Blumenthal on Ukraine


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Winsted Citizen reporter Reynaldo Cruz interviewed Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Jan. 23, shortly after the senator’s return from his most recent trip to Ukraine. Following are highlights of the interview, edited for length and clarity.

Diplomacy on the Back Burner

At some point diplomacy may well end the war with Russia, but not in the immediate future.

A temporary solution or a ceasefire only enables Putin to amass more strength and prepare for another invasion. Putin is determined to conquer Ukraine. If he’s committed to defeat Ukraine, he will go to NATO allies. And that will mean American troops on the ground because we have a duty and a treaty obligation to defend them with American troops. That’s the reason why Poland is so steadfast and determined to help Ukraine. They know they’ll be next. Our own national security is at stake. If we want to avoid American troops being involved, we have to be prepared to provide Ukrainians – who are fighting this battle, which is our fight as well – with what they need to win it. And a diplomatic compromise only postpones Putin’s repeated attempts to restore the old Soviet Union or the Russian Empire as it was known before, and dominate Eastern Europe.

Avoiding another Korea?

The way to avoid a stalemate is to provide Ukraine with tanks from Germany and other allies. Probably some Abrams tanks from the United States, the Challenger tanks from Great Britain, more of the longer range and higher capacity artillery to push the Russian command posts and their supply depots back, as well as air-to-air defense. In other words, the tools that it needs to win. And the solution should be bipartisan.

We were briefed by the 101st Airborne, we met with our embassy officials: The way to avoid a stalemate is to enable Ukraine to win.

Fighting To Intensify

Ukraine is at a turning point in this war. It is a time of maximum danger, but also a major opportunity. The Russians are expected to launch a massive offensive within weeks. They have been rearming and reinforcing and really supplying to stage their forces to attack the Ukrainians.

But Ukraine is also going to be launching a counter offensive to the south and east. And that’s why providing Ukraine with all that it needs in arms, tanks, artillery, air defense defense Patriot systems is so critical right now. Time is not on our side. Ukrainians have consistently exceeded expectations. They have consistently outperformed predictions made by our own military as well as political leaders.

And it’s not just about arms. President Zelensky also needs electrical infrastructure equipment, like transformers, and generators, and humanitarian assistance like medical supplies.

We cannot allow Ukraine to bleed to death or its people to starve and freeze to defeat. A war of attrition is not a victory. And in the end, it’s unwinnable.

Clearly, the war is going much better than anyone anticipated.

They’ve pushed the Russians out of Northern Ukraine, defeating them in Russia’s attempt to conquer Kyiv. They have made progress in the east and the south. Because they have  conscripted individuals, emptied some of their prisons. But the Russians outman the Ukrainians. They have more troops by far now on the Eastern Front. We can’t afford to allow Ukraine to be outgunned as well as outmanned. 

Russia Weakened

Putin wants Ukraine to be the sole combatant right now, because he believes he can conquer Ukraine, and that he can just throw human beings into this fight, literally, without caring that they die or are wounded. He’s treating human beings as totally expendable. And he has more of them than Ukraine. So he believes that eventually, he can win a war of attrition. He doesn’t want all of NATO to come down on him. So retaliation that would provoke NATO, and most especially a unified NATO, to counterattack would be his worst nightmare. He can’t win that. And in fact, you lose very quickly to the combined forces of NATO which can barely stop Ukraine from pushing Russian forces out of that country.

And I think that’s why you hear less about the danger of escalation or retaliation from our military. That was a concern at the beginning, when Putin seemed much stronger, and the Russian military appeared to have much more prowess and strength than it does.

War Crimes and Nightmares

I never imagined that a world power like Russia, which is a world power as it has nuclear arms, would again commit the kind of genocidal atrocities that we saw in World War Two by the Nazis. I visited the mass graves, and Bucha, which is right outside of Kyiv and elsewhere in that area, and it was stomach turning heartbreaking nightmares. [I also talked] to the townspeople, and local officials who witnessed these mass murders, women children had their hands tied behind their backs, and were shot literally in the back of the head, for no reason other than they were Ukrainians.

That is the essence of genocide, to kill people just because of their religion, or their ethnicity, or their nationality. I never thought we would see it again in the civilized world. But it shows that Putin is a butcher. He’s a war criminal. He is a thug, and he should be held accountable. And while we were there, we spoke to the chief prosecutor of Ukraine responsible for going after the war crimes and we are working to provide assistance from the United States. Senator Sheldon and Graham and myself are going to be seeking assistance, resources and support from the United States to his efforts in amassing the forensic and other evidence that is necessary to pursue these cases successfully.

The war crimes include not only what happened in Bucha, but also what happened in Dnipro, and all around Ukraine where apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, civilians generally have been targeted. They have tried to intimidate, panic, defeat the country psychologically as well as militarily, through targeting civilians.

We will spare no effort to bring to justice Vladimir Putin, his senior commanders, anyone who condoned, encouraged or ordered these war crimes as well as the ones who committed them directly.

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