Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Lawmakers strike bipartisan note to condemn Putin, call for more sanctions

NBC NewsScott Wong

In a show of unity, Republican and Democratic lawmakers swiftly condemned Russia’s military attack against Ukraine and vowed to inflict economic pain on President Vladimir Putin by imposing a torrent of punishing new sanctions.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said she wants Russia cut off from the SWIFT international banking system. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called on international law enforcement to target Putin and his allies by seizing their “lavish apartments, fine art, yachts” and other items. 

And Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said the U.S. must continue to send financial support and arms to Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia. 

“Today’s invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a premeditated and flagrant act of war,” said Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee. “These are not the actions of a proud nation and people, but the actions of a desperate man whose only desire is to sow chaos in order to make himself look strong.”

His Democratic counterpart, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said Putin’s “unprovoked attack” has underscored the need to blacklist the Russian president and “expel the current Kremlin leadership from the international community.”

“Today must mark a historical shift in how the world views and deals with the despot in Moscow,” Menendez said.

The flurry of statements and tweets from Capitol Hill came moments after Putin declared Thursday local time in a national televised address that Russia was launching a military operation to support the “demilitarization and denazification” of eastern Ukraine. Explosions could be heard in cities across the country, including in the capital of Kyiv, where emergency sirens sounded.

For the most part, Democrats and Republicans struck a bipartisan note, pressing Biden to go further in sanctioning Russia but reserving their fury for Putin.

“Following news of Putin’s further invasion of Ukraine with enormous concern and anger,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, typically a vocal critic of Biden. “The US will stand with our Ukrainian allies, continue to provide them with arms to defend themselves, and work to counter Putin and hold accountable those responsible for this aggression.”

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., who tweeted that he was attending a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, said he was “listening to Russian lies about their support of Ukrainian people.” He questioned how Putin could claim that he wants to “de-Nazify” Ukraine when the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Jewish.

“Putin is a wild dog and won’t stop at Ukraine. Hitler didn’t stop at the Sudetenland. Learn from history!” Cohen tweeted. “The United States and all NATO must immediately provide as much military support as possible to the Baltic countries, to Poland, and other allies at risk.”

And the top Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees also took direct aim at Putin.

“The last few hours have laid bare for the world to witness the true evil that is Vladimir Putin. …” Reps. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said in a joint statement. “Every drop of Ukrainian and Russian blood spilled in this conflict is on Putin’s hands, and his alone.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., tweeted, “Russia has just become a pariah nation. Everything short of involving US forces should be done to punish this action. This should be unrelenting.”

Yet there were a handful of Republicans who placed the blame for the Russian attack at Biden’s feet.

“Joe Biden has shown nothing but weakness and indecision,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who’s considered a possible 2024 presidential candidate. “Now is the time to show strong purpose. Sanction Russia’s energy sector — the engine of its economy — to its knees and reopen American energy production full throttle.”

Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., a former ambassador to Japan, tweeted that Biden’s strategy to prevent a war had failed. “Despite Ukrainian President Zelensky’s persistent call for pre-invasion sanctions, the Biden Administration chose to do nothing until it was too late and must now change course,” he wrote.

In a statement, Biden said Putin had “chosen a premeditated war” and vowed to unilaterally impose another round of crippling sanctions on Russia on Thursday, just two days after he had targeted Putin with an initial tranche of sanctions.

But any congressional action on sanctions will have to wait until at least next week when both House and Senate lawmakers return from their Presidents Day recess. 

In the meantime, top Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, are planning to hold an unclassified phone briefing for senators Thursday on the developments in Ukraine. 

That will be followed by a separate briefing for House lawmakers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats have been comparing Putin’s military incursion to Adolf Hitler’s military advance during World War II, the last time there was a major war in Europe. 

“This is a momentous and tragic day when once again we see a dictator in Europe try to remake the map of Europe by using its military power,” House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on MSNBC’s “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.”

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Articles

United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukra...

Jul 14, 2023

The Helsinki Commission’s four senior leaders helmed the United States’ bicameral, bipartisan delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last week in Vancouver, Canada. Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), serving as Head of Delegation, was joined by Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) as Deputy Head of Delegation as well as Ranking Members […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

CHAIRMAN WILSON LEADS BIPARTISAN DELEGATION TO GERMA...

May 12, 2023

WASHINGTON—From May 1st to May 7th, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan U.S. delegation to Germany, Poland, and Ukraine to coordinate support for Ukraine and examine current wartime challenges. The delegation consulted with high-ranking government officials and civil society actors regarding ongoing military and humanitarian responses to the Russian invasion. Chairman […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

BIPARTISAN UKRAINE VICTORY RESOLUTION INTRODUCED IN ...

Apr 26, 2023

WASHINGTON— Yesterday, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced the Ukraine Victory Resolution in the House of Representatives. Commissioners Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), introduced the resolution in the Senate. The resolution affirms that it is the policy of […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA presents Joint Statem...

Feb 24, 2023

WASHINGTON— Today, the U.S. Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) endorsed the “Joint Statement of Action on the One-Year Anniversary of Russia’s War Against Ukraine and the International Legal Order,” which was endorsed by the OSCE PA Bureau and published today at the conclusion of the […]

screen-reader-text
Helsinki_Default
Hearings

The Alarming Rise in Antisemitism and Its Threat to ...

Dec 13, 2022

In response to a rise in antisemitism in the United States and abroad, the Helsinki Commission held a hearing on December 13, 2022, featuring experts on preventing and combatting it. Witnesses testified about current development and how best to respond, as well as reinforced the important role of multilateral cooperation. In an increasingly global world […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Announces Briefing on US-Europe ...

Dec 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—At a virtual kickoff event on December 13, Co-Chairman Cohen and Ranking Member Wilson launched the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions. NO SAFE HAVEN Launching the US-Europe Coalition on Russia Sanctions Tuesday, December 13, 2022 8:30 a.m. EST Since February 24, 2022, Western countries have imposed sanctions against Russian officials, businessmen, and public figures who […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

OSCE’s 2022 Ministerial Council in Lodz: Russia Isol...

Dec 09, 2022

By Janice Helwig, Senior Policy Advisor, Demitra Pappas, Senior Advisor Department of State, Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to OSCE Foreign Ministers and senior officials from the 57 participating States and 11 Asian and Mediterranean partners of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened the OSCE […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Announces Hearing on Crowdsourci...

Dec 07, 2022

WATCH LIVE                                                                                                           […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Crowdsourcing Victory

Dec 07, 2022

A unique aspect of Ukraine’s decentralized defense has been the rise of civil society organizations marshalling grassroots support for the Ukrainian war effort and humanitarian response. Unlike the USO or care packages Americans send our overseas troops, NGOs are effectively serving as the quartermaster for Ukraine’s troops, supplying tactical gear such as commercial drones, night […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Announces Briefing on RussiaR...

Dec 02, 2022

           HELSINKI COMMISSION COMMISSION BRIEFING NOTICE Members of the Commission and their staff are respectfully invited to attend the following Commission staff-led briefing: RUSSIA’S INFRASTRUCTURE TERRORISTS Thursday, December 8, 2022 3:30 p.m. Please Register Here Russia, in its brutal war against Ukrainians, has been ruthlessly and methodically targeting Ukraine’s critical infrastructure […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

The Case for Getting Tough on Hungary

Nov 28, 2022

Sixty-six years ago, ordinary Hungarians bravely stood up to Moscow’s empire of oppression. Yet, on its anniversary, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took aim at Europe, a curious choice given Russia’s imperialist war against Ukraine right at Hungary’s doorstep. “Let’s not bother with those who shoot at Hungary from the shadows or from the heights of […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Briefing on Russia’s Genoc...

Nov 14, 2022

Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep Steve Cohen joined a panel of four experts moderated by Helsinki Commission Senior Policy Advisor Michael Cecire to discuss Russia’s genocide in Ukraine. The four panelists included Dr. Timothy Snyder, Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University; Ms. Maria Kurinna, Ukrainian human rights activist and international advocacy advisor at […]

screen-reader-text