Sen. Rob Portman and other GOP senators seek unity on Ukraine

U.S. Senators Rob Portman R-OH gives a briefing at Ukrainian Presidential office after their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) gives a briefing at Ukrainian presidential office after their meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. [Efrem Lukatsky / AP]

A group of Republican U.S. senators are seeking bipartisan support for Ukraine before a possible invasion by Russia. The members from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee spent an hour with President Joe Biden discussing the issue Wednesday morning.

Ohio's Sen. Rob Portman returned Tuesday night from a trip to Ukraine with a bipartisan congressional delegation. Portman, along with Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the trip. 

Portman said strength and unity is needed against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We also need to let Russia know that we're going to provide additional military defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine," Portman said. "Already, we're doing that... We need to let the world know that there will be substantially more of those kinds of military weapons and assistance provided to Ukraine, as well as additional buildup of NATO forces in other Eastern European countries."

The Nordstream 2 pipeline, running from Russia to Germany, should be sanctioned, Portman said, and not be allowed to function as a "Russian energy weapon."

"Nordstream 2 pipeline was a bad idea long before the massive and unwarranted and provocative buildup of military forces along Ukraine's border," he said. "Now, it's a terrible idea."

Portman stressed free countries like the United Kingdom and other allies must also join in supporting Ukraine.

"We want Germany to step up and to ensure that we do not see this pipeline be completed." Portman said. "It not only creates this dependency by Europe on Russia, it also hurts Ukraine in a very fundamental way. The existing pipeline goes through Ukraine, it provides much of its natural gas."

Germany warned Russia operations on the pipeline may be halted if Russia invades Ukraine. Those sanctions and unity, Portman said, is the only way to stop Russian aggression.

"That is the kind of deterrence that is needed right now to avoid what would be a terrible conseqence for Ukraine, but also destabalizing Europe and sending a signal that somehow, after the first territorial incursion since World War II, that the countries of the free world are not going to stand together against what Russia is doing," he said.

The senators criticized what they called the appeasement of Putin as Biden has relented on the pipeline during talks with Moscow. Though only Republican senators spoke Wednesday, they believe they have the support of some Democrats, particularly on increasing weapons and funding for Ukraine.

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