This past week, I was fortunate enough to join a bipartisan group of members on a trip to Israel.
This trip gave us a chance to speak directly with Israeli leadership, including Prime Minister Neftali Bennett, Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Our meetings and visits provided us with a better understanding of the important strategic, diplomatic, and cultural relationships between the U.S. and the people of Israel. As the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel is a beacon of freedom in the region.
Our trip also highlighted the importance of the U.S. standing by our allies and partners around the globe, especially in the face of hostile actions from neighbors.
At this very moment, Russia is engaged in an all-out invasion of Ukraine, a sovereign democracy and a crucial American ally. While the sanctions the Biden Administration has put in place are welcome, they are long overdue and have so far come up short in their goal to deter Russia and Vladimir Putin.
In his 2005 State of the Nation Address, Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”. He has always had the view that the former republics of the Soviet Union belong together and has shown this numerous times throughout the past few years. In 2008, the Russian army invaded Georgia to support rebels in Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions. The international community did little to punish Russia. In 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. The international community did little beyond stating that what Russia did violated international law and Crimea still belonged to Ukraine. Since March of 2014, pro-Russian rebels have been attempting a revolution in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. This culminated with Russia formally recognizing the Ukrainian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk on February 21st and launching a full invasion and military campaign against Ukraine on February 22nd.
While sanctions from the Administration against Russia, the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and Putin are welcome, we must do more to stand up for our allies.
We must immediately cut off Russia from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). SWIFT is a global payment system that links world banks and losing access to it would cripple Russia’s economy in a way that other sanctions have not. We should immediately shut off Russian energy exports to the rest of the world. We should directly sanction the Russian lawmakers who voted to recognize the Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states. We have to sanction the government, economy, and leadership of Belarus, Russia’s puppet that has been a willing accomplice to the invasion of Ukraine. We must also reinforce our support of surrounding countries such as Romania, Latvia, and Poland. And not to be dismissed, reignite domestic US oil and natural gas production for exportation which reduces European nations reliance on Russia and drives down energy prices.
When I was a child, my parents taught my siblings and I to keep our promises and follow up our words with action.
It is time to act and hold Russia accountable. Our Ukrainian allies need our support and they need it now.