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 U.S. House of Representatives in support of H.Res. 758, condemning the actions of Russia against neighboring countries:
“After the Cold War, we all hoped that Russia would emerge as a modern power, governed by democratic norms, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.
“Regrettably, things didn't turn out that way. It’s time to recognize the fact that Russia under the leadership of Vladimir Putin is a threat to European security and to U.S. interests in the region.
“We must be clear that our concerns are not directed toward the Russian people. In fact, as Putin tightens his grip, his own citizens are among those suffering the most. Basic freedoms are under attack. The media has become a mouthpiece for Putin and his cronies. And as Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine, international sanctions are hitting home, dragging down Russia’s economy.
“Nevertheless, we have high hopes for those inside Russia who seek an alternative—who want a brighter future for their country and for their children. And so this resolution encourages the establishment of close and cooperative ties between the people of the United States and the people of Russia.
“It pains me that Putin has effectively destroyed democracy in Russia. We must let the Russian people know that we stand by them against this tyrant.
“We need to keep supporting those in Russia who are struggling against tough odds to keep the media and civil space open, to share ideas that originate beyond the Kremlin’s walls, to shine a light on the corruption in Moscow and the misinformation on the airwaves.
“I think this resolution sends an important message, and I’d like to thank the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Kinzinger, for taking the lead on this important issue.
“But I also think we should be doing more and I am pleased to be working with Chairman Royce on new legislation to support Ukraine and further penalize Russia for its continued trampling of Ukrainian sovereignty.
“I'm also pleased that this resolution lays out Congress's strong opposition to France's sale of two Mistral warships to Russia, a key priority of mine over the last several months. We should all thank France for indefinitely suspending transfer of the ships to Russia, but I think we can go even further with NATO buying or leasing the ships.
“I believe that this would be a win-win-win: a win for NATO which would acquire these powerful ships; a win for France, whose legitimate financial interests would be addressed; and a win for the countries in Eastern Europe, which would be further threatened if Russia indeed had these vessels.
“Among those countries under Moscow's pressure are Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, where Russia continues to stoke separatism. There was a vote recently in Moldova which rejected Putin and his nonsense and I was happy to see it. In the Baltic States and elsewhere, Russian propaganda fills the airwaves, spreading deceptions about the West. Across Eastern Europe, millions wait with apprehension to see what Putin will do next. They have good reason: we know that he is willing to flout international law and trample his neighbors’ sovereignty. So better to stand up to a bully now than to try to reverse his future gains.
“When Putin talks about going into Crimea to protect ethnic Russians, it sounds to me a very lot like Hitler in 1938, who said he was going into Czechoslovakia into the Sudetenland to protect ethnic Germans.
“During the Cold War, the United States stared down the Soviet Union at the height of its power and refused to blink. We sided with those behind the Iron Curtain who stood up for their universal rights. Today, those rights are once again under threat.
“So, my colleagues, let’s pass this resolution, and let’s keep working to meet the challenge of Russia’s growing aggression.