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tv   U.S. Senate Sens. Sanders and Durbin on Russia Ukraine  CSPAN  February 11, 2022 3:07am-3:46am EST

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mr. sanders: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: mr. president, before i begin, i would like to ask unanimous consent to put in the "congressional record" an open letter to the russian
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leadership from the russian congress of intellectuals who state, and i quote, this is the russian congress of intellectuals. our position is l simple. russia dmots need a war -- russia does not need a war with ukraine and the u.s. such a war has no moral basis, end of quote. this is a very brave statement made by russian intellectuals. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, as i speak today, europe for the first time in almost 80 years is faced with the threat of a major invasion. a large nation threatens a smaller, less powerful neighbor, surrounding it on three sides with well over 100,000 troops as well as tanks and artillery. my colleagues, as we have
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painfully learned, wars have unintended consequences. they rarely turn out the way the planners and experts tell us they will. just ask the officials who provided rosy scenarios for the wars in vietnam, afghanistan, and iraq, only to be proven horribly wrong. just ask the mothers of the soldiers who were killed or wounded in action during those wars. just ask the families of the millions of civilians who became collateral damage in those wars. the war in vietnam cost us 59,000 american deaths and many others who came home wounded in
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body and spirit. the casualties in vietnam, laos and cambodia are almost incalculable, but they are in the millions. in afghanistan, what began as a response to the horrific attack against us on 9/11/2001, eventually became a 20-year war costing us $2 trillion and over 3500 americans who were killed, not to mention tens of thousands of afghan civilians. george w. bush claimed in 2003 that the united states had, quote, put the taliban out of business forever, end of quote. well, not quite the case. the taliban is in power today.
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the war in iraq, which was sold to the american people by stroking fear of a mushroom cloud from iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, led to the deaths of some 4500 u.s. troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others. it led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of iraqis, the displacement of over five million people, and regional destabilization whose consequences the world continues to grapple with today. in other words, despite all of the rosy scenarios we heard for those foreign policy and military interventions, it turned out that the experts were
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wrong and millions of innocent people paid the price. that is why we must do everything possible to find a diplomatic resolution to prevent what would be an enormously destructive war in ukraine. no one knows exactly what the human costs of such a war would be. there are estimates, however, that come from our own military and intelligence community that there could be over 50,000 civilian casualties in ukraine, not to mention millions of refugees flooding neighboring countries as they flee what could be the worst european
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conflict since world war ii. in addition, of course, there would be many thousands of deaths within the ukrainian and russian militaries. there is also the possibility that this regional war could escalate to other parts of europe, a continent with many nuclear weapons, and what might happen then is beyond imagination. but that's not all. the sanctions against russia that would be imposed as a consequence of its actions and russians' threatened response to those sanctions could result in massive economic upheaval with impacts on energy and gas and oil prices in our country.
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banking, food supplies, and the day-to-day needs of ordinary people throughout the entire world. it is likely that russians will not be the only people suffering from sanctions. they would be felt throughout europe. they would be felt right here in the united states and likely around the world. and, by the way -- and we haven't discussed this terribly much -- at a time when the scientific community tells us that climate change is an existential threat to the planet, any hope of international cooperation to address global climate change and to address future pandemics would likely suffer a major setback.
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mr. president, it should be absolutely clear about who is most responsible for the looming crisis, and that is russian president vladimir putin. having already seized parts of ukraine in 2014, putin now threatens to take over the entire country and destroy ukrainian democracy. there should be no disagreement that that behavior is totally unacceptable. in my view, we must unequivocally support the sovereignty of ukraine and make clear that the international community will impose severe consequences on putin and his fellow oligarchs if he does not change course. with that said, mr. president, i am extremely concerned when i hear the familiar drumbeats in
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washington, the bellicose rhetoric that gets amplified before every war demanding that we must show strength, demanding that we must get tough, demanding that we must not engage in appeasement. a simplistic refusal to recognize the complex roots of the tensions in the region undermines the ability of negotiators to reach a peaceful resolution. i know it is not very popular or politically correct, i guess, in washington to consider the perspectives of our adversaries, but i think it's important that we do so if we are going to formulate good policy. i think it is helpful to consider this.
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one of the precipitating factors of this crisis -- one, not the only one -- at least from russia's perspective is the prospect of an enhanced security relationship between ukraine and the united states and western europe, including what russia sees as the threat of ukraine joining the north atlantic treaty alliance, nato, a military alliance originally created in 1949 to confront the soviet union. it is good to know some history. when ukraine became independent after the soviet union collapsed in 1991, russian leaders made clear their concerns about the prospect of former soviet states becoming part of nato and positions hostile military
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forces along russia's border. u.s. officials recognized these concerns as legitimate at the time. one of those officials was william perry, who served as defense secretary under president bill clinton. in a 2017 interview, perry said , and i quote, -- this is defense secretary under bill clinton --, quote, in the last few years most of the blame can be pointed at the actions that putin has taken. but in the early years, i have to say that the united states deserves much of the blame. further quote, our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when nato started to expand, bringing in eastern european nations, some of them
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bordering russia. that is former secretary of state william perry. another u.s. official who acknowledged these concerns is former u.s. diplomat bill burns, who is now head of the c.i.a. in the biden administration. in his member -- in his memoir, burns quotes a memo he wrote at the u.s. embassy in moscow in 1995, and i quote, hostility to early nato expansion is almost universally felt across the domestic political spectrum here, end quote. over ten years later, in 2008, burns wrote in a memo to secretary of state condoleezza rice, and i quote, ukrainian entry into nato is the brightest
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of all red lines for the russian elite, not just putin. in more than two and a half years of conversations with key russian players, i have yet to find anyone who views ukraine in nato as anything other than a direct challenge to russian interests, end of quote. so again, these concerns were not just invented yesterday by putin out of thin air. clearly invasion by russia is not an answer. neither is intransigence by nato. it is important to recognize, for example, that finley, one of the most developed and democratic countries in the world, borders russia and has chosen not to be a member of nato. sweden and austria are other examples of prosperous and democratic countries that have
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made the same choice. mr. president, vladimir putin may be a liar and a demagogue, but it is hypocritical for the united states to insist that we as a nation do not accept the principle of spheres of influence. for the last 200 years, our country has operated under the monroe doctrine, embracing the principle that as the dominant power in the western hemisphere, the united states has the right, according to the united states, to intervene against any country that might threaten our alleged interests. that's united states policy. and under this doctrine, the united states has undermined and overthrown at least a dozen
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countries throughout latin america, central america, and the caribbean. as many might recall, in 1962 we came to the brink of nuclear war with the soviet union. why was that? why did we almost come to the brink of nuclear war with the soviet union? well, we did that in response to the placement of soviet missiles in cuba 90 miles from our shore. and the kennedy administration saw that as an unacceptable threat to national security. we said it is unacceptable for a hostile country to have a significant military presence 9. and let us be clear.
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the monroe doctrine is not ancient history. as recently as 2018, donald trump's secretary of state, rex tillerson, called the monroe doctrine, quote, as relevant today as it was the day it was written, end quote. in 2019, former trump national security advisor, john bolton, declared, quote, the monroe doctrine is alive and well, end quote. to put it simply, even if russia was not ruled by a corrupt oligarchic, authoritarian leader like vladimir putin, russia, like the united states, would still vr an interest in the security policies of its neighbors. and i want people to think about this -- does anyone really believe that the united states would not have something to say
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if, for example, mexico or cuba or any country in central or latin america were to form a military alliance with the u.s. adversary? do you think that members of congress would stand up and say, well, you know, mexico is an independent country. they have the right to do anything they want. i doubt that very much. mr. president, countries should be free to make their own foreign policy choices, but making those choices wisely requires a serious consideration of the costs and benefits. the fact is that the u.s. and ukraine entering into a deeper security relationship is likely to have some very serious costs for both countries.
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mr. president, i believe that we must vigorously support the ongoing diplomatic efforts of the biden administration to de-escalate this crisis. i believe we must reaffirm the ukrainian independence and sovereignty, and we must make clear to putin and his gang of ollie garks that they will -- oligarchs, that they will face major consequences should he continue down the current path. my colleagues, we must never forget the horrors that a war in the region would cause, and must do everything possible to achieve a realistic and mutually agreeable resolution, one that is acceptable to ukraine, russia, the united states and our european allies, and that prevents what could be the worst european war since world war ii. that approach is not weakness.
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it is not appeasement. bringing people together to resolve conflicts without war is strength and it is the right thing to do. thank you, mr. president. yield the floor. mr. durbin: mr. president. mr. schumer: majority whip. mr. durbin: i have six committees to meet today. they have the approval of the majority leader and minority leader. i listened to my friend and colleague, senator sanders from vermont. i read his published article in "the guardian" newspaper yesterday, and it paralleled many of the things which he said on the floor today. we have a very positive starting point between us. i think my record on voting to go to war may be identical to yours, if not very close. neither of us want war. that is the last resort, and it
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is frightfully predictable that there will be innocent people killed, even in the best of times, in the best of military force. secondly, i couldn't agree with you more that we should be promoting all that we can in terms of diplomacy at this moment. the other night, i had the opportunity to be at a meeting with some senators with the new chancellor of germany, chancellor scholz. he was on his way soon to moscow. president macron of france has been there. others are encouraging. i encourage that dialogue as much as possible. i think it is hopeful that these efforts can lead to a peaceful resolution and the -- in the controversy that we are now facing in ukraine. third point, which i certainly agree with, it is certainly in the interest of the united states for our values to make it clear that we want to protect
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and defend, at least not in military fashion, let me say in the general fashion, the notion of sovereignty when it comes to ukraine. it is up to the ukrainian people to chart their course and make their future. where i think we disagree, senator, is on this whole question of sphere of influence. i'm afraid that suggestion is the green light for vladimir putin. if you will concede that he is somehow entitled, because of the size of his country, to reclaim soviet republics or to move into other theaters, i'm sorry, but i have to part company with you at that point. i was fortunate enough 30 years ago or so to be on the ground in the baltics when i saw a dramatic demonstration of courage rarely seen in the world. this tiny nation of three
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million people broke away from the soviet union and scheduled a free election. i was there at the time the election took place. and we knew it was an invitation for mikhail gorbachev to retaliate, and he did. he moved in the soviet tanks and started killing innocent people. before it was all over, more than a dozen innocent lithuanians, several in latvia gave their lives, because they wanted to be free again. who would question why they would want that? i visited that area. my mother was born in lithuania. i must put that on the record. i visited in 1978, and i saw what life was like in the baltic states under soviet rule. it was sad. it was enraging. it was disgusting. what they had done in the soviet union is to forcibly take those countries and others, some through the war saw pact, some
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through the direct accession through the soviet union, and control every aspect of their lives with communism. i went to the university of vilnias, which i believe dates back to the 16th century. they took me to their catholic chapel, which under soviet times had been converted into what they called a museum in tribute of eight ism -- atheism. in display in the middle of the chapel setting were a show case of boomerangs from australia in this holy space, with i they were trying to eradicate by demonstrating a new materiel approach to the entity. i only say this because when the time came and they finally, through their courage, broke from the soviet union, lithuania , latvia and estonia came to me, knowing i had a interest in the people, as did the polish people, and said we
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don't want to be under the thumb of russia ever again. we want our freedom. we want to decide our future. the only way we can achieve is that is if we can align with the united states. can we be considered for nato membership? eventually, through a lot of hard work and determination, that's what occurred. poland and the baltics states, along with others, joined in the nato alliance. it is worth noting here that the nato alliance is a defensive alliance. the savalki gap, which links russia as it now exists with kaliningrad, one ever the former soviet republics is a gap, a land bridge on either side is poland and lithuania. it is still contested territory by the russians. and they're concerned about it. when the russians put tens of thousands of troops in military exercises in the baltic border in belarus, it's understandable
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they're concerned. they are small countries and can be easily pushed over. the only thing that saves them, i believe, is their noolt. should -- is that their nato alliance. should ukraine be part of the nato alliance? there are two decisions, and the first is by the ukrainian people. they have to decide if that is in their best interest and future. we cannot decide it for them, nor should we try to. secondly, the nato alliance has to decide. under article 5 are we willing to risk the lives of the nato allies if some terrible event should occur in ukraine? that is what the sovereign nations of poland, lithuania, latvia, estonia and others did when they decided to ask for membership in nato. i don't understand this theory of turs that somehow vladimir putin is entitled to a sphere of influence or control. that to me is unacceptable and inconsistent with the notion of ukrainian sovereignty.
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if they are to decide their future, how can we say that vladimir putin has any voice in that process? there is a way that he can find a more peaceful situation in the world, and it's if he'll stop being a thug and stop sending his troops on the border of countries, and stop cutting off gas supplies to countries that he doesn't like. his strong arm tactics deserve a response from the united states, and i'm afraid simply sending a harsh letter is not enough anymore. so we've made it clear that he will pay a price if he invades, the noorlt has, that -- the nato alliance has. that price will be a string of sanctions, which are included, some, in the legislation that senator menendez is working on, which i've cosponsored. that is the only way to make it clear to him that that is such a price to be paid. what he has done is very obvious to me. he has united the nato alliance in a way we didn't expect, and there were some divisions within the alliance, some serious, some
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not serious. but he has brought us together. we should be together, standing in defense of the territory of the nato allies and making it clear if vladimir putin is going to try to extend his reach into ukraine or any other area, he will at least meet with political resistance. i think at a minimum that's where it should be. i hope it doesn't go any further. i share your feeling on that. i don't want the military situation to escalate and to threaten american lives and involve us at that level at all. but unless we're firm with him now and don't concede that he has any sphere of influence in ukraine, i'm afraid he will take advantage of the situation. i'm open to a question, if you have one. or i'd like to have a dialogue, if possible, on this. through the chair, of course. mr. sanders: i appreciate the thoughts of my friend from illinois. much of what he said i obviously agreed with. my father came from poland as
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well. i think maybe the difference of opinion that we have has something to do with what we don't talk about very often, openly, but i think everybody knows exists. i mention, and i think you will not disagree with me, that over the last many, many decades the united states has overthrown governments throughout latin america, central america, and the caribbean. there is no denying that we almost went to a nuclear war in 1962 under the kennedy administration, who felt, and probably correctly, that soviet missiles in cuba, 90 miles away from us, were a threat to this country and not to be tolerated. so, i only ask my friend from illinois to put himself into the mindset of russians. and that is nobody here, not me
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certainly, has ever talked to you about reclaiming other countries. let me mention that. certainly not anything that i support. but if the united states has a right to overthrow countries throughout latin america to protect our so-called interests, if there would be an uproar in this chamber perhaps from you and me as well, if mexico, an independent nation, decided to form a military alliance with china or russia, people say, well, you can't do that. should we not put ourselves a little bit in russia's position and understanding that if we consider latin america and central america and the caribbean within our sphere of influence, the right to intervene, that russia itself might have some legitimate concerns about military forces five miles from their border? that's the question i was asking. mr. durbin: and it's a legitimate, historic question. but if you're saying that in the name of the monroe doctrine, to
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protect ourselves in this hemisphere we have done things which we're not proud of today, interfering with the sovereignty of nations, the term banana republic emerged from that monroe doctrine and whapt in many of these -- what happened in many of these countries, they became vessels of the american economy. i don't say that with any pride. we wouldn't want that to happen in europe, would we, with putin invading the sovereignty of other nations? sarnd -- mr. sanders: it's not just history, you and i can agree that the united states should not have overthrown governments. the monroe doctrine exists today. i don't know how many people in this chamber would tell you that it does not exist today. i use that example, to my friend
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from illinois. if mexico were to enter into an alliance with china, would my friend say, well, mexico's an independent country, they have the right to do anything they want? mr. durbin: i think that hypothetical is just that. of course, it's only a hypothetical, but look at the reality, it wasn't that long ago when you can with a dor -- ecuador elected a new president. russia, cuba, and iran, are not on a list of close allies. did we invade ecuador? never considered it. we live in a different time. i understand the monroe document and moving a handful of troops back to take over the republic. but to have a notion that there is going to be a military alliance in the united states,
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therefore putin is able to invade ukraine, that doesn't make sense. mr. sanders: the secretary of the united states said the monroe doctrine is alive and well, and, yes, of course, it's hypothetical. i do not believe that mexico will enter into an alliance with china. but all i ask is to put what is going on in russia into a context and to look at american policy and history as well. this is a complicated issue and i think it's important for us to at elizabeth look at the -- to at least look at the concerns that russia has. there is no disagreement that if putin were to commit the horrible, horrible blunder of invading ukraine, count me in as somebody who will go as far as
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we can to make sure there are real consequences against the oligarchs on that policy. if we are to reach a settlement on a very important issue, it is important to understand a little bit on russia's issues. mr. durbin: i would only say, i believe ukraine has been a victim of russian aggression for a long period of time. the leader who was deposed in ukraine at the m -- when the midon demonstrations took place was a servant and vessel of moscow. i believe it was the russians who invaded crimea and reclaimed that territory, it was the russians who sent in little green men with symbols on their uniform and continued to kill innocent ukrainians for eight years now.
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it is clear that ukraine has been a victim of russian aggression for a long period of time. to suggest the notion that this is it somehow within putin's sphere of influence is to rationalize putin's contact. i don't think we should. you don't put 100,000 troops on the border and threaten war unless you plan to have military -- it won't be long until the -- that the russians invade. the sphere of influence, the united states has made its own mistakes in the past with the sphere of influence and that we should look away at what putin is doing is contradictory. mr. sanders: the senator knows i'm not in for looking the other way. that's not a fair statement. as i said many, many times, strongly supportive of major, major, major consequences if
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putin invades ukraine and we've got to do everything we can to protect ukrainian sovereignty. i made my point. mr. durbin: and i thank you for it. and i want to close by saying, i see a senator is waiting to speak. i close by saying that i hope very soon in the next couple of weeks to make a trip to poland and to the baltics, and i will you that the people of polish descent and baltic descent are watching these events by the day. they lived through the soviet takeover of their countries and they understand with the freedom of speech and religious belief as a result of it. they don't want to return to those days. the united states has said we are committed to their democracy and i think we have demonstrated it and should continue to, i hope that putin will not take
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advantage of the situation and invade ukraine. i'm not calling for a
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