U.S. Sen. Rob Portman: Commitments made to Ukraine by U.S., U.K. should be honored

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 20, 2022

There is a threat of invasion by Russia that grows every single day. Right now, there are more than 130,000 Russian troops under the command of 100 tactical groups surrounding Ukraine. This Russian deployment includes nuclear capable missiles, rockets, tanks and artillery. And it’s no longer just on the Eastern border of Ukraine, where there has been activity before, as we’ll discuss, but now in the Northern border, where Russian combat troops and heavy equipment have moved into the country of Belarus. And also in Crimea.


In 2014, the Ukrainian people rejected authoritarianism and chose instead democracy, freedom of speech, freedom to gather, respect for the rule of law, free markets, prosperity. They’re not going back. Despite Russia’s unrelenting efforts to destabilize Ukraine over the past eight years, the people of Ukraine remain committed to this independent, sovereign and Democratic nation. They don’t want state control, repression or fear. They instead seek liberty and opportunity.

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Moscow would have the world believe that somehow this massive, unwarranted Russian build up is about trying to shore up its border against threats from Ukraine and NATO. This is, of course, patently false and should be rejected out of hand by America and its many allies.

Ukraine’s military posture has always been defensive. They just want to be left alone. And unlike Russia, Ukraine has upheld its commitments under the Minsk agreements, which were designed to ensure a ceasefire in the Donbass region. NATO, of course, is defensive and is no threat to Russian territorial integrity.

It’s important to note that Ukraine is not asking for us to fight this war for them. They are asking us for increased lethal military assistance to help them defend themselves should Russia make a mistake and invade Ukraine again. And they are asking all of us to abide by commitments we have made. In 1994, five years after the Berlin Wall came down, Ukraine signed what’s called the Budapest Memorandum.

It was a treaty where Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees from Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, that we would all respect the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine and refrain from the threat or the use of force against Ukraine. These are commitments that must be honored.

I know there’s a lot that our country and this Congress are divided over today and we see it played out on the floor and in the media constantly. But I will tell you, Republicans and Democrats alike are united in backing Ukraine in this crisis. That’s why it’s so important my colleague from New Hampshire is on the floor with me today. She has been a stalwart. We traveled to Ukraine a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to meet with the leading officials there, including President Zelenskyy, but also talk to the Ukrainian people and we let them know that on a bipartisan basis we support Ukraine.

We have a bipartisan consensus on the broad structure of sanctions and an aid package for Ukraine. The sanctions, by the way, would cripple the Russian economy. We have some disagreement perhaps over pre-invasion or post-invasion sanctions and how much on each, but we agree on sanctions.

We also agree on assisting Ukraine with further and much needed support, defense against cyberattacks as an example that the Russians are already conducting and we expect more to come, disinformation attacks coming from Russia. We agree, Republicans and Democrats alike, not just on sanctions but providing more support to Ukraine for these critical areas. And of course, we agree on providing more military assistance to Ukraine so they can defend themselves.

We’ve come to a consensus on these issues. What we now need is for all of us to work together, including the White House, to ensure that we can step forward and put legislation or a resolution on the floor to ensure that we are doing whatever we possibly can to make it clear what the consequences will be to act as a deterrent from Russia making a terrible mistake. This is a critical time for us to act and to lead. It’s time for us in the Congress and for this government to speak with one voice. Freedom in Eastern Europe depends on it, but so does the cause of freedom all around the world.

— Excerpt from Senate floor remarks, delivered on Monday