Dear Fellow Marylanders,
As you may have already seen, earlier this week President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv – the first visit by a sitting United States president in nearly 15 years. After a 10-hour overnight train ride from Poland, President Biden arrived early Monday morning, air raid sirens blaring overhead, to tour the embattled streets of Ukraine’s capital. There, he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, paid his respects to lives lost since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukrainian democracy and territorial sovereignty.
President Biden’s presence alone delivered a clear message: the Free World continues to stand with the people of Ukraine.
The timing of this visit was not random. Yesterday, February 24, marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s latest illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. For the last 12 months, the Ukrainian people have been endlessly bombarded by Russian missiles and seen entire residential neighborhoods leveled. Food, water and infrastructure supplies have been intentionally destroyed by Russian forces, who also have targeted hospitals and ambulances. Tragically, thousands of civilians have perished in the conflict, including hundreds of children.
I continue to be inspired by the resilience, tenacity and strength of the Ukrainian people. Initially outnumbered, many – especially Vladimir Putin – expected Kyiv to fall within days or weeks of the first attacks. Instead, the nation continues to repel invading forces and resist the ongoing onslaught. Russia’s armed forces have stalled and are weakening each passing month.
As President Biden noted in his joint address with President Zelenskyy:
“Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map. Putin’s war of conquest is failing. Russia’s military has lost half its territory it once occupied. Young, talented Russians are fleeing by the tens of thousands, not wanting to come back to Russia, because they see no future in their country. Russia’s economy is now a backwater, isolated and struggling.”
Over the past year, the Biden administration has successfully mobilized the Free World in an extraordinary display of American leadership, diplomatic acumen and military planning. The international community has stepped up with humanitarian aid and military supplies to enable Ukraine to defend itself. European allies like Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic have accepted with open arms millions of Ukrainian refugees forced to flee from their homelands. Globally coordinated sanctions against Russia’s energy, defense, and technology sectors are setting back Russia’s economy by as much as 30 years.
In Maryland and across the country, Americans have demonstrated significant support for Ukraine. For example, last year the Baltimore non-profit Dnipro Ukrainian Club raised over $3 million for humanitarian aid for the United Nations Refugee Agency. Americans regardless of political backgrounds have recognized the importance of supporting a fellow democracy in need.
The bipartisan outpouring of support has also reached the halls of Congress. Over the past year, Democrats and Republicans alike have pursued swift and bold action to support the Ukrainian people. This includes the final passage of the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act, which I authored with my colleague Senator John Cornyn of Texas. This law helps the United States bypass bureaucratic hurdles for leasing or lending U.S defense articles for Ukraine. Bipartisan congressional aid packages signed into law this December also provided tens of billions of dollars in humanitarian and defense support.
While Congress has taken a slew of actions to support Ukrainian sovereignty, we can do more. I recently reintroduced legislation with Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi that would have the U.S. designate the Russian mercenary Wagner Group as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. This has been Putin’s private army and they have been credibly linked to mass atrocities committed in Syria, across Africa, and now Ukraine. If passed, this bill would help cut off financial and military tools at Wagner’s disposal.
It’s been a rough year for the Ukrainian people, which is why I am proud to see continued unity, both at home and abroad, as they surprise their Russian invaders. While Putin thought his senseless war would divide the West, it has strengthened the unity among most nations around the world in support of democracy and in opposition to violence and autocracy.
As congressional leaders – including this senator – and the president have made clear over the past year, stopping Russia’s illegal invasion is as much about protecting Ukrainians as it is about protecting Americans and our national security. Respecting the rule of law and the sovereignty of world nations is foundational to creating a safe, free and open world. Russia and other nations that blatantly flout international norms, commit atrocities against unarmed civilians and promulgate propaganda to stir confusion about their true intentions must feel real consequences for such malign activity.
President Biden noted: “Unchecked aggression is a threat to all of us.”
At this point, you may be asking: “How will this war end?” Like any other American, I am keen to see an end to the fighting in Eastern Europe.
Russia is the aggressor state, so to achieve peace, Russia must immediately cease its war of aggression, withdraw all forces, and recognize Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. This war can end tomorrow if Russia removes its troops from Ukraine. There must be accountability, especially for those complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity and acts of genocide.
Today, I returned from a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly. I have been active in this group of lawmakers from the 57 countries of the OSCE region for many years. I was the head of the U.S. delegation and made clear the unified support for Ukraine against Russia war of aggression. I was honored to meet and spend time with Ukrainian parliamentarians to underscore that support and express our admiration for Ukraine’s inspirational defense of its sovereignty.
On this one-year anniversary, let us honor those lives lost in Ukraine and urge an end to the senseless killing and war. We honor those Ukrainians holding the line for democracy and commit to bolstering their defenses however long it takes.
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on the last year in Ukraine, or any topic. I value your feedback.