GOP House leaders say Biden’s policies enabled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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GOP House leaders on Tuesday took President Biden to task over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, arguing that the president’s failed policies have emboldened Vladimir Putin to take more aggressive actions. 

The statement from House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and others came a day after Russian troops rolled into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin said he was recognizing the areas’ independence. GOP leaders called the renewed invasion of Ukraine “reprehensible.”

“Sadly, President Biden consistently chose appeasement and his tough talk on Russia was never followed by strong action,” GOP leaders said.  

“Lethal aid was slow-walked, anti-air and anti-ship capabilities were never directly provided, pre-invasion sanctions proportionate to the aggression Putin had already committed were never imposed, and sanctions on Nord Stream 2 were waived.” 

A tank drives along a street after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of Russian troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine following the recognition of their independence, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine, Feb. 22, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko)

The Nord Stream 2 undersea pipeline directly links Russian gas to Europe via Germany and is complete but not yet operating. It has become a major target as Western governments try to exert leverage on Russia to deter further military moves against its neighbors. 

GOP leaders said the U.S. and its allies must make the Putin regime “pay for this aggression.” They called on President Biden to take a more aggressive approach in curbing Putin’s ambitions. 

“[W]e must permanently end Nord Stream 2, implement secondary sanctions on Russian financial institutions, and impose crippling penalties on the industries which the Russian military relies on to make war,” GOP leaders said. “Moreover, as House Republicans have been saying for a year, President Biden must finally promote U.S. energy development and help the United States become Europe’s energy partner of choice.”

A Ukrainian soldiers passes by houses in the village of Novoluhanske, Luhansk region, Ukraine, Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak)

The letter was signed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mike Turner, House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul of Texas and Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee Mike Rogers of Alabama.  

Later Tuesday, President Biden ordered heavy U.S. sanctions against Russian banks and oligarchs. Speaking from the White House, Biden accused Putin of flagrantly violating international law and promised that more sanctions would be coming if Putin proceeds further. 

“None of us will be fooled” by Putin’s claims about Ukraine, the U.S. president said. 

Biden said he was also moving additional U.S. troops to the Baltic States on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia. The prime minister of Estonia and presidents of Latvia and Lithuania on Friday had made a direct plea to Vice President Kamala Harris for the U.S. to step up its presence in the Baltics.

President Biden speaks about Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Washington. 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Biden said the U.S. would impose “full blocking” on two large Russian financial institutions and “comprehensive sanctions” on Russian debt.

“That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western finance,” Biden said. “It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”

Biden effectively joined the 27 European Union members who unanimously agreed on Tuesday to levy their own initial set of sanctions targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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