September 1, 2022
This morning, US Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), co-chair and co-founder of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss their recent trip to Ukraine where they met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and traveled to Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel Airport to receive a firsthand account of Russia’s illegal, unprovoked and brutal war on Ukraine, and to reaffirm the US commitment to Ukraine. Portman commented on the significant positive impact that US-provided HIMARS, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, are having on Ukraine’s war effort, including in Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive in the south. During the interview, Portman underscored the importance of demilitarizing Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and also evaluated recent progress on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s technical review of the power plant.
As Co-Chair and co-founder of the Senate Ukraine Caucus and member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Portman has long been a staunch defender of Ukraine and has spoken consistently on the Senate floor since the Russian invasion began. This visit is Senator Portman’s eighth visit to Ukraine and the third one the two senators have taken to the region this year.
A transcript of his remarks can be found below and a video can be found here.
SENATOR PORTMAN ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PROVIDING MILITARY SUPPORT TO UKRAINE
“Well first, this is an incredibly important fight. It’s in our generation, this is where we’re engaging in the fight for freedom, and it’s not just about Ukraine, as Senator Klobuchar said. It’s about global freedom. And so all of us need to stand up. By the way, 42 allies in the United States have stood together on this. So, the freedom-loving world has been unified. I will also make the point that it was Donald Trump who began to provide lethal weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself. The Obama administration did not agree to do that, but President Trump did. So, it was Republicans who took the lead in providing Ukraine with what they were asking for at the time. This was prior to this latest invasion, of course. Now we have to be sure, that two things happen, one, that the funding we’re providing is accountable. Whether it’s humanitarian aid or whether it’s state budget support or whether it’s defense spending, one thing Senator Klobuchar and I did when we were over there is we insist that there be accountability and end-use monitoring for these weapons as it’s called, so we know where these weapons are going, and that we ensure that any funding that’s being provided is going to the essentials, like providing salaries for the law enforcement officials who are needed right now to protect Ukraine and to win this war. And then second, we need to be sure that the American people and our colleagues understand what we are providing is making a difference, a huge difference.”
“We discussed the HIMARS, which are long-range rockets the Ukrainians have been asking for. Many of us had hoped that the administration would move even more quickly on these. But now we are moving on them, we have 16 units in place. That’s public information. These enable the Ukrainians finally to be able to reach the Russian artillery that’s been firing on them inessentially for the past serval months, particularly in the east and the south, and destroying civilian targets, hospitals, schools, churches, apartment buildings. We saw some of these apartment buildings that were destroyed in Bucha when we were over there yesterday. So, these weapons are working. What the American people are helping provide to the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as by the way the UK, Germany, and others, are actually making a difference and enabling them to have this counteroffensive that is going on as we talked, they’re making progress in the south, moving towards Kherson. This would be a huge victory military. But also in terms of the morale, the Russian troops have incredibly poor morale, but the Ukrainian troops are fired up, they are protecting their homeland, they are protecting their freedom, they are protecting their families. So, it was a good visit in the sense that we were able to deliver those messages, and also ensure what we have provided is making a difference.”
“I didn’t bring him up. I said that a Republican administration provided lethal aid, and so the question was, ‘are Republicans not willing to support lethal aid to Ukraine, is that a problem?’ My point is, that this has been something that Republicans and Democrats alike have supported. In fact, it was a Republican administration, after years of you and me and others Encouraging a Democratic administration to do it, finally, a Republican administration did provide that lethal aid. That was my point. I think that’s very important to understand right now, we need to keep this up. Six months is a long time. On the other hand, progress is being made. Think about it, the Russians intended to roll into Ukraine and take over this country, a democracy, a strong ally of ours, that had chosen to turn to us in 2014. We were at the airfield right outside of Kyiv, and just yesterday, we got to see where a brave unit of the National Guard kept the Russian special forces, these were highly trained Chechens and Russians taking over this airport and therefore beginning the assault on Kyiv. These are National Guard that had rarely seen combat if any, and we got the meet the commander of that unit. They were fighting, as you said, for their homeland and that’s why they won.”
SENATOR PORTMAN ON DEATH OF GORBACHEV AND RUSSIAN WAR CRIMES
“Well, first of all, Joe, as you know, Gorbachev was very close to George HW Bush. So, through that, I got to meet him several times. He took a lot of risks in ensuring that the Soviet Union, you know, could move forward in a way that would be good for the people. That has all changed now. You see what’s happening in Ukraine as one example of that. We talked earlier about Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe is currently under attack effectively. You know, the Russians came in and assaulted the neighboring region and took over the plant and took the employees there captive. They took the employees captive and then began to intimidate them. We were told they were harassed. There are some reports they were tortured. They were captured inside this nuclear power plant, that alone makes it very unsafe. And then to use it as a human shield, effectively, saying they were going to fire on Ukrainian positions from this military base basically, which is now this power plant, making it each riskier. And then finally, they have actually destroyed parts of the infrastructure, including power lines, going into Ukraine from this plant, because they would like to divert this energy because 20 percent of the electricity in Ukraine is generated by this one plant. They would like to divert it to Russia. All these add up to war crimes, which are incredibly irresponsible and risking a catastrophe for Europe, for Russia, by the way, from the fallout. This would be the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl if we don’t demilitarize the area. So I’m glad the UN is there. I’m glad they are going to do a technical review. What they really need to do with the international community is get Russia to do the right thing, which is to demilitarize this area around the plant, allow these workers to do their job without this kind of pressure, and ensure there is no leakage and ensure that this plant is safe.”
SENATOR PORTMAN ON MAR-A-LAGO RAID
“Well, Joe first, I think it’s really important that the FBI and DOJ do come up and provide us with a classified briefing. I would say to go beyond the Intelligence Committee. I’m on the Homeland Security Committee as an example. We have jurisdiction over the National Archives. I would hope that we would have the ability to ask questions, get the real answers. It’s unprecedented to have a raid like this on a former president’s residence, and that’s why I think the transparency should also be unprecedented. Obviously, we need to be careful that sources and methods are not being revealed through classified documents. They should never be taken from the White House in the first place, but we just don’t know the details yet. So yeah, I think it’s important we have that briefing. In terms of whether or not this is going to take place or not, my understanding is the decision for a briefing has not been made yet, but I would hope that next week when Congress is back we could have that kind of a briefing.”