Senators support Ukraine amid Russia tensions

The U.S. Senate has stopped short of legislation to impose sanction on Russia and is now considering a resolution to support Ukraine.

Senators support Ukraine amid Russia tensions

Senators are eager to react to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression, but they defer to the White House strategy to avoid a crisis in Europe.

Monday's briefing by Jake Sullivan, White House national security advisor, was held amid fast-moving developments. President Joe Biden and Western leaders have been working quickly to convince Putin to refrain from invading Ukraine. The administration is warning that an attack could occur within days. Senators stated that the Biden administration can impose severe sanctions on Russia, which would severely impact the country's economy.

The senators who emerged from the closed-door session suggested that all options are still on the table.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was responsible for assembling the legislation, stated that "Either there're going to be a sanction package ..."" or "We should express, at a minimum, the Senate's position vis–a-vis Ukraine support."

Senator Jim Risch, Idaho's top Republican, stated that even a Senate resolution supporting Ukraine would be weighty: "It sends out a message."

As Putin's army gains strength at the Ukraine border, and in neighbouring Belarus, senators race to keep up with him. Washington is working with Western allies to stop what experts fear could be a larger war in Europe. The Senate will be in recess by the end of this week and lawmakers are calling for a united response.

While there is widespread support for sanctions against Russia in the Senate as a powerful tool for foreign policy, Republicans and Democrats disagree on details and when to do so. There were also differences about the Nord Stream 2 energy pipe between Russia and Germany. However, those issues may have been resolved last week when Biden stated that the energy line would cease if Russia invadesUkraine.

The senators who were considering Monday's options also stated that the White House has its strategy. This signaled they might hold off while the administration moves forward with its plan. They stated that the administration could impose sanctions without congressional approval.

"We don’t want to make their lives more complicated by restricting their ability engage in diplomacy avec Europe," stated Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn), a member the Foreign Relations Committee. "I believe the more complex and nuanced it became, the deeper we went into it."

Senator Marco Rubio (Republican from Florida) said that administration action could be faster than the sanctions Congress is considering. This is especially true with the House absent until the end.

Rubio stated that the administration had all the legal authority it needed to impose the sanctions many of us have discussed. "I don’t want anyone to think that somehow the U.S. won’t be able respond with sanctions alongside our allies in case of invasion."

Senators are still eager to act. Although a resolution would not be able to carry the weight of law it would still record Senate support for Ukraine's independence from Russian aggression. Senators indicated that such a measure is still in draft and could be put to a vote.

Senators spoke late Monday about the strong, bipartisan support that the Senate has given Ukraine for many years. Many lawmakers have visited Ukraine to support the leaders and the people of Ukraine and approved supplies and aid.

Tensions are rising in the region as Putin asks for assurances from the U.S. along with its allies that it will not accept Ukraine into NATO. This is a promise Washington has repeatedly rejected.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) stated that Putin's ambitions go beyond Ukraine. The Russian president is trying to reduce the United States' standing in Europe and weaken the long-standing trans-Atlantic partnership.

Shaheen believes that bipartisan discussions about Ukraine are "an occasion to show the rest the world that we are united."

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