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MURPHY: IF UKRAINE FAILS, IT HURTS U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY & HELPS RUSSIA

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday joined the Atlantic Council’s conference on U.S. strategic interests in Ukraine. This bipartisan event reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine, as well as proposed key policy recommendations for U.S. lawmakers. Murphy discussed the current impeachment inquiry and the Trump administration’s bribery scheme to hold up U.S. military aid in exchange for an investigation into Burisma, as well as what the U.S.-Ukraine relationship should look like beyond this inquiry. Murphy specifically talked about ways we should be helping Ukraine including but not limited to military aid, and why it’s so vital for U.S. national security.

Murphy said: “…[I]f Ukraine ultimately fails, because the United States positioning changes, it will come at a great cost to our country’s national securityWhat Russia fears most is a successful Ukraine.”

“[W]e can’t ignore the moment that we’re living in today. It still is infuriating to me that this administration is taking steps on a daily basis to weaken as the Zelensky Administration. Whether it be their myopic focus on Ukrainian corruption as a means to justify the actions of this summer and this fall or this new insistence that it was Ukraine and the President of Ukraine himself interfering in the 2016 elections, not Russia. None of that is helpful in trying to maintain and rebuild this bipartisan consensus around support for Ukraine,” Murphy continued.

Moving beyond the impeachment inquiry and into the U.S.-Ukraine relationship next spring and summer, Murphy remarked: “Ultimately, the most important support that we can give Ukraine is not military support. It is the support necessary to make sure that they are guarded politically and economically from all of the ways that Russia continues to try to undermine them.”

Murphy also mentioned Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s activity on energy independence legislation yesterday: “…in the next week we are going to pass a bill in the Foreign Relations Committee, that has already passed in the House of Representatives, to set up a new $1 billion energy independence financing mechanism in the federal government to be used in places like Eastern Europe, so that they don’t have to be reliant on gas pipelines coming in from Russia. That they can actually engage in energy independence projects with U.S. financing help.”

Murphy concluded: “…I just hope that we focus on the ways in which we can make Russia pay a cost for their incursion into Ukraine, but understand the panoply of methods by which we do that. It is not just about whether we sell javelin missiles or not to Ukraine, it’s about delivering them the support to make sure that they can fight back against all of the ways that Russia is trying to undermine them.”

Murphy has been a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship for years. In October, Murphy authored an op-ed in Buzzfeed detailing the Trump administration’s systematic abandonment of Ukraine that started long before the July 25, 2019 call at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.    

A full transcript of Murphy’s address can be found below:

“Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you very much for being here today. Thank you to Ambassador Herbst and the Atlantic Council and others, for convening this gathering. I am really heartened to see a full capacity room invested in making sure that we maintain, here in the United States Congress, a bipartisan consensus surrounding the need for the United States to continue to support Ukraine, especially in its continued hour of need.

“And I’m also glad that this panel will be bracketed by the remarks by myself and Senator Johnson. Senator Johnson and I just got the opportunity to speak for a while yesterday about our continued interest in making sure that despite the continuing headlines in this town, that we maintain that bipartisan consensus, as well.

“And it is really incumbent upon so much of the foreign policy community in Washington that is invested in the U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relationship to keep us on task and to make sure that we get beyond this moment. Because if Ukraine ultimately fails, because the United States positioning changes, it will come at a great cost to our country’s national security. And so, let me thank you first and foremost for putting this together.

“What Russia fears most is a successful Ukraine. And well, we don’t have a NATO treaty obligation with Ukraine. What we know is that Russia isn’t the only country in the world that is interested in starting to fudge international borders, trying to assert themselves beyond their internationally recognized space. And from the beginning, the reason that we have cared so deeply about pushing back on the Russian invasion in Crimea and Luhansk and Donetsk is because we know that if Russia gets away with it there, not only will they be more likely to try to press out into the periphery, in other places and ways, but other nations who have similar designs will do the same.

“There has to be a consequence when you breach internationally recognized borders, and the United States is still the only country in the world that can convene a global conversation around how to deliver those consequences. And so, it is appropriate that though Ukraine may not be part of NATO, that we still have a vested interest in their independence and their sovereignty.

“Now, we can’t ignore the moment that we’re living in today. It still is infuriating to me that this administration is taking steps on a daily basis to weaken the Zelensky Administration. Whether it be their myopic focus on Ukrainian corruption as a means to justify the actions of this summer and this fall, or this new insistence that it was Ukraine and the President of Ukraine himself interfering in the 2016 elections, not Russia. None of that is helpful in trying to maintain and rebuild this bipartisan consensus around support for Ukraine.

“And so, I hope that the handful of Members of Congress who are trying to push these conspiracy theories about what Ukraine has done in the past will remain outliers. And I was heartened frankly, in the last couple days, to see the majority of my Republican colleagues in the Senate, make public what we all know: it was Russia that manipulated the 2016 elections, not the government of Ukraine.

“But let’s use our time today, and I know you will, to try to set up some tasks for Congress as we move out of this impeachment process and into next Spring and to next Summer.

“I admittedly was a slow convert to supplying the Ukrainian military with lethal American aid. I’ve never believed that there is a military solution to the incursion of Russia into Ukraine. I don’t think that Putin actually wants to march his army or any proxy force on Kyiv. I think, his desire and his design, is to economically and politically break the country so that eventually Ukraine makes a decision to just give in and give up and elect leadership that will seek aid to taunt with Russia that puts the Kremlin back in charge of affairs in Ukraine, as they were during the majority of the pre-Poroshenko era.

“And so, I make the case that well, continuing military aid in Ukraine is really important, because I do think you need to send this message to Russia that there is going to be continued cost of trying to move the line of contact. Ultimately, the most important support that we can give Ukraine is not military support. It is the support necessary to make sure that they are guarded politically and economically from all of the ways that Russia continues to try to undermine them. And that, I think, needs to be our primary project as we think about ways for Congress to continue to support this new, and I think, very promising government in Kyiv.

“And so that means making sure that we are helping them with their efforts to rebuff the cyber incursions and the propaganda efforts that Russia continues to spin up inside Ukraine. Remember Russia is using Ukraine to midwife a lot of propaganda and cyber-attack methods that they could then export to the United States. And so, we have an interest in confronting those tools in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine because of our interest in supporting an independent Ukraine, but also because we want to protect ourselves. And the Global Engagement Center that Senator Portman and I established and funded is an important first step to increasing the American commitment to fighting back against those efforts from Russia.

“Second, we need to help President Zelensky and what is a very sincere effort to tackle what is a legitimate corruption problem in that country. I wish the administration would talk about something else other than the lingering corruption issues in Ukraine. There’s lots of good news stories and there are frankly other challenges that we need to face there. But by years end, there will be 500 prosecutors that weren’t doing the job in tackling corruption in Ukraine, who will be out the door; replaced by people who have as a mission and not the protection of their political universe but the rule of law, and we should be supporting President Zelensky in that effort.

“We made a big difference when we put a little bit of money on the table a few years ago to reform the Ukrainian police force. That has resulted in much cleaner administration of the law inside the capital city. We could be supporting, rather than just watching President Zelensky anti-corruption efforts.

“And third, I don’t know what the final outcome will be on Nord Stream 2, but I am doubtful of our ability to stop it in its tracks given how far it has gone and given the fact that Vladimir Putin is willing to pay whatever cost is necessary to underwrite a project that, frankly was not economically or financially viable from the start. And so, we need to have some other answers for what is going to be a continued effort for Russia to try to ply other nations into its orbit through its energy bounty.

“And so I’m hopeful that in the next week we are going to pass a bill in the Foreign Relations Committee, that has already passed in the House of Representatives, to set up a new $1 billion energy independence financing mechanism in the federal government to be used in places like Eastern Europe, so that they don’t have to be reliant on gas pipelines coming in from Russia. That they can actually engage in energy independence projects with U.S. financing help. That’s a bill that I wrote with Senator Johnson, and it has passed the House and hopefully passing the Senate very, very soon.

“And so, I just hope that we focus on the ways in which we can make Russia pay a cost for their incursion into Ukraine, but understand the panoply of methods by which we do that. It is not just about whether we sell javelin missiles or not to Ukraine, it’s about delivering them the support to make sure that they can fight back against all of the ways that Russia is trying to undermine them.

“I’ve never been more optimistic than I am today about the future of a country that I have come to love. I’ve traveled there, as many of you know, about a half dozen times since I was first elected to Congress. Got the chance to stand on the protest stage at the Maidan with Senator McCain in the winter of 2013. And I am a believer in President Zelensky.

“It is never easy to upset the status quo in a country where the plutocracy and the oligarchy is so firmly entrenched. But I think this is our best shot. And I’m so saddened that this administration hasn’t chosen to invest with a laser-like focus in this new president to help him. Instead has ordered affairs in a way that makes it much more difficult for him to succeed.

“This place, Congress, can try to change that reality. We can figure out a way to come together and support this new government, support a comprehensive set of tools that the administration can use to try to undermine Russia’s incursion into that country and other nations. And if we do that, I think that our policy towards Ukraine and the region, and Ukraine itself, will come out stronger on the other end.

“And I’m just so glad to be able to be here and to thank you.”

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