'Republicans spent months urging President Biden to put more lethal aid in Ukrainian hands before Russian invasion made those deliveries much more difficult... We warned repeatedly that the Biden Administration must not let these actions be slowed down to the speed of bureaucracy. But that is what happened. As President Zelensky himself said publicly last week, while he appreciates the Western help, much of it is ultimately arriving 'too late.'
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 8, 2022) – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Ukraine:
"As I mentioned yesterday, Senators had the chance to hear directly from Ukraine's President, Volodymyr Zelensky, over the weekend. He and his constituents, the brave people of Ukraine, have won hearts and minds across the world.
"Their pain is Putin's fault. But — as I and others warned for weeks before the invasion — that pain has been compounded by the West's hesitation and sluggishness in helping Ukraine prepare for this onslaught which we all saw coming.
"This crisis was not only foreseeable; it was foreseen.
"Republicans spent months urging President Biden to put more lethal aid in Ukrainian hands before Russian invasion made those deliveries much more difficult.
"We urged the Administration to reinforce our eastern flank NATO partners before Putin escalated his war against Ukraine, rather than playing catch-up. We called for heavier sanctions before Putin had fully committed his forces and his pride.
"We warned repeatedly that the Biden Administration must not let these actions be slowed down to the speed of bureaucracy. But that is what happened. As President Zelensky himself said publicly last week, while he appreciates the Western help, much of it is ultimately arriving 'too late.'
"The Biden Administration is now finally doing many of the things they slow-walked months ago as too provocative or too escalatory. Providing Stingers. Sharing intelligence reporting. Deploying more forces to NATO's eastern flank. Finally, finally, getting out of the way of sanctioning Nord Stream 2.
"Now, as supplies dwindle and safe resupply and transit corridors narrow, friends of Ukraine will have to work even harder to help the citizens and their government stay in the fight.
"It has been obvious for some time that Ukraine would benefit from receiving Soviet-era aircraft and air defense systems from our eastern flank NATO partners who still maintain inventories of such weapons. The US can help these allies worried about giving up such capabilities by helping to backfill with American-made and NATO-standard weapons.
"I understand the Administration may be finally coming around to support this — but again, at the stately pace of bureaucracy. This needs to get done yesterday.
"Meanwhile the Congress is acting. That includes additional security assistance funding for Ukraine and our eastern flank NATO allies in the supplemental appropriations bill, along with funding for loan guarantees to help eastern flank countries buy American weapons to shore up our collective defenses.
"I appreciate the Democratic Leader working in good faith to accommodate my request that the funding bill significantly increase the security assistance drawdown fund available to the President and to backfill our DOD stockpiles that are helping our friends in harm's way. I hope we finalize these steps soon.
"This supplemental is urgent. But the fact is the White House has thus far taken steps that limit their own options and made them miss the window to provide impactful assistance.
"This Administration not only reportedly refused a request prior to the conflict to increase the number of U.S. military trainers in the country, but moved the advisors we had to the far west of the country, and then pulled them from the country entirely, like they also pulled out our entire diplomatic mission.
"These non-combat advisors could have helped facilitate more shipments of weapons to the field and more training to teach Ukrainians how to use them. They could have laid important logistical groundwork to ensure weapons could continue to flow to the frontlines after conflict began.
"In area after area, the record shows the Biden Administration pulled their punches even though everybody knew that war was coming. And even so, the Ukrainians are mounting an incredible and brave resistance.
"Imagine where those brave people might be now if our Administration had moved at the speed of necessity rather than the snail's pace of bureaucracy.
"Now we must commit to keep lethal aid flowing.
"We have to continue strengthening NATO and deepening our security partnerships and interoperability with other European partners. We need to encourage more commitments like the German chancellor's recent announcement that they will massively step up their investment in their own defense and in NATO.
"And perhaps most important of all, we cannot have Washington politicians in the business of short-changing our own defense spending at the very time we are pleading with Western Europe to increase theirs.
"We have to lead by example and make the kind of robust investments needed for long-term competition with Russia and China.
"In the meantime, Madam President, the sobering reality is that Ukraine is very likely to see more and escalating brutality in the days and weeks ahead. The world remembers the butchery in Grozny and the cold-blooded targeting in Aleppo. And the world will remember this moment, as Russia sics conscripts on Ukrainian civilians and arrests its own people for objecting.
"For all of the Kremlin's lies about Ukraine, about how it's supposedly just an extension of Russia and its people are really Russians, we now know for certain that Russians and Ukrainians do have at least one thing in common: Vladimir Putin considers their lives equally disposable."