WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.Res.162, a measure he introduced calling on the President to provide Ukraine with military assistance to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity:
“Thank you Mr. Speaker. I rise in strong support of this resolution and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.
“First of all I want to, again, thank our Chairman Emeritus of the Foreign Affairs Committee, my dear friend from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is very eloquent. I want to stand by every word she uttered. I agree with her a hundred percent.
“I want to also thank our Chairman, Ed Royce, who also has been steadfast in fighting for the freedom of the people of Ukraine. And it’s been a pleasure to work with him on a bipartisan basis.
“This is a bipartisan issue. Policy like this should not be partisan. And that’s why we are rising today as Democrats and Republicans, really as Americans—to say enough is enough in Ukraine.
“As I’ve been saying for months, we cannot view the crisis in Ukraine as just some faraway conflict or someone else’s problem. This war has left thousands of dead, tens of thousands wounded, a million displaced, and has begun to threaten the post-Cold War stability of Europe. In fact, with Mr. Putin, he’s knocking us back into the Cold War, the bad old days of the Cold War.
“The battle is being raged in the haze of a massive, Kremlin-backed propaganda campaign aimed at eroding confidence in the West and democratic institutions—the same propaganda permeating allied countries on the Russian frontier that we are treaty-bound to defend.
“Under the corrupt and repressive rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia has become a clear threat to a half-century of American commitment to and investment in a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace—a Europe where borders are not changed by force. What Putin is doing is he’s changing borders by force on the continent of Europe for the first time since World War II. This cannot stand. The United States cannot turn a blind eye to it. The United States cannot put its head in the sand and act like any other country and pretend that maybe this will go away.
“In 1938, another dictator named Adolf Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia and said he was going into the Sudetenland to protect ethnic Germans. Mr. Putin said the same thing about Crimea. He was going into Crimea to prevent the hurt of ethnic Russians. Same nonsense. Hitler got away with it in 1938 and there were people who said, ‘Well, you know, if we just give him the Sudetenland he’ll he happy. He’ll be content. He’ll leave us alone. His aggression will stop.’ Some people today are saying the same thing. ‘Just give Putin Crimea. Just give Putin a little bit of the eastern part of Ukraine, and he’ll be happy, he’ll go away. He won’t threaten anything else.’
“You don’t satiate a bully by giving him what he wants early on, because it only whets his appetite for worse things to come. And at the point, later on, when you have to go at the bully, it’ll be much, much harder to defeat him—to stop him—than it was if you had simply stood up to him when he started his aggression. This is what’s happening now in Ukraine.
“This war poses the greatest threat to European security since World War II, and we shouldn’t take it lightly, and we shouldn’t be idle, and we shouldn’t sit back, and we shouldn’t let other countries tell us what to do.
“Last year, Ukrainian President Poroshenko stood in this very chamber at a joint session of Congress, and related the challenges facing the people of Ukraine—their desire to reclaim their dignity and rebuild their country’s future. He asked that we help the men and women fighting a war against a neighbor that they had once looked to as a friend. He told us they needed defensive weapons. They needed weapons. He said that blankets that we’re sending do not win a war.
“Last month, I saw President Poroshenko again, in Europe, and he again pled for military assistance—not to attack Moscow, not to defeat the Russian army, not even to push the Russians out of Ukrainian territory—but simply to hold the line, to slow Russia’s advance, and to give his government breathing room to focus on other threats, such as keeping the Ukrainian economy afloat.
“Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow Europe’s borderlands to once again become Europe’s ‘bloodlands.’ Fortunately, there is still time for the United States to act in a moderate, but decisive fashion to help Ukraine defend itself—to limit Russia’s ability to further destabilize our friends and allies, and our friends in Ukraine in particular, and to safeguard our interests and defend our values across this region.
“All the countries, some of them NATO members, some of them not; some of them part of the former Soviet Union, some of them not; some of them former East Bloc nations, some of them not—all the ones that border on Russia are all worrying, because they think that if Putin can get away with what he wants to get away with in Ukraine, will they be next?
“The United States is not being asked to send ground troops to Ukraine. The United States is not being asked to get itself involved in another war. We are simply being asked to give the Ukrainians the methods to defend themselves. The weapons to defend themselves. I can’t think of anything more reasonable.
“We’ve held hearings on Ukraine. We’ve passed resolutions of support. We sent legislation to the President’s desk. It was the last thing we passed in the last Congress. The President signed it into law, authorizing an array of assistance, including the defensive arms Ukraine so desperately needs. And here we are again to renew this call, to remind the people of Ukraine that they are not alone, and to send an unambiguous message to the Administration, to the President, and to our allies in Europe: the time has come to do more. We must meet this threat together because we all have a stake in how this ends.
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and Chairman Royce, and I reserve the balance of my time.”
Watch Rep. Engel's floor remarks here