Shaheen on Russia's invasion of Ukraine: More opportunity to ramp up sanctions
NHPR spoke with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Find her comments here.
Peter Biello: And you're listening to All Things Considered on NHPR, news from New Hampshire and NPR. I'm Peter Biello. As we've heard, Russia has invaded Ukraine and people around the world are making sense of the situation.
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has been working to prevent war in Ukraine and strengthen U.S. alliances, and she's live with us now. Sen. Shaheen, thank you very much for speaking with me.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Hello, Peter. It's a very sad day, not just for Ukraine, but for democracies around the world.
Peter Biello: Sen. Shaheen, you've just returned from Poland, where you met with allies and NATO partners. Did you have any hope that Russia's aggression might be contained before the situation gets any worse?
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Well, I think people hoped for the best, but of course, Vladimir Putin did exactly what he said he was going to do. He invaded Ukraine. It's a large-scale invasion, and his intent is to try and recreate the sphere of influence that the Soviet Union had.
And he's been very clear about his belief that Ukraine is part of Russia, which of course, we know it is not. And we know that he's been lying about his intent. He's been lying about how the Ukrainians feel because, if you're watching reports of Ukrainians being interviewed, they are distraught with what's happening to their country.
Peter Biello: And as you said, Putin did exactly as he said he was going to do. The United States and NATO allies had been promising sanctions and you were in support of sanctions that were threatened before these attacks. They did not prevent what we're seeing today in Ukraine. Does this in any way diminish your faith in the effectiveness of sanctions?
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Well, I think the sanctions have not been invoked yet in a way that is serious and will have significant impact. I was pleased to see the president's further announcement today. I was pleased to see what our European allies have had to say, and I think that's going to have an impact.
The 10 largest banks in Russia, Nord Stream 2 pipeline, so that gas will not be running through there. Putin and Russia will not be getting the funds that that gas would be charged to Europe. And, of course, sanctions on those oligarchs who are around Vladimir Putin. All of that, I think, is important and there's more opportunity to ramp up additional sanctions.
Peter Biello: But what you're saying is that it's going to take time for these sanctions to take effect and for Putin and Russia to really feel the pain of them.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Yes, although looking at what's happening in Russia right now, their stock market has tanked, the ruble value against the dollar has dropped dramatically, so they're already beginning to feel some impact.
Peter Biello: What do you know today about how Ukraine's government is handling this crisis?
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Well, we know that they are defiant, that they have asked people to take up arms, that they are fighting back. Obviously, they're overmatched in terms of military superiority, but they have a will to fight and defend their country. And what it appears Putin's interest is, is trying to displace the democratically elected government of Ukraine with puppets of the Russian government.
Peter Biello: And what should the U.S. be willing to do to support the Ukrainian people affected by this conflict?
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Well, I think we need to continue to do the kinds of things that we're already seeing: continue to provide support and military equipment and weapons, continue to look at ways that we can sanction what the Russians are doing, continue to provide assistance, humanitarian assistance, for those people who are fleeing the fighting. So, we need to continue to work with our allies.
When I was in Poland, what I heard from our ambassador and from the Poles is that they already have a million Ukrainian refugees in Poland. They are opening their doors for those Ukrainians who are coming into the country. There is a welcome center set up in Poland on the border with Ukraine for Americans who might be fleeing Ukraine. And we're going to continue to work together to do everything we can to support those people who are being displaced.
Peter Biello: And finally, Sen. Shaheen, there's been talk that these events will have a major destabilizing effect across the world. So what should people in the United States and in New Hampshire be prepared for?
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Well, we know there's going to be some economic impact from what's happening as we put in place severe sanctions not just on the United States, but on our European allies. But we've got to remember that any action like this that allows Putin, or any dictator, to go unchallenged when they try to move in and take over a sovereign country, can't be allowed. We've got to make it clear because if we don't, our adversaries are watching. Whether it's China or Iran or North Korea, they're going to be looking at the lessons from what Putin is doing. And if Putin and Russia are able to escape without any impact, then you can bet they're going to factor that into future decisions about what they might do in Taiwan and other parts of the world.
Peter Biello: New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, thank you very much for speaking with me.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Thank you, Peter.
Peter Biello: And for more coverage on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, visit NHPR.org.