A small delegation of House Democrats is in Ukraine’s capital to assess Russia’s aggressive military buildup along the smaller country’s eastern border, one of the lawmakers currently in Kyiv revealed on Sunday.
‘We need to accept that this may happen, this may be the largest land invasion in the European theater since World War II,’ Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona said on CNN.
Russia has captured the world’s attention in recent weeks by amassing troops and military equipment at its border with Ukraine at lightening speed. Officials in Kyiv are pleading for help from Western allies, claiming an attack is imminent.
Ukrainian officials have said there are currently as many as 120,000 Russian soldiers at its border in the Donbas region.
Gallego, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee as chair of the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, revealed today that he hatched a plan to lead a group of his colleagues to Kyiv to assess the situation firsthand.
‘I had planned this about a couple of weeks ago recognizing there was this kind of buildup happening, so we can get in depth understanding of what’s happening in Ukraine both from the United States side but also from the Ukrainian government side,’ the progressive Democrat said.
He said it was ‘difficult’ to predict what Russian President Vladimir Putin would do next but maintained that what was certain is the need to show international solidarity.
‘Russians don’t understand weakness. They only understand real politick power moves and so we have to make sure we stand strong against them with our allies and with the people of Ukraine,’ Gallego said. ‘Anything less gives Russia an invitation to invade Ukraine without consequences.’
The US and its allies have promised swift and severe economic penalties if Russia moved to invade Ukraine.
Ukrainian soldiers Mykhailo (L) and Pavlo builds a bunker on the front line on December 12, 2021 in Zolote, Ukraine. A build-up of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine has heightened worries that Russia intends to invade the Donbas region, most of which is held by separatists after a 7-year-long war with the Ukrainian government
A Ukrainian soldier who goes by the nickname Chorny in a trench on the front line on December 12, 2021
Ukrainian soldier walks along a trench on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists, not far from town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region, on December 10
Gallego called for Putin and his cronies to be cut off from the US dollar to inhibit trade.
And in a marked departure from the Biden administration’s more resolution-focused tone, the representative called on the Pentagon to make sure Ukraine was armed and ready to ‘kill some Russians’ if necessary.
‘We have to make sure that we’re willing to back Ukraine in any possible way, especially when hit comes to resistance,’ he said.
‘We have to give them the capability for them to resist Russian invasion, both prior to invasion and even post-invasion, make sure that we’re bringing in weaponry that will actually put a toll on the Russian troop movements, and unfortunately that means we have to kill some Russians.’
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday reiterated a warning from the United States and its allies that Russia could face ‘massive consequences’ if it continued its ‘reckless and aggressive’ actions against Ukraine.
The country’s top diplomat was in the United Kingdom this weekend where he met with his counterparts in the Group of Seven economic powers. Russia’s actions in Ukraine made up a significant portion of the discussions.
Antony Blinken spoke with Meet The Press while in Liverpool for the G7 summit of foreign ministers
‘We are looking at and we are prepared to take the kinds of steps we’ve refrained from taking in the past that would have massive consequences for Russia,’ Blinken told Meet the Press host Chuck Todd.
He also said an in-person meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin ‘seems pretty unlikely’ while Russia continues on a concerning path.
‘I found all of our allies very resolute, both in their deep concern about what Russia may be doing and may be planning, as well as their determination to take strong, coordinated steps if Russia does act aggressively,’ Blinken said.
While Biden has said unilaterally confronting Russia with military force is ‘off the table,’ severe economic sanctions, the closure of a new gas pipeline and adding military support to Eastern European NATO allies have all been floated.
Officials both in and outside of Kyiv are concerned the buildup is a precursor to an invasion, though Moscow has denied any plans to attack the former Soviet satellite state.
Earlier today the G7 released an official statement warning Russia of severe consequences if it did not de-escalate the situation on Ukraine’s eastern border.
‘We call on Russia to de-escalate, pursue diplomatic channels, and abide by its international commitments on transparency of military activities as President Biden did in his call with President Putin on 7 December,’ the G7 foreign ministers stated.
‘Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law. Russia should be in no doubt that further military aggression against Ukraine would have massive consequences and severe cost in response.’
They also commended Ukraine’s ‘posture of restraint,’ which appears to be a public dismissal of Russian officials’ claims that Ukraine and NATO are hurling accusations to cover up their own aggressive intensions.
US and allied officials have promised an array of harsh economic penalties to surpass sanctions they levied after Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.
Moscow was alarmed in 2014 when Ukrainians successfully ousted Putin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych in favor of a democratically-elected government. Russian officials have also warned Ukraine’s growing closeness and attempts to join Western coalitions like NATO and the European Union would be seen as hostile toward Putin’s government.
The dominant topic of discussion at the summit was Ukraine’s sovereignty in light of Russian aggression
While Biden has ruled out putting troops on the ground within the country’s borders, his administration pledged the US military would be ready to provide any assistance NATO allies in the region would need.
Instead some of the measures that have been considered are blocking Russia from the SWIFT banking system, making them unable to convert rubles into dollars, and attempts to convince Germany to be prepared to shut the new Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.
US officials have worried for years that the pipeline, if operational, would only strengthen Russia’s grip on Europe by providing gas directly to Germany and bypassing Ukraine – thus putting the smaller country in a more economically and diplomatically vulnerable position.
On Sunday Blinken reiterated that Biden’s top goal was still a ‘more stable, predictable relationship with Russia.’
He added, ‘But if Russia continues to take reckless and aggressive actions, we will respond. And not only us; partners and allies around the world.’
This handout satellite image released by Maxar Technologies and taken on November 1, 2021 shows a view of armored units and support equipment amid the presence of a large ground forces deployment on the northern edge of the town of Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast, Russia
Blinken explained that it was imperative to now stand up to Russia because the global order is at risk.
‘There is something even bigger at stake here, and it’s the basic rules of the road of the international system, rules that say that one country can’t change the borders of another by force, one country can’t dictate to another country its choices, its decisions, and its foreign policy, with whom it will associate,’ the Biden official said.
‘One country can’t exert a sphere of influence over others. That’s what Russia is purporting to assert. And if we let that go with impunity, then the entire system that provides for stability, prevents war from breaking out is in danger.’
Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Stockholm, Sweden last week.
Blinken and Lavrov spoke to reporters before engaging in a short half-hour meeting
Just beforehand the US’s chief diplomat warned Lavrov in front of the cameras that ‘serious consequences’ would be in store if Russia invaded Ukraine but maintained ‘diplomacy’ was the best way to avoid an international crisis.
Lavrov seemed to agree, telling the media: ‘I have no doubts that the only way out of today’s crisis, which is indeed quite tense, is actually to seek the balance of interests.’
But before the meeting on December 2, Russia declared there was still a high chance of a new conflict with Ukraine amid the Kremlin’s concern over the former Soviet state’s ‘aggressive’ rhetoric.
Lavrov said Russia is ‘interested in making steps to regulate, to settle the Ukrainian crisis.’
He struck a more ominous tone when addressing the OSCE summit, reiterating that Moscow will not accept NATO membership for Ukraine or the stationing of NATO missiles there that could threaten it.
‘The alliance’s military infrastructure is drawing closer to Russia’s borders. The nightmare scenario of military confrontation is returning,’ Lavrov warned.
Biden and Putin spoke for roughly two hours last week during which the American president warned his Russian counterpart of consequences if Russia didn’t de-escalate tensions with Ukraine