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Risch: It’s Past Time to Worry about Upsetting Putin or Not

\WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today co-led a press conference on Ukraine with Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations and Senate Armed Services Committees. The members discussed ongoing tensions in Eastern Europe as Russia maintains at least 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border.

“The first thing, and I want to underscore this for people who are listening around the world – this country, our Congress, and the administration are unified in their opposition to what Russia is doing. We continue to robustly discuss what the response to that should be,” said Risch.

“The diplomacy has gone on for a long time. Putin has not come off his number one demand, and that is that there be assurances that Ukraine and other countries not be admitted to NATO,” Risch continued. “To Putin I would say, you have no control over this whatsoever. This is in the hands of the Ukrainian people, it’s in the hands of NATO as to who gets in and who does not. That is off the table.”

“Senator Inhofe has indicated the focus now should be on stopping an invasion, not talking about what happens afterwards. What happens afterwards is not really debatable,” Risch concluded. “The Russians are going to have a very good first day if they invade. After that, the sledding gets very difficult as they have found out in other places. Occupying a country is very difficult, it is expensive in both blood and treasure.”

A full transcript of the remarks can be found below – these remarks have been lightly edited for clarity:

Opening remarks :

“Well first of all, let me say that a number of us spent about an hour with the president this morning talking about this issue and the path forward.

“The first thing, and I want to underscore this for people who are listening around the world – this country, our Congress, and the administration are unified in their opposition to what Russia is doing. We continue to robustly discuss what the response to that should be

“Those of us that are on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees have watched this deteriorate over the last four months, and it is disheartening to see that the trajectory is in the wrong direction. It is really important that the trajectory be reversed. The only way that is going to happen is if we start acting now.

“The diplomacy has gone on for a long time. Putin has not come off his number one demand, and that is that there be assurances that Ukraine and other countries not be admitted to NATO. To Putin I would say, you have no control over this whatsoever. This is in the hands of the Ukrainian people, it’s in the hands of NATO as to who gets in and who does not. That is off the table.

“As far as the other negotiations are concerned, they have gone on as they’ve gone on. Progress is going in the wrong direction and it’s really time that we start taking action to show that indeed we do want to stop this.

“Senator Inhofe has indicated the focus now should be on stopping an invasion, not talking about what happens afterwards. What happens afterwards is not really debatable. The Russians are going to have a very good first day if they invade. After that, the sledding gets very difficult as they have found out in other places. Occupying a country is very difficult, it is expensive in both blood and treasure. The president said he has pointed that out to President Putin and that’s something that needs to be underscored as we go forward.”

In response to a question about Nord Stream 2 :

“First of all, I disagree with your premise that it can’t be stopped. It can be stopped. And will be stopped if the administration takes the action that it should take and should have taken some time ago.

“But, let’s not get the Nord Stream 2 thing lost in the overall objective here. And that is to see that an invasion does not take place.

“There’s a couple of other things we’ve urged the administration to do. They are taking action in that regard. I think delinquently, but they are.

“We have additional defensive measures – weaponry – that is headed for Ukraine as we speak.

“In addition to that, a couple of our allies have asked for relief from their licenses so that they can provide material. I understand that’s being done. And bless the U.K. for stepping up and doing what they are doing.”

In response to whether congressional action might provoke Putin further :

“Is your question whether or not this is a provocative act that might cause the Russians to move? Listen, they need to set that aside. We don’t need to be calculating what’s going to provoke the Russians. We know where we stand, where we want to go. The Russians know where they stand and where they want to go.

“It’s way past time to be dithering over whether something is going to upset Putin or not. That’s off the table as far as I’m concerned.”

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