TERRE HAUTE —
If the United States doesn’t provide the leadership, moral support and moral authority to help Ukraine against Russian aggression, “then nobody else will,” Ukrainian officials told Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and a bipartisan delegation that visited the besieged country on Sunday.
The Ukrainian prime minister and other government officials further told the U.S. delegation, “You are our best hope,” Donnelly told reporters during a conference call Tuesday.
On Monday, Donnelly, a Democrat who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, returned from a trip to Ukraine, Afghanistan and Israel.
The delegation included Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA).
On Sunday, Donnelly and the delegation met with new Ukrainian government leaders, including Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, to discuss the importance of promoting Ukraine’s sovereignty and stability while the U.S. considers further sanctions on Russia.
Ukraine “is in an extraordinarily serious situation,” Donnelly said, with Russia having invaded Ukraine territory and having carved off the Crimea area. Now, Russia “is amassing troops on the Ukrainian border.”
Ukraine leaders and citizens told the U.S. delegation that if Russia comes into the Ukrainian mainland, “They will fight for every square inch” of their country. “If Putin thinks this will be another Crimea, he is sadly mistaken,” Donnelly said.
He warned that if Russia does invade the rest of Ukraine, that type of aggression “risks setting off catastrophic events.”
Donnelly described Vladimir Putin as “someone who functions at a different level and different way.” Decisions are not made by a senate or duma or congress. “This is one man … as he gets up that day, he decides what to do that day.”
The Russian leader is “a one-man band leading a nation in an erratic and unstable way,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly further stated that “Putin understands one thing — he understands strength, and we have to show strength in return.”
Donnelly supports economic sanctions against Russia and also expects “we’ll look again into a missile defense system through Poland” and that region. Ukraine also must become less dependent on Russian natural gas supplies, he said.
He noted that Congress is taking steps to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine “to enable them to do the kinds of things they need to do to protect their country,” Donnelly said.
“We stand with our Ukrainian friends,” he said.
This week, the Senate is considering a bill that includes both sanctions against Russia and aid to Ukraine (including $1 billion in loan guarantees). If the Senate passes the bill, it would need to be passed by the House, then signed by President Obama to go into effect.
Meanwhile, a former Terre Haute resident who was born and raised in Ukraine, Angelika Joenathan, feels confident that Russia will invade the rest of Ukraine. She was born in Crimea and has relatives still there; she later moved to Odessa in Ukraine.
She lived in Terre Haute for 8 1/2 years and now lives in California.
“They will invade the rest of Ukraine,” she said. Crimea “can’t sustain itself.”
Other countries close to Ukraine also are worried about Russia’s plans, she said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.