"If you’re on the same side as the Chinese Communist Party, you’ve probably messed up. China wants us to be indifferent. We shouldn’t be. Freedom-loving Americans – whether we’re idealists or realists, or both – should be taking the other side." 

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Video of Senator Sasse's remarks is available here or by clicking the image above.

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement on the crisis in Ukraine urging the U.S. to aggressively arm Ukraine and enforce economic consequences on Russia.

Excerpts of Senator Sasse’s Remarks are below:

“A few political voices, though – on both the right and the left – are telling Americans that they should be indifferent to what’s happening in Eastern Europe… Why can’t we just be indifferent to Ukraine? What is our rooting interest against Putin?” Others ask this cynically to try to land cheap political points. Those advocating for indifference want us to believe no vital American interests are at stake in this conflict. They tell us that isolation will free us up to “build back better” at home or “make America great again.” Those voices are wrong. Indifference is not an option. Whether you’re an optimistic idealist or a hardened realist, Americans shouldn’t be indifferent.” 

“A lot of American isolationists are now saying that China is the primary threat we face so we should be indifferent about Russia aggression. It is true that China is the primary threat we face, which is exactly why we can’t be indifferent about this Russian aggression. Chairman Xi isn't indifferent. Chairman Xi has given Putin his blessing. Russia has eleven time zones, it is a giant country. And right now, practically all of Russia’s military has moved from the east to the western front. There's nothing left on the Chinese border. That doesn’t happen unless Chairman Xi and Vladimir Putin are on the same page. So we should ask ourselves, why is Chairman Xi interested in this? Because Vladimir Putin is running a scout team offense for Chairman Xi’s eventual invasion of Taiwan. Xi wants to know what we will do and what we don’t do. He wants to learn everything he can from this. He wants to create a propaganda victory that demoralizes Taiwan just like President Biden’s shameful exit from Afghanistan sadly did. Xi wants our allies to distrust us and right now it's working.” 

“The Biden Administration has dropped the ball for months and months and months. Every single step of the way, Washington has limited our options and expanded Putin’s opportunities. Let's be clear: Nobody wants a massive ground war with American and NATO troops in Ukraine. Nobody wants a shooting war with Russia. We should, however, have been arming the Ukrainian people to the teeth for months. Putin’s calculus is pretty straightforward: he’s going to go as far as he can until he feels that his intervention is too costly. It isn't like you can let him take Ukraine and then this all gets simpler. The United States should be making it very costly now – not by putting troops on the frontlines in Ukraine, but by running a massive new Lend-Lease program with Kyiv.” 

Full Transcript Below: 

Right now, as I record this, Russian president Vladimir Putin has amassed 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders. If he invades, it will be the largest military offensive in Europe since World War II. That’s seventy-seven years.

A few political voices, though – on both the right and the left – are telling Americans that they should be indifferent to what’s happening in Eastern Europe. Americans on both sides of the political spectrum are right to be asking the question, “why should Putin’s actions matter to the United States? Why should we care? Why can’t we just be indifferent to Ukraine? What is our rooting interest against Putin?”

Some are asking this in good faith. Others ask this cynically to try to land cheap political points. Those advocating for indifference want us to believe no vital American interests are at stake in this conflict. They tell us that isolation will free us up to “build back better” at home or “make America great again.” 

Those voices are wrong. Indifference is not an option. Whether you’re an optimistic idealist or a hardened realist, Americans shouldn’t be indifferent. Here’s why:

First, the idealist case: The American Founding is the promise of universal human dignity. It’s who we are today. It’s in the American DNA to feel solidarity with people fighting for freedom against tyranny.

The Ukrainians are such a people today, and Vladimir Putin is such a tyrant. For his entire reign, Putin has asserted the lie that Ukraine isn’t a real country. He believes that Russia and Ukraine are one nation, and he is more than willing to use brutal force to maintain that lie. More than 13,000 Ukrainians have already been killed since Putin first invaded their country, and annexed Crimea in 2014. The death toll will climb higher.

Putin wants to snuff out Ukraine’s democracy to preserve his despotism. He is nothing more than the leader of a band of thugs, plundering the Russian people. He silences, disappears, and brazenly murders his political opponents. He rigs elections and rewrites the Russian constitution to extend his hold on power. He can’t afford a free Ukraine on his Western border offering a better example.

But you might think that’s all pie-in-the-sky idealism, so here’s the realist case: Ideals like liberty, equality, and sovereignty are only real if they are backed by actual power. That’s why American leadership is so crucial right now. Not only are we the freest nation on Earth, we’re the most powerful. The top dog writes the rules, and after World War II we wrote the rules. We created an international system that has kept the peace, that promoted prosperity, and kept rules that benefited Americans. It also benefitted our allies, but it benefitted us. The world played by our rules and everyone was better for it. Realism and idealism.

Russia may have previously signed international agreements committing to respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty like any other “real nation,” but those pieces of paper don’t matter to Putin if no one, particularly Ukrainians, can stop him from just taking what he decides is rightfully his. 

American inaction has emboldened Putin over the years: 

  • In 2014, he illegally invaded and occupied regions of Ukraine, especially Crimea and Donbass.
  • That same year, he shot down Malaysia Airlines civilian Flight 17, killing hundreds of innocents.
  • In 2016, Russian forces bombed a base which was being used by U.S. and U.K. special forces.
  • Throughout the chaotic Syrian civil war, he repeatedly violated international law by bombing civilian populations, pulsing waves of refugees north into Europe, it was morally abhorrent obviously, to the people he was bombing but he was also seeking to destabilize other nations by flooding refugees across their borders. 
  • In 2018, Putin ordered Russian forces to jam American drones in Syria, hindering our counter-terrorism efforts.
  • In 2019, hackers working for Russia’s military intelligence service launched a massive cyberattack on independent Georgia.
  • The next year, Russia was behind another massive cyberattack in the U.S., on the software company SolarWinds.
  • In 2020, Putin poisoned his chief political rival, Alexei Navalny. 
  • In September of that year, Putin gave support to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko as he seized power in an illegitimate election, securing Belarus as another base for his aggressive troop movements against Ukraine.
  • And then just this month, Putin signed a new anti-America pact with the Chinese Communist Party.

Each time the West has let Putin get away with these acts of aggression and each time, not surprisingly, he just got bolder.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. A lot of American isolationists are now saying that China is the primary threat we face so we should be indifferent about Russia aggression. It is true that China is the primary threat we face, which is exactly why we can’t be indifferent about this Russian aggression. Chairman Xi isn't indifferent. Chairman Xi has given Putin his blessing. Russia has eleven time zones, it is a giant country. And right now, practically all of Russia’s military has moved from the east to the western front. There's nothing left on the Chinese border. That doesn’t happen unless Chairman Xi and Vladimir Putin are on the same page.

So we should ask ourselves, why is Chairman Xi interested in this? Because Vladimir Putin is running a scout team offense for Chairman Xi’s eventual invasion of Taiwan. Xi wants to know what we will do and what we don’t do. He wants to learn everything he can from this. He wants to create a propaganda victory that demoralizes Taiwan just like President Biden’s shameful exit from Afghanistan sadly did. Xi wants our allies to distrust us and right now it's working.

Here’s a general rule in 21st century foreign policy: if you’re on the same side as the Chinese Communist Party, you’ve probably messed up. China wants us to be indifferent. We shouldn’t be. Freedom-loving Americans – whether we’re idealists or realists, or both – should be taking the other side. 

Strategy is about more than just setting the right priorities; it is also about execution and about drawing connections between theaters of interest. Putin and Xi can’t be deterred on the cheap. And that’s exactly why we need strong allies.

The unfortunate reality is that our allies are neither sufficiently unified nor equipped for this crisis. Germany, for instance, has sent squat to Kyiv. In fact, they’re preventing other NATO allies from arming the Ukrainians. The fact of the matter is, the US military is providing far too much of the brick and mortar of NATO’s deterrent force.

There aren’t a lot of great options left. The Biden Administration has dropped the ball for months and months and months. Every single step of the way, Washington has limited our options and expanded Putin’s opportunities.

Let's be clear: Nobody wants a massive ground war with American and NATO troops in Ukraine. Nobody wants a shooting war with Russia.

We should, however, have been arming the Ukrainian people to the teeth for months. Putin’s calculus is pretty straightforward: he’s going to go as far as he can until he feels that his intervention is too costly. It isn't like you can let him take Ukraine and then this all gets simpler. The United States should be making it very costly now – not by putting troops on the frontlines in Ukraine, but by running a massive new Lend-Lease program with Kyiv.

Surging material aid to our Ukrainian friends is an obvious step, but we're late. They need all the anti-armor, anti-ship, defense capabilities we can get them. We should be providing intel support, too. The goal is to facilitate Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression for as long as possible. 

The Biden administration ought to be rolling out an aggressive suite of sanctions on Russia now with the promise of escalation following an invasion. Hit Putin’s wealth, hit his cronies, and hit his precious NordStream2 pipeline to demonstrate seriousness now. Continue to tighten the screws threatening Russian banks, SWIFT, debt transactions and major Russian energy exports.

Let’s be honest: Real economic consequences for Russia come with a risk of economic pain for us and our allies as well. But we can endure those consequences. Russia’s GDP per capita is smaller than Mississippi’s. We can afford to alienate this glorified gas station. But to do that, the President needs to unite Americans. He needs to do it now.

Americans need to understand that we have a serious rooting interest here. The President can’t just shrug off so-called “minor incursions” into Ukraine. Indifference is signaling weakness. The sharks in the Chinese Communist Party smell weakness like blood in the water. In five years if Vladimir Putin is stronger and Chairman Xi is emboldened, no American is going to look back on this moment and think that President Biden handled this crisis correctly. We need strength and clarity not naive indifference.