Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana, says recent aggression in the Ukraine by Russia and President Vladimir Putin are the actions of a “thug-ocracy.”
Donnelly recently returned from a congressional delegation that spent time in the Ukraine, meeting with members of the new government.
Donnelly says Ukrainians have told him the U.S. is the country’s best hope to hold off further Russian invasion.
And he says as he walked around the streets of Ukraine, Ukrainians approached him with similar messages.
“They told us, ‘We will fight. And we will fight for every square inch of this country,’” Donnelly says.
Donnelly supports sanctions on the Russian energy and financial sectors in an effort to force the Russians out of Ukraine, and while he says he’s supportive of military assistance to the former Soviet nation, Donnelly says the Ukrainians have not asked for what he calls “lethal aid.”
“One of the things they’ve talked about is communications assistance,” Donnely says, “We know that one of the things we do in Indiana so very, very well is military communications and defense communications.”
Donnelly says there also needs to be increased discussion among the US and NATO of a missile defense system for Eastern Europe if Russian aggression doesn’t end.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Indiana, has introduced legislation to cut off U.S. government purchases from a Russian state agency which handles the country‘s military exports.
The proposal is an amendment to a $150 million emergency aid bill for Ukraine, and would also ban government contracts with companies that do business with the agency.
“If we’re really going to get their attention what we need to do is go after their economy,” Coats says, “Russia’s economy is fairly fragile and very, very dependent on energy exports like oil and gas and also on military sales.”
Federal law already bans doing business with the agency, but allows the executive branch to make exceptions. The Pentagon has used that waiver provision to buy Russian helicopters for Afghanistan.
Coats acknowledges it’s unlikely the West can push Russia out of Crimea. He says Russia caught intelligence agencies flatfooted.
But the Republican senator says Russia should “pay a heavy price” for the annexation, and says the country‘s heavy dependence on its defense and energy industries create an opportunity to impose economic punishment with real teeth.
Coats’ co-authorship of a resolution urging sanctions landed him on Russia’s list of nine Obama advisers and members of Congress banned from traveling to Russia.
Network Indiana contributed to this report.