U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks Wednesday on the Senate floor regarding Ukraine:
“Yesterday, President Biden told the world we would support Ukraine’s fight, quote, ‘as long as it takes.’
“Unfortunately, for all his lofty rhetoric about Ukraine, the President’s actual approach to Russia’s escalation – his passive, indecisive leadership – has risked prolonging the war and jeopardized public support for our efforts. In some cases, his open fretting about escalation and World War Three has contributed to the hesitation of allies like Germany.
“Like most Republicans, I’ve been clear-eyed about the threat of Russian aggression since long before Putin’s so-called ‘little green men’ seized Ukrainian territory in 2014. Long before the last Democrat President mocked realism about Russia to score points in a political debate.
“And I’ve urged Administrations of both parties to take steps to help Ukraine deter Russian aggression before it escalated – like the previous Administration’s decision to send the lethal weapons that President Obama had found too provocative.
“When President Biden took office, he focused on lowering tensions with Moscow with giveaways like the five-year extension of the New START treaty rather than shipping lethal weapons to Ukraine to help shore up their defenses.
“As Vladimir Putin massed forces on Ukraine’s border over the winter of 2021, I urged the president to move quickly to provide critical military capabilities like Stingers and Javelins and to build the logistical infrastructure needed to support Ukraine should Russia escalate.
“But President Biden delayed.
“He dithered for months before approving shipments of advanced air defense systems or medium-range rocket systems like HIMARS.
“And he anguished for over a year about authorizing F-16s and Abrams tanks.
“Eventually, under duress from both parties in Congress, the Biden Administration provided each of these capabilities.
“But the President’s hesitation kept our allies – who follow America’s decisions closely – from unlocking similar capabilities of their own sooner.
“At every step of the way, President Biden’s decisions on support for Ukraine have been slow. His actions have been tentative. And his caution has been debilitating.
“Unfortunately, the President’s public messaging has been similarly insufficient. He has an obligation to speak to all Americans. But most of his messaging about lofty and abstract principles seems tailored for Washington think tanks.
“President Biden and his Administration need to explain to the nation in practical terms:
“That our nation has a fundamental interest in Ukrainian victory and European security.
“That our support for Ukraine isn’t distracting from competition with China, but contributing materially to it.
“That Europe has turned a corner on collective defense and burden-sharing, and is actually contributing more to Ukraine than the United States.
“That U.S. assistance is subject to rigorous oversight and accountability protections.
“That most of the security assistance is actually being invested in America’s own defense industrial base.
“And that pulling the plug would be far more ruinous than our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“I sometimes get the sense that I speak more about why Ukraine matters than the President does.
“Well, I hope his Administration will use this evening’s classified Senate briefing to begin making this case more forcefully.
“I’m encouraged by reports that the United States may finally provide ATACMs – a capability that could have made an impact on the battlefield sooner. And I hope we’ll learn why this decision, like those preceding it, has taken so long.
“Tomorrow, I’ll join colleagues in welcoming President Zelensky to the Capitol. And I’ll continue to make the case, myself, for sustained support of the Ukrainian cause – not out of charity, but out of primary focus on America’s interests.
“But until President Biden takes on his responsibility to actually lead the case publicly here at home, his Administration’s timid leadership will continue to speak volumes both at home and abroad.”