U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) led a bipartisan Senate delegation visit to Poland and Germany this past weekend. She was joined by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Angus King (I-Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.).
“This strong, bipartisan delegation traveled together to demonstrate America’s unwavering support for the freedom-loving people of Ukraine and affirm the strength of the world’s most powerful alliance. We departed with the conviction that the United States, Ukraine, and the free world have the will and the means to unite and stand up to Vladimir Putin’s tyranny and that Ukraine can win this fight,” said Senator Ernst, the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Our trip to Poland and Germany provided invaluable insight into how we can support the people of Ukraine and our NATO allies during this global and humanitarian crisis. President Putin has invaded Ukraine without any provocation and the world must remain united as Ukrainians fight for their freedom and independence from an autocratic government,” said Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel. “We must remember that the role of our military in this moment is to assure our allies that we are committed to the region and to deter Russian actions that widen this brutal war. Ukrainians don’t want to just survive this conflict, they want to win this war against Russia and we must remain resolved in our resiliency against this unjustified attack.”
“The most memorable conversation I had in Poland was with a young mother with two young children at a refugee welcome center just a few miles from the Ukrainian border. She said to me, ‘I want to live in peace. I want to be back in Ukraine, but I have to keep my children safe,’” said Senator Collins. “Clearly, the best way to end this humanitarian crisis is to end Putin’s unprovoked, unjustified war on a free, sovereign, and democratic country. Every moment counts, and if we delay, thousands more innocent Ukrainians will die. This extraordinary trip only redoubled my belief that we have to do all that we can in terms of providing weapons and humanitarian assistance to the brave people of Ukraine.”
“Poland, Germany, and really all of our NATO allies in Europe have been heroic in their response. It was heartwarming to see how they have opened their hearts, doors, and homes to the women and children, the elderly and infirm trying to make their way out of Ukraine for safety,” said Senator Cornyn. “Ukrainians are showing great courage, but one thing we heard is that they need more humanitarian relief and weapons to defend themselves and their country. We ought to provide the Ukrainians what they believe they need, and that was a subject of intense questioning and discussion during our visit.”
“While in Eastern Europe, I was humbled to meet with courageous men and women – American servicemembers, aid workers from around the world and Ukrainian mothers who had left their homes and loved ones to bring their children to safety,” said Sen. Moran. “I was reminded that every day matters in this fight against Vladimir Putin’s aggression. Our slow, bureaucratic march to provide aid is not keeping up with the Russian forces bearing down on Ukrainian cities. We can’t just provide support for the Ukrainians to get by; we ought to make certain the Ukrainian people have the tools to defend their freedom and win.”
“Vladimir Putin’s deadly invasion has created unspeakable tragedy and unshakeable unity – and during this CODEL, we saw both on display,” said Senator King. “This unprovoked Russian war has displaced millions of Ukrainians – primarily women, children, the elderly, and other vulnerable people who want nothing more than to peacefully return to their homes and normal lives. This immense suffering is unimaginable – and wholly unnecessary. That is why a broad international coalition has stepped up to provide humanitarian aid, and NATO and other U.S. allies remain unified as we deliver vital military support to the Ukrainian people. These large-scale efforts are helping mitigate the pain of the Ukrainian people, and creating severe complications for the Russian invaders. A first-hand look at the situation makes it clear that our efforts are making a real impact – but also underscores that we must prioritize delivering on the aid and weaponry they need to stand strong against Russia’s aggression.”
“When Vladimir Putin waged his unjust and immoral war on Ukraine, he expected to easily conquer a nation, divide our NATO alliance, and the world. Instead, as we saw firsthand during our visit to Germany and Poland over the weekend, the opposite happened. In the face of a land war and humanitarian crisis perpetrated by a tyrant, we are as united as ever, and our resolve in supporting the people of Ukraine is steadfast. Whether it was the generosity of the Polish people in taking in and caring for refugees, Germany’s increased military posture, or the work of our own military in support of our NATO allies, there was a clear sense of unity in accomplishing our shared mission on the ground to ensure a free and independent Ukraine. Our visit was also a powerful reminder that as Russian forces continue to target women and children, we must continue providing the weapons and military equipment Ukraine needs not just to fend off Russian troops, but to actually win the war. Ukraine still needs our help, and the United States stands firmly with them in defense of their democracy,” said Senator Capito.
“There is good and evil in this world, and we saw that firsthand with Putin’s war of aggression against the people of Ukraine. Meeting with U.S. military leaders, NATO forces and NGOs in Poland and Germany allowed us to gain greater insight into Russia’s invasion, including the terrible humanitarian crisis that it’s created and the importance of having a strong military and energy security,” said Senator Daines. “In Berlin, I visited the Brandenburg Gate where in 1987 President Reagan delivered his historic speech where he told Soviet Leader Gorbachev to ‘tear down this wall’ and achieve peace through strength. That message rings true today. We must continue to stand with the people of Ukraine and help bring about peace through strength.”
“I’m proud to have joined this bipartisan group of colleagues to see firsthand our allies’ humanitarian efforts, visit U.S. and NATO forces in Eastern Europe, and send a strong message that America remains united in our support for Ukraine,” said Senator Rosen. “We must continue providing the Ukrainian people what they need to defend their skies and holding Vladimir Putin accountable so he ends this cruel and unprovoked invasion.”
“Having traveled the word leading medical mission trips, I have never seen a larger, more effective, efficient, impactful humanitarian rescue than what we saw in Poland last week. While these efforts are driven by an outpouring of love and compassion, just miles away we are witnessing the worst of humanity in Russia’s war on Ukraine,” said Senator Marshall. “The Ukrainians don’t need words, they don’t need resolutions, what they do need are actions. They need Europe to step up, they need the U.S. to project peace through strength and immediately get weapons, MiG fighter jets, A-10s, and much more to Ukraine. If there is one thing that is for sure it’s that Americans should be proud of our military – they are doing incredible things to assure our allies and deter Russian aggression against NATO.”
The bipartisan delegation engaged with military leaders from United States Army Europe-Africa (USAREUR-AF) in Wiesbaden, Germany about the United States’ and NATO alliances’ commitment to freedom over tyranny. Senator Ernst was able to meet with an Iowan – SFC Pint, from Waterloo, Iowa – during her visit to USAREUR-AF.
From there, the delegation met with U.S. officials in Berlin at the U.S. Embassy to get an up-to-date brief on American-German long-term economic and security cooperation goals
In Berlin, the group of bipartisan senators discussed our continued security partnership with German State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office Andreas Michaelis. The members met with German Parliamentarians over dinner in Berlin.
The next day, the senators had a security briefing with leaders from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in Poland and learned more about their effort to assist and deter Russia from further aggression. The military leaders then led a roundtable discussion with the senators, NATO allied military leaders, and non-government organizations (NGOs) helping with the humanitarian needs in Ukraine and throughout Europe.
Ernst then led the bipartisan delegation on a visit to a refugee processing center near the Ukrainian-Polish border where they saw firsthand how organizations are working with the Polish military and government to care for Ukrainians who’ve fled their homes. Included in the visit was a meeting with volunteers from the World Central Kitchen who are helping feed the millions of refugees coming through this facility.
The final stop in Poland was a discussion with members of Ukrainian civil society. This included a group of passionate women who provided a clear message to the senators: Ukraine needs more military and lethal aid to win this fight. Included in the meeting were State Department officials originally stationed at Embassy Kyiv.
On the last day of the CODEL, the 10 senators visited a U.S. Army base in Grafenwohr, Germany. They received a firsthand briefing of the military mission, met with constituents from each of the states represented on the CODEL, and saw the might of the U.S. Army in action.
The bipartisan CODEL returned to the United States late on Sunday, March 20.