Lawmakers press Biden for ‘harsh’ response to Putin’s troop deployment

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Lawmakers press Biden for 'harsh' response to Putin's troop deployment

President Biden is facing criticism from Republicans and members of his own party over the White House ​response to Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying “peacekeeping” troops to breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, a move some fear is a prelude to an all-out invasion. 

After Putin decreed that the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are independent republics, the Biden administration imposed a set of sanctions that would bar Americans from conducting “investment, trade, and financing” in the two territories.

The White House said additional sanctions would be announced on Tuesday. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Putin is “playing the West like a fiddle,” and called for forceful penalties designed to “destroy the ruble and crush the Russian oil and gas sector.”

Graham posted on Twitter shortly after Putin’s rambling one-hour speech Monday in which he railed about a series of historical grievances involving the former Soviet Union, slammed the West for expanding NATO’s presence in Europe, and argued for returning Ukraine to Russia. 

A Russian armored vehicle stands on a road in the Rostov region of Russia on Feb. 22, 2022, a day after President Vladmir Putin ordered troops to two breakaway regions in the Ukraine.
A Russian armored vehicle stands on a road in the Rostov region of Russia on Feb. 22, 2022, a day after President Vladmir Putin ordered troops to two breakaway regions in the Ukraine.
EPA
Grass burns near a power line that was damaged in an attack in Donetsk's Petrovsky District.
Grass burns near a power line that was damaged in an attack in Donetsk’s Petrovsky District.
ZUMAPRESS.com

“​Putin’s decision to declare eastern Donetsk and Luhansk as independent regions within Ukraine is both a violation of the Minsk Agreements and a declaration of war against the people of Ukraine​,” the South Carolina Republican said​.

“​When it comes to thugs like Putin disrupting world order and destroying democracies — enough is enough​,” he added​.

S​en. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also called for a more assertive response to deter Putin’s militancy.

“Putin is using smoke and mirrors to continue chipping away at Ukraine’s sovereignty, in hopes that the West won’t react, which has proved to be true thus far. Today’s events are tantamount to an invasion​,” Risch said in a statement​. ​

“​This is precisely the kind of action that many of us expected, and it is one step closer to Putin’s clear goal of dismantling Ukraine’s sovereignty. The U.S. and our allies must immediately implement harsh sanctions that Putin cannot ignore​,” he added.

​​”​If this administration wishes to have a strong and decisive reaction that will deter even more aggressive behavior, they should follow our lead​ ​—​ ​the world is watching, and decisive action is needed​,” Risch continued.​​​

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) ​ripped the Biden administration for not clearly describing Putin’s actions as an “invasion,” warning that America’s enemies are watching how US deals with Russia.​

Sen. Lindsay Graham
Sen. Lindsay Graham called for sanctions designed to “destroy the ruble.”
EPA
Sen. Bill Hagerty
Sen. Bill Hagerty warned President Biden that the world is watching how the US responds to Putin.
AP

“​Biden’s feckless foreign policy increases the risks. As the White House equivocates on whether Putin’s further invasion of Ukrainian territory is even an invasion, Xi Jinping & the Chinese Communist Party​ — ​with designs on Taiwan​ — ​are watching closely​,” Hagerty said on Twitter.

In the posting, Hagerty linked to comments from a senior administration official who said that Putin moving into Donbas was not a “new step.”

“Russia has had forces in the Donbas region for the past eight years,” the official told reporters in a Monday briefing.

Putin’s government has propped up separatist forces in the region since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The administration official also said that Putin’s Monday incursion would not yet prompt the “swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also criticized the Biden administration decision to hold off on slapping Russia with more punishing sanctions. 

“For Biden to argue that sending troops into eastern #Ukraine was insufficient to trigger broader sanctions against #Putin is not acceptable,” he wrote on Twitter. 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich likened Biden’s reply to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Adolf Hitler as the Nazi leader’s forces swept across Europe in the late 1930s.​

Sen. Jim Risch
Sen. Jim Risch said that Russia’s actions in deploying “peacekeeping” troops were “tantamount to an invasion​.”
REUTERS

“​The Biden Administration talks and Putin acts. This is such a clear replay of Chamberlain trying to deal with Hitler that it is more than a little frightening,” Gingrich wrote on Twitter.

“Putin is pushing day by day and has no fear of NATO because he has no fear of the United States or its President,” he added.

The criticism of Biden did not come only from Republicans. Democrats also urged Biden to take more decisive steps to deter further Russian pushes into Ukraine.

Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Putin had carried out an “act of unprovoked aggression and a brazen violation of international law. This illegal recognition is an attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden has faced criticism from members of both parties.
via REUTERS

“To be clear, if any additional Russian troops or proxy forces cross into Donbas, the Biden administration and our European allies must not hesitate in imposing crushing sanctions. There must be tangible, far-reaching and substantial costs for Russia in response to this unjustified act​,” added Menendez (D-NJ). ​

“The time for taking action to impose significant costs on President Putin and the Kremlin starts now,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and longtime Biden ally, said in a statement.

“By recognizing two fake ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukrainian territory that his own military actions have carved out of eastern Ukraine since 2014, and then ordering in Russian troops as alleged ‘peacekeepers,’ Putin has rejected the Minsk agreement and clearly violated Ukrainian sovereignty and international law,” Coons went on.

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