Washington, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives is considering the bipartisan Ukraine Support Act (H.R. 4278), introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the Committee’s Ranking Member.  The legislation, which passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee earlier this week, promotes Ukraine’s sovereignty and democratic institutions while sanctioning those who have sought to undermine Ukraine’s independence and stability.  

During today’s floor debate, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks: 

(video of Chairman Royce’s floor statement is available HERE)

“President Vladimir Putin’s decision to forcibly annex Crimea was based on his calculation that the price would be bearable.  Now, in fact, Russia is susceptible to pressure. 70% of all the exports from Russia are from oil and gas. 52% of the budget that goes to the power behind Mr. Putin’s military and his government comes from that monopoly pricing on natural gas. That supplies the budget for Russia. That is what gives him the power to manipulate the situation – the monopoly over gas that he has in Eastern Europe – to manipulate this situation with respect to the Ukraine.

If we want to check aggression from Russia, we must push back and we must work together quickly, not only to confront this monopoly circumstance that exists there, but also to quickly impose tough sanctions on President Putin and on those who have been his accomplices in carrying out this aggression.  Diplomatically, our European allies have helped to eject Russia from the G8 and have suspended all other engagement with Russia until this crisis is peacefully resolved.

Economically, they have also imposed sanctions including asset freezes and visa bans against many Russian leaders. Our targets must include government officials, as well as those who hold no formal position, but who nevertheless exercise great influence over President Putin’s policy and have supported aggression.  That includes the so-called oligarchs and others who have amassed enormous wealth through corruption and through other illegitimate means.

We must make clear that if they do not end this crisis — that they have deliberately created by the way — or if they choose to go even further, then we and our allies will ratchet up the sanctions pressure.

We must also move quickly to strengthen Ukraine, by reinforcing its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and assisting the new government to meet the enormous challenges it faces.  This bill provides assistance to strengthen civil society, to combat corruption, to help recover assets stolen by former Ukrainian officials, to reform the police and the justice sector, to promote the independent media, to strengthen Ukraine’s defense, and help prepare for the run-up to the presidential election, which is scheduled now for May 25th.

And I will add that in several weeks I will be leading a bipartisan delegation from this House with Mr. Engel to the Ukraine, and I will add that his forefathers in fact come from the Ukraine, and we will be there to meet with the parliament, the leadership, and the electoral commission in advance of that election.

This bill also directs the assistance already approved by the House to help get the Ukrainian economy back on its feet, including by promoting fundamental economic reforms in the country.  Those tough reforms will be essential.

Mr. Speaker:  Moscow is using propaganda to sow confusion, fear, and unrest inside the Ukraine right now, which it then exploits to justify its actions.  To counter that effort, this legislation enhances funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America to expand broadcasting in the Russian language, in Ukrainian, in Tatar in order to provide the accurate news and information on the ground across Ukraine.  No amount of aid will help Ukraine if Russian propaganda rules the day.

Another priority must be to end Russia’s ability to use its energy reserves to blackmail Ukraine and other countries, including many of our NATO allies. Russia supplies 100% of Lithuania’s natural gas — well, it might not be that surprising then that Lithuania pays the highest price for gas of any country in eastern Europe – and two-thirds of Poland’s gas.

Energy sales earn Russia not only dollars, but they earn Russia influence because Russia in the dead of winter has turned off the valves.  Russia’s state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, threatened to cut off supplies to Ukraine earlier this month, as it did during the winters of 2006 and 2009.  Gazprom has stated that it is preparing to double the price Ukraine pays for its natural gas, which could cripple the country’s already weak economy.

Now, we have a powerful tool to counter this pressure, one that is just waiting to be used, and that is our own energy reserves. We must remove restrictions on the export of U.S. crude oil and natural gas into Eastern Europe. We have in fact a letter to the Speaker of the House from the heads of state of Poland, of the Czech Republic, of Slovakia, of Hungary, asking us for direct resources. Listen, at the end of the day if we do this, we end the flaring of gas here in the United States because of the glut, we’re able to help our balance of payments, we’re able to help our deficits – it increases Russia’s deficits frankly – and it produces jobs here in the United States. But it comes at a time when Vladimir Putin has a grip on the necks of the decision-makers in Eastern Europe with respect to his power on monopoly over gas.  Lifting, frankly, these self-imposed sanctions on ourselves, in terms of not exporting our excess gas, would not only boost the U.S. economy and create American jobs, but would reduce the energy revenues that comprise 52% of the budget for the military and the government in Russia. We must break Putin’s energy grip over Ukraine and Eastern Europe. This is a strategic issue.

I am pleased to have worked closely with Ranking Member Engel and with all of the Members of the Committee to produce this strong, effective, and much-needed bipartisan bill.

I look forward to its passage today and to working with our Senate colleagues to have the President sign the bill into law as soon as possible.”