“I urge my colleagues to act to address the threat at hand — one that extends far beyond a pipeline, but threatens an entire country’s borders and the security of a region. It is a threat that demands a comprehensive, resounding response.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today took to the Senate Floor to deliver remarks on the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, comprehensive legislation that he and 39 of his Senate colleagues introduced to impose crippling sanctions on the Russian economy, President Putin and senior Kremlin officials, extractive industries, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Putin escalates hostile action in or against Ukraine. The legislation also calls for the expedited transfer of defense articles to bolster Ukraine’s defense capabilities and authorizes $500 million in supplemental emergency security assistance to Ukraine in the event of a re-invasion by Russia.
Chairman Menendez spoke as the Senate prepared to vote on a proposal from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that, instead of offering a comprehensive plan to deter Putin from re-invading Ukraine, would impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“We must send an unequivocal message that, should Putin invade, the consequences would be devastating. That there would be steep costs to the economy and to the people of Russia if he further tramples on Ukraine’s territory and independence,” Chairman Menendez said. “But we are not voting on that comprehensive response. We are not voting on how severe the consequences should be if Putin goes down the path of invasion. Instead, we are voting on whether to sanction Nord Stream 2. As if that, alone, would deter Putin from re-invading. As if that, alone, would stop him.”
“Senator Cruz would like to suggest that partisan loyalty is why we believe his approach at this time is wrong. What is wrong is to break the coalition we now have against Putin at one of the most critical times of Ukraine’s history. Germany is a critical ally of ours when it comes to detering Putin,” Chairman Menendez said. “I urge my colleagues to act to address the threat at hand—one that extends far beyond a pipeline, but threatens an entire country’s borders and the security of a region. It is a threat that demands a comprehensive, resounding response.”
Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.
“Mr. President, this is a pivotal week for the security of Ukraine.
Talks are ongoing to test whether the Kremlin wants to engage in diplomacy, or is intent on war – to see if the United States and our allies can pull Putin back from the brink.
If the headlines are any indication this morning, it is clear this is an open question.
This is a critical time. There still may be a window to deter the Kremlin from deciding to invade. But we must be clear—and united—about what awaits Russia if it chooses the unwise path.
We must send an unequivocal message that, should Putin invade, the consequences would be devastating. That there would be steep costs to the economy and to the people of Russia if he further tramples on Ukraine’s territory and independence.
That message should be sent through every channel, at every level, including by this body.
And we have a chance to do just that.
The Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act, which, in just two short days, has 39 cosponsors already, is a comprehensive response to the threat facing Ukraine.
It would impose massive, crippling sanctions on multiple sectors of Russia’s economy. It would impose the harshest sanctions on Putin and senior Kremlin officials themselves.
It would effectively cut Russia off from the international financial system.
Those are the sanctions that I helped devise that ultimately brought Iran years ago to the negotiating table.
This Act also makes clear that the United States will make every effort to expedite security assistance and defense articles to help support Ukraine.
And it expands our effort to counter Kremlin aggression across the region.
It says the United States will not stand for this bullying.
And it makes clear that Putin has a choice to make.
But we are not voting on that comprehensive response. We are not voting on how severe the consequences should be if Putin goes down the path of invasion.
Instead, we are voting on whether to sanction Nord Stream 2. As if that, alone, would deter Putin from re-invading. As if that, alone, would stop him.
Instead, Mr. President, sanctioning Nord Stream now, at this pivotal moment, would have the opposite effect of deterring Putin.
It might even be the excuse Putin is looking for.
Right now, the one thing we know Putin wants is for Nord Stream 2 to be operational.
Now let’s be clear. If we don’t sanction Nord Stream now, that does not mean the pipeline goes online.
It does not mean that Putin gets his way.
What it does mean is that there is leverage.
Right now, we have a new German government that has blocked this pipeline from moving forward.
Right now, the German government is a productive partner with us on this critical issue. They are where we need them to be—working to coerce Putin not to re-invade Ukraine, making clear that if Putin advances into Ukraine, there will be no Nord Stream, working with us to strengthen and support strong deterrence, coordinating with us to enhance the impact of devastating sanctions if we need to pull that trigger.
That is where we need the German government to be.
Sanctioning Nord Stream now, in the way that the Cruz bill would do, would not just be a sanction on Nord Stream 2 AG.
The bill would sanction any entity, or any corporate officer of an entity, “established for or responsible for the planning, construction, or operation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline or a successor entity.”
This broad scope would have a clear ripple effect on the entities—many of them German—and individuals—many of them German citizens—who work on the pipeline. That includes German companies involved in the pipeline, industrial sites, rail operators, port operators and any other entity associated with the deal.
So for an ally that is with us in this fight against Putin’s aggression, for an ally that is standing up with us when we need them to be strong, this would be akin to a sanction on them. They have made that clear to us.
Now is not the time to take that step. Again, the pipeline today is paused. They basically stopped the regulatory process on it. At the earliest, it could be months before anything happens depending on what Putin does, even if they allow it to move forward.
Now is not the time to take off the table a key piece of leverage.
Mr. President, I have to address some other points I have heard some of our colleagues mention.
I have listened to the Senator from Texas attempt to lay blame time, time, and time again at the feet of President Biden.
He has tried to blame President Biden for Nord Stream. Now he’s trying to blame him for Putin’s illegitimate power grabbing and military aggression.
But you know what? I would suggest he look back and review just how and when Nord Stream came to be because it wasn’t President Biden who could have imposed sanctions back in 2017.
It wasn’t President Biden who did nothing for years while 94 percent of the pipeline was being built.
It wasn’t President Biden who waited until his last day in office to impose sanctions on Nord Stream.
Mr. President, there was someone else who could have used his authority to put a stop to this malign influence project, but didn’t.
there was someone else who could have made the Kremlin’s weaponization of energy a priority but didn’t.
But the Senator already knows this. How can I be so sure?
Because he said so at the time.
In December 2019, he said, and I quote: ‘I want this to be very clear: If the pipeline is completed, it will be the fault of the members of this [Trump] administration who sat on their rear ends and didn’t exercise the clear power.’
The fault of the Trump administration. His words.
But now, magically, it’s President Biden’s fault.
Please. A pipeline that was 94 percent complete by January 2021?
To me, that is a Trump-Putin pipeline.
And Mr. President, it may be convenient to say that work on the pipeline stopped until Biden became president, but that just is not the case.
In fact, work stopped on the pipeline for 6 months – 6 months, from December 2019 until the spring of 2020 because a company backed out of the project.
But did Russia stop? No. It was working furiously to finish the job by retrofitting ships that could complete the pipeline. And the moment that was done, the moment the ships were ready, pipeline construction started again.
A retrofitted Russian ship, the Cherskiy showed up in Germany in May of 2020, awaiting a permit by Danish authorities.
The permit was approved in October 2020. The fact that it received a permit was sanctionable by the then Trump administration. The Trump administration failed to act. On December 11th, Nord Stream 2 AG said that the Fortuna resumed off-shore construction activities in shallow German waters.
Nordstream 2 AG was not waiting for Biden to be in office. It was acting. The Trump administration could and should have imposed sanctions under CAATSA at that point.
As a matter of fact, it didn’t need CAATSA. It had IEEPA sanctions that it could have imposed and chose not to do.
Now, look. My position on Nord Stream has been clear. I have been and remain strongly opposed to the pipeline.
I supported sanction measures on the project when they could have had an impact during the Trump administration before hundreds of miles of pipe had been completed.
And President Trump had those tools. He had them. We passed them overwhelmingly. And then we gave him more tools, and more sanctions.
And what did he do? Nothing.
Not until his last day in office did he impose sanctions on Nord Stream. His very last day.
So, let’s stop with the games. By the time the Biden administration took office, the pipeline was 94 percent complete. 94 percent.
Senator Cruz wants to stop the pipeline - so do I - but it is far from clear that sanctions at this point, when the pipeline is already built, will do just that.
In fact, it isn’t clear to me at all that the Senator’s proposal would even change the status quo. Instead, it would most certainly tie up this body and this floor so that we would be voting time and time again on resolutions of disapproval related to Nord Stream.
And of course, I get it. I understand why the Senator would rather tie up this floor and hamstring the President’s agenda instead of voting on nominees, or voting rights, or Build Back Better, or judges, or a whole host of other critical elements before the country.
But that’s the reality of the Senator’s proposal.
So I ask my colleagues. What is the urgent threat that needs addressing? Is it attempting to score political points and tie this President’s hands intentionally and internationally?
Or is it addressing the very real and potentially imminent threat amassing along Ukraine’s border?
I believe we need to address the real threat—and the whole threat—facing Ukraine and the region.
And that is why I drafted the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act.
I have stood up for, and alongside, Ukraine time and time again in the face of Kremlin aggression.
In 2014, I was in Ukraine right after Russia’s invasion took place.
After Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea, I drafted the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which passed into law, to impose sanctions on Russia and increase support for Ukraine.
In 2016, I introduced the STAND for Ukraine Act to help restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Kremlin aggression.
I will continue to ensure that the United States does all that it can to help Ukraine defend itself against Putin’s bullying, to provide the assistance it needs, to support its integrity, and to bolster its security in the region.
I urge this body to do just that.
Finally, Senator Cruz would like to suggest that partisan loyalty is why we believe his approach at this time is wrong. What is wrong is to break the coalition we now have against Putin at one of the most critical times of Ukraine's history. Germany is a critical ally of ours when it comes to deter Putin.
I urge my colleagues to address the actual, imminent threat amassing along Ukraine’s border to make clear to Putin what the massive costs of his actions will be.
We might still be able to turn Putin back, but we must be laser focused on what it will take to get him from taking one more step toward Ukraine’s border.
I urge my colleagues to act to address the threat at hand — one that extends far beyond a pipeline, but threatens an entire country’s borders and the security of a region.
It is a threat that demands a comprehensive, resounding response.
That is what we will be offering in short order.
I urge my colleagues to vote no on this approach to make sure we keep the unity that is essential at this time to deter Putin, and to work with me to make sure that this body sends the united, strong message to deter Putin, stand with our allies, and support Ukraine.
I urge a ‘no’ vote on the Cruz legislation.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity.