Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is on the Armed Services Committee. He spoke with NBC Connecticut's Mike Hydeck about the United States' strategy going into the Russia-Ukraine invasion.
Mike Hydeck: "The Biden administration started weeks ago to publicly share intelligence, with the press in advance of the invasion, actually predicting that Putin would create a false reason to invade Ukraine. Why do you think President Biden and his administration decided to go that route in the beginning?"
Richard Blumenthal: "A couple of reasons, Mike. First, I think the Biden administration wanted to show that Putin was being a liar. By offering to engage in talks that were simply a cover for a long planned, premeditated, unprovoked invasion. It was unnecessary, it will have severe costs for the Ukrainian people, but also for the Russian people who will feel the economic pain and loss of life and for all of us all around the world, because the disruption of markets, whether for fuel and oil, or for wheat, and corn, will raise prices everywhere. That's the result of Putin's aggression. And I think the Biden administration wanted to demonstrate that it had the intelligence that it did. And also second reason is that it hoped, unfortunately, vainly that it could deter Putin from this very misguided miscalculation, because showing that they knew what he was up to, in effect, might discourage him or deter him. Let me just say, Mike, you know, I visited Ukraine about five weeks ago, my thoughts and heart are with the Ukrainian people, as I met them, not only the president of Ukraine Zelenskyy, but many of everyday ordinary Ukrainians who right now are cowering under bombardment from Russian tanks and planes. And I think Americans have a moral imperative as well as a national security interest in economics for the interest."
Mike Hydeck: "Senator, let's talk economics. The sanctions that are coming in place - former Attorney General Colin Powell would often say, and I'm paraphrasing here, if the U.S. commits to a military mission, we need to go in with overwhelming force, and we need an exit strategy. Now, we're not committing to troops on the ground in Ukraine. But in that vein, the sanctions that are imposed so far, would you consider them overwhelming? And what is our exit strategy?"
Richard Blumenthal: "First, Mike, I have been calling for even stronger sanctions for months, sanctions that would disconnect the Russian banks from the world financial system. Sanctions that would stop exports to Russia, of our technology, like semiconductors necessary for Russia's aerospace industry and other sectors of the economy and sanctions targeting Putin personally and directly, the millions of dollars in assets that he has stolen from the Russian people and secreted around the world along with assets of his oligarchs. So I look forward to even stronger sanctions. I commend the start of these sanctions, but I've called for even stronger sanctions going back months and more arms delivered to the Ukrainian people so they can resist in their homes, their neighborhoods, their communities against this Russian invasion, more stinger and javelin missiles against the tanks and aircraft Russians are throwing at the Ukrainian people. What's our exit strategy? You know, sanctions have to continue because the pain that it's caused Putin will deter him eventually from this kind of aggression. And we will have no American troops on the ground, so no need to exit them. But we do have a treaty obligation to Poland and the Baltic states that are members of NATO. And those American troops there will not be exited until we are sure that the NATO allies are secure."
Pictures from the Russian Attacks on Ukraine
Mike Hydeck: "Senator Blumenthal, let's talk about the impact here in the United States. What do we expect the impact on the economy to be? We realize that we're expecting maybe grocery store prices to go up gasoline to go up - how do we mitigate those as we move forward trying to support Ukraine?
Richard Blumenthal: "I'm calling for the president to release more products from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve so that gasoline prices can be kept in check. I've called on my colleagues to pass a new measure suspending the 18.4 cent federal tax on gasoline to bring down the cost of fuel at the pump. I've called for measures to release the bottlenecks in the supply chain so that we can lower prices, we can take specific steps to cut the cost of living and bring down inflation. But this disruption that Putin has caused in the world markets for grain, for fuel, the dangers to the supply chain that he has raised through this invasion are going to cause economic pain all around the world. I hope that we will take steps, the administration and Congress together to bring down the cost of living and inflation in very specific ways with bipartisan support."
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