U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

February 19, 2022

Why Ukraine Matters

February 19, 2022

Dear Fellow Marylander:

By the time you read this email, there is a chance that Russia will have begun its incursion into Ukraine. We don’t know what Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, will do. What we do know is what Putin has done in the past. His playbook sets forth a pattern of misinformation and provocation that is extremely dangerous. It could spark one of the worst wars in Europe in decades.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Europe right now and is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to continue talks. Mr. Lavrov is cut from the same cloth as Mr. Putin, so anything he says will need to be verified. (Cue the clip in your head of Ronald Reagan talking about the Soviet Union.)

Just last week, the Russians said they were starting to move troops away from Ukraine’s borders. Instead, they moved more troops into range for a potential strike. 

At this point, you are thinking either, “Wow, that sounds serious. I want to hear more.” Or you are wondering, “Ben, when will you start talking about issues that really matter to me?”

Both are valid positions, although I would like to take a moment to explain why what happens between Russia and Ukraine is important to life here, more than 5,000 miles away.

On Thursday, at the United Nations Security Council, Secretary Blinken made clear that the world “must address what Russia is doing right now to Ukraine.” He said that, “This is a moment of peril for the lives and safety of millions of people … the basic principles that sustain peace and security — principles that were enshrined in the wake of two world wars and Cold War — are under threat. The principle that one country cannot change the borders of another by force. The principle that one country cannot dictate another’s choices or policies, or with whom it will associate. The principle of national sovereignty.”

If Russia chooses to invade Ukraine, rather than accept a diplomatic solution to end its threatening behavior, people will get hurt and many will die. And where will it stop?

The country already has a military presence in Belarus, the former Soviet state. What other nation will be next in line for Russian aggression? Our world has incredible challenges, but the rule of law and respecting the sovereignty of established nations is foundational. If a country like Russia is allowed to so blatantly flout international norms, what other dictator or authoritarian leader will step up next? China most certainly will see it as an open door for more aggression toward Taiwan.

Right now, around the world, there are approximately 26 million refugees — men, women and children forced to flee their home country — according to the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees. There also are about 48 million people who have been internally displaced from their homes, meaning they need to flee to another part of their country. We are experiencing one of the greatest human crises of all time. A war in Europe, started by Russia, will only add to these dire numbers. Where will these families go? Will we welcome them here in the U.S., as with recent refugees from Afghanistan? Will they want to go somewhere so far from their home? Can they be absorbed elsewhere in Europe, if they can’t go home? The strain on neighboring nations would be severe. 

In our global economy, a hot war in Europe — a major business and cultural partner with the U.S. — would have a direct impact on supplies heading to the U.S. It also would damage economic markets that drive investment and what we see on our grocery shelves. President Biden has been working with our allies to open up supply chains and ease pressures that cause prices to spike, but if you think gas prices are high now, wait until ground troops start moving

Stopping Russia from invading Ukraine is as much to protect the American people as it is to save lives and protect the rule of law. To be sure – and as President Biden has made clear – there is no prospect of American soldiers getting involved in a shooting war with Russia. The troop movements you have heard about are not about sending our military to Ukraine. We are sending weapons and equipment to enable Ukrainians and our NATO allies to defend themselves. And we are preparing economic sanctions against Putin’s inner circle and major economic actors in Russia as part of the effort to deter Putin actually crossing the border into Ukraine.

Has the entire federal government turned its attention to Russia and Ukraine and turned away from helping the American people at home? Of course not. Congress and the Biden administration continue to find ways to tackle inflation and high prices. In addition to the aforementioned work by the administration to ease pressure points on goods flowing in and out of the U.S., jobs are being created through generational investments in infrastructure like roads, bridges, tunnels and the other basics that keep our local communities running. 

The pain at the pump is real for all of us, but unemployment is down and wages are rising. Under Democratic leadership in President Biden’s first year, the economy has grown at an amazing rate of 5.7 percent and added more than 6.6 million new jobs, the most ever in a one-year period. The unemployment rate declined more than any year on record and we achieved a 4 percent unemployment rate years earlier than previously projected, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. Compared to this time last year, sales at grocery stores, restaurants and clothing stores, among others, increased. This underscores the strength of the American economy as we recovered from the pandemic. Small business applications and inflation-adjusted household income are both up, and child poverty and hunger are down.

Senate Democrats are laser-focused on building on the momentum of the president’s first year and continue to fight to lower costs for American families by shoring up domestic supply chains and increasing domestic manufacturing, as well as lowering the cost of food, prescription drugs, gas prices, semiconductors and so much more.

This week, Congress passed a resolution condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine AND moved closer to finalizing a budget for this current fiscal year.

Like you, we multitask. We look both around the world and right here at home. We prioritize funding for broadband while fending off international cyberattacks. We act to protect Marylanders and all Americans — their lives, their families, and their checkbooks. Turning a blind eye to what goes on 5,000 miles away is no longer possible in this interconnected world. 

I’m sure you still have questions. And I will keep working to provide you with answers that are based on facts. 

Thank you for your time. 


Ben Cardin