Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., walks towards the senate floor at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)
UPDATED 7:55 AM PT – Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Senators from both sides of the aisle discussed the developing situation between Russia and Ukraine. During a bipartisan Zoom meeting Monday, eight senators formulated a bill to level financial disincentives against Russia in the case it invades Ukraine.
Foreign Relations Committee chair, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called the legislation the “mother of all sanctions.”
“I want to be crystal clear to those listening to this hearing in Moscow, Kyiv and other capitals around the world: A Russian invasion will trigger devastating economic sanctions the likes of which we have never seen before,” Menendez stated. “(Vladimir) Putin doesn’t get to redraw the map of Europe. Europeans should be thinking about that. He doesn’t get to bully the people of an independent nation into submission.”
The Democrat senator continued by noting that though Putin may dictate the current course of events in his country, he has no right to tyrannize Ukraine at his disposal. Menendez stressed that Ukrainians won’t stand for it and neither should the U.S.
“Let me be clear: These are not run-of-the-mill sanctions,” said the committee chairman. “What is being discussed is at the maximum end of that spectrum, or as I have called it, the mother of all sanctions. And I hope that we can come together in a bipartisan way to find a legislative path forward soon so that we can achieve that.”
Committee Republicans favored preemptive sanctions to be enacted while Democrats wished to only issue penalties in the case of an invasion. The senators hope to reach an agreement by the end of the week.
Sen. Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on U.S. – Russia Policy:
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined a meeting of EU foreign ministers amid the ongoing speculation of a possible Russian invasion.
During a video call on Monday, Blinken told the EU the U.S. is committed to a diplomatic solution of tensions in Ukraine. He added, it’s unclear if Russia would stop its efforts to “rebuild the Soviet empire.”
For their part, EU diplomats reaffirmed their commitment to security and territorial integrity of Ukraine. The EU also said it’s considering a financial aid package of $1.4 billion for Ukraine, which it says may help defuse tensions.
“This package will help Ukraine now to address its financing needs due to the conflict,” explained European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “We count on the Council and the European Parliament to adopt this emergency macro-financial assistance as soon as possible. We will then proceed to the rapid disbursement of the first tranche of 600 million euros.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes a statement on EU financial support for Ukraine at EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP)
Secretary Blinken also briefed his EU counterparts on last week’s talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as bilateral discussions between the U.S. and Russia have yet to produce tangible results.