March 23, 2022
Joining MSNBC’s Morning Joe this morning, US Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) commended the American people and United States allies for their support of Ukraine and also called on the Biden administration to do more to help to help Ukraine win the war. In particular, Portman called for more lethal aid to Ukraine, as well as NATO districts to impose an embargo on Russian oil and gas imports to cut off funding for the Russian military. Portman also discussed Vladimir Putin’s possible use of chemical weapons, saying it would cross a “red line.”
A transcript of his comments is below and a video can be found here.
PORTMAN ABOUT RUSSIA’S INVASION IN UKRAINE
“America stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and across the spectrum when I talk to people at home about it. you get it You see it every night on TV screens and online. They are barbaric – these are cowardly attacks. At the same time, troops on the ground are advancing and pushing back the Russians, every night Russia is shelling these civilian targets – houses, hospitals, churches, schools. I mean it’s terrible. We met with the refugees coming across the border and it was heartbreaking. They cry and ask us to do more.”
PORTMAN ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A “VIRTUAL” NO FLY ZONE IN UKRAINE
“I don’t think we’re talking about the no-fly zone now. I think we’re talking about an effective no-fly zone, which should have enough anti-aircraft weapons and enough planes to enforce a no-fly zone over some of these cities that are being shelled mercilessly right now.
“What happened last night, in my opinion, is very positive – namely that Slovakia gave Ukraine S-300, this is the best anti-aircraft system that we have among our allies in this region, and it was used by Germany and the Netherlands refilled. That’s where the Europeans can start. If the President goes to NATO today, he must ask them to do more of the same. You must take action and help allow these former Warsaw Pact countries to have weapons that are interoperable with the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians know how to use them, by the way, so do the MiGs, these MiG-29s.
“Then fill them up and help them and we should do the same. For me, the most positive thing I’ve heard in the past few days is that Germany and the Netherlands are actually strengthening. Slovakia is strengthening. And if you have that kind of weapon there, you can stop those missiles. Richard spoke about the bombing outside of Lviv when we were there, about five hours before we got there. Most of these missiles were fired from the air by anti-aircraft weapons, thank goodness. Some got through, killing 35 people and wounding 134. But we need more of it, and there’s no reason, Joe, we shouldn’t supply more. Right now in our inventory here in America, we’re being told by public reporting that we have S-300s that we got years ago to try and see what the Russians and Soviets were doing.
“We’re sending some of them. The kind we send isn’t as powerful or effective as the S-300. So let’s go ahead and broadcast – we sent so-called SA-8s, which are lower altitude. We have to do this stuff at high altitude because missiles are coming in from Russia, from Belarus. We can do more.”
PORTMAN ON THE NEED FOR AN EMBARGO FOR NATO COUNTRIES ON RUSSIAN OIL AND GAS
“Well, again, NATO is starting to get stronger and should have stepped in earlier, in my opinion, to do more when it comes to helping replenish Slovakia’s anti-aircraft weapons. But perhaps the most important thing happens at this summit
, is for President Biden to move from organizing this coalition, which he has done a good job of, to leadership. And leadership means an embargo on Russian oil and gas, because Russia’s number one source of income is, of course, its energy. That drives this war machine. And all those sanctions combined aren’t as effective as saying you know what? Not only is the United States not going to stop buying oil, and for us that’s a relatively small part of our total consumption, but also in Europe, these NATO countries, they have to stop this sale, this purchase of Russian energy.
“Because that drives the war machine. And then we need to help refill them, including with LNG. You can relatively quickly make these LNG ports, the export ports and the import ports in Europe. So let’s continue. Let’s put the treaties into effect. Let’s give them the energy they need. We have it, other countries do. Qatar and others stand ready to step forward and help. That, probably Mika, is the most important thing that could come out of this summit, and if it does, that means we cut earnings for Vladimir Putin.”
PORTMAN ON WHAT ELSE NATO CAN DO TO HELP UKRAINE
“Joe, it’s a balance, but as you know, they’re ahead of us on some things. They have already started, for example, to seize assets from oligarchs, not just freeze them. And providing this funding to the refugee crisis is absolutely necessary. They are ahead of us in terms of trading. You said you would no longer get most-favoured-nation status when trading with Europe. And yet, here in Congress, we have come to legislation that is still in circulation, in part, because President Biden opposed it. Five things contradicted what we did later, like the oil embargo. It passed the House of Representatives, not the Senate. The House of Representatives added some things that some senators weren’t happy about. I just want to get it done.
“Well, again, initially he was against it. My only point is that there are some things that Europeans actually did before us. So it’s not just about us telling them to catch up. But on the issues, the big issues, namely military aid to Ukraine to defend itself. In particular, they must continue to help us with everything that has to do with stopping these, as I said, cowardly and barbaric bombings. Drones as an example. You can also help us here. Turkey can help more. Secondly, we have to be sure that this oil embargo – oil and gas embargo – takes place, otherwise the revenues will keep flowing. The sanctions will not be nearly as effective. So those are areas where he needs to kind of take our NATO friends out of their comfort zone and lead and lead by example.”
PORTMAN ON RESPONDING TO RUSSIA’S ESKALTORY ATTACKS
“We need to make it clear that the red lines have been crossed, you know this will be a tipping point and we will respond. Joe, on this question and your earlier one, the administration has said at times, as you know, this is escalating, so we can’t do it — as an example, the MiG-29, which I think we should have done a few weeks ago, you know initially gave the green light. I think that was a real problem for the Ukrainians, both in terms of messaging and in terms of their actual need for the planes. But Russia is escalating every day.
“Think about it. I mean, they started with military targets and then moved on to civilian targets. When they’re bombing hospitals. When they’ve moved away from munitions containing cluster bombs, which we think they used on civilians .Vacuum bombs which we believe were used against civilians and now supersonic weapons which have never been used in wartime.Russia continues to escalate and the United States says we can’t do something like deploy these MiGs because it escalating, it just doesn’t make sense, we can’t just let one side escalate all the time and let the Ukrainians take the brunt.
“This is a very serious matter, but I believe it is a red line that should not be crossed. Joe mentioned 2014. Remember what happened in Aleppo. I think we need to make it clear that this is crossing a line. Whether or not there is immediate contagion in an Eastern European country like Poland or the Baltic States. So, I think it’s a point where we should get it straight now.”