropriate agenda for the United States vis-à-vis Russia, internally?
00:24:30 Biden: I’ll give you one concrete example. I was—not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over, convincing our team, our leaders to—convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, I guess, the 12th, 13th time to Kiev. And I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t. So they said they had—they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to—or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said—I said, call him. (Laughter.) I said, I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.
January 12, 2017
February 6, 2014.
Jen Psaki, State Department Spokesperson
February 4, 2014
December 19, 2013.
April 20, 1994
Arthur Dunkel, Director General of the UN
Design by Only Child Imaginations