Capital Region

Local congressional reps weigh in on Ukraine invasion

From left: U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam
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From left: U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-Saratoga, Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck, Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam

All three members of Congress representing the greater Capital Region on Thursday condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and all three called for tough economic sanctions against Russia, but none of the them offered support for sending in ground troops to help the Ukrainians.

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, however, distinguished her views from her Democratic colleagues — U.S. Reps. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam and Antonio Delgado, D-Rhinebeck — by stating she believes President Joe Biden’s administration should have imposed greater economic sanctions against Russia before the invasion started.

“I do not support the deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine,” Stefanik wrote in an email response to several questions for this story. “While President Biden delayed in issuing sanctions against Russian aggression, I led a bill to apply sanctions against Russia for its aggression towards Ukraine. Biden should have been working with Congress to enact key legislation such as the [Guaranteeing Ukrainian Autonomy by Reinforcing its Defense] Act, which I co-sponsored with Ranking Members McCaul, Rogers, and Turner, rather than lobbying against Republican-backed efforts to impose sanctions on Nord Stream II.”

The GUARD Act Stefanik referred to was proposed by some House Republicans in January and called for $200 million to bolster Ukraine’s air defense, and would have imposed sanctions on the Nord Stream II pipeline, more than a month before Germany finally agreed to halt certification of the pipeline in response to Russian aggression on Wednesday. The GUARD Act was never considered by the Democratic-controlled Congress amid tense talks between the Biden administration and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, but did represent a return to the GOP’s previously unambiguous support for Ukraine against Russia prior to the administration of President Donald Trump, who had changed the party’s platform in 2016 to remove language supporting arming Ukraine in favor of “providing appropriate assistance.”

Of the three local congressional representatives, only Tonko signed onto a letter released Tuesday from 43 members of the House of Representatives, with a bipartisan roster as diverse as U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-Jackson Heights, and Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, urging Biden to seek congressional approval before deploying any ground troops into the war between Russia and Ukraine. The Biden administration has made it clear the U.S. will not intervene militarily in the conflict, but will defend and reinforce all NATO allies, including several countries on Ukraine’s western border.

In a Facebook post Thursday, Tonko offered information to members of the public trying to help any U.S. citizens seeking to leave Ukraine, directing them to call the U.S. Department of State at 1-833-741-2777, in the U.S., or 1-606-260-4379 from overseas. He directed people to go to cacms.state.gov/s/crisis-intake where they can find an online assistance form.

“I strongly condemn Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, which is in clear violation of international law,” Tonko said in a released statement. “As President Biden has stated, we must quickly implement a powerful response to target Putin and his cronies with serious, aggressive sanctions, and continue coordinating with our allies to fullest extent to uphold global peace. The Ukrainian people require and deserve our support. We will continue providing security assistance to ensure Ukraine is able to defend itself. When Congress returns to Washington next week, I anticipate a briefing from the Administration on its assessment of the situation and its strategy moving forward to ensure that we hold Russia accountable.”

Delgado’s comments were similar to Tonko’s.

“Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine constitutes a grave violation of international law and is an affront to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “This incursion marks a dangerous new escalation in Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine. We cannot afford inaction. We must work with our allies in NATO and the European Union to impose severe, robust sanctions on the Russian government. Putin’s actions have already galvanized Western governments, reinvigorated NATO, and strengthened the resolve of democracies in Eastern Europe. While the coming weeks will be difficult, we must hold Putin and the corrupt oligarchs around him accountable.”

Stefanik’s remarks included criticism of both Biden and Putin.

“President Biden’s announcement today was yet another example of weak and failed leadership on the world stage,” she said. “The United States must immediately take action to impose crippling sanctions not only on financial institutions, but on the Russian energy sector, and freeze any U.S. assets and property of Putin-backed Russian oligarch billionaire henchman. We must also commit to 100% American energy independence and move immediately on the NYET Act which would impose additional costs on Russia, provide vital support and resources to Ukraine, and reassures NATO’s eastern flank. I do not support the deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine.”

Although former President Trump in an interview on the podcast the “Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show” Tuesday praised Putin’s justification for invading Ukraine as “genius” Stefanik blasted the authoritarian.

“I join the American people in praying for the safety of innocent Ukrainians as they endure an unwarranted and unjustified invasion by a gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator,” she said. “Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and deranged thug. We must stand with democracies under assault.”

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, Saratoga County, Schenectady County

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