Five members of Congress traveled to Ukraine over the weekend to witness the country's tension with Russia.
Republican Reps. Joe Wilson and Mike Waltz joined Democratic Reps. Salud Carbajal, Ruben Gallego, and Seth Moulton in leaving Friday and returning on Monday night.
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The trip came as Russia has amassed a significant military presence on its border with Ukraine, stirring up both rhetoric and fears of a possible invasion. The Kremlin is allegedly planning a multi-pronged incursion that could involve up to 175,000 troops, the Washington Post reported earlier this month, citing U.S. officials and an intelligence document.
While overseas, the lawmakers met with the head of Ukraine’s Special Forces, a number of Special Operations trainers, civil affairs, and National Guardsmen, according to Gallego and Waltz, who appeared with Moulton for a virtual debrief with reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
Just concluded a bipartisan congressional delegation visit to Ukraine where we met with military officials and observed training exercises. pic.twitter.com/T7x0Iyq0E4— Rep. Mike Waltz (@michaelgwaltz) December 13, 2021
“What I got out of this trip is number one: Ukraine has a will to fight, and they are not the Ukraine of 2014,” Gallego said, referencing Russia’s invasion of Crimea less than a decade ago. “I do worry that we still have some of the policies of 2014 where we worry about and you hear about all the time, like trying not to escalate ourselves into the war. I think that is a false choice.”
Waltz made a similar comment during the debrief, noting, “I don’t think anybody on the delegations or otherwise is calling for a massive American troop presence on the ground."
"It’s being conflated on both sides of the aisle as a false choice between doing very little and making promises after an invasion and a full-blown American incursion," Waltz added.
Moulton spoke about recommendations he made to the White House to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading.
“We have to dramatically increase the speed of weapons procurement, and I think we should do so very publicly,” he explained. “We need to clearly communicate how the weapons we provide will cause large losses of Russian troops on Day One, not just over time, not just convincing them or trying to convince them that an occupation will be painful, but rather that an immediate full-scale invasion will be hard to take immediately.”
Moulton also noted the United States should be more “concerned about deterring Putin than provoking him.”
The Pentagon is also preparing for the possibility of an invasion.
“The Department of Defense is a planning organization and must be ready for any manner of contingencies around the world," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told the Washington Examiner last week. "We do a lot of thinking about a lot of scenarios. But there is no demand signal for civilian evacuations in Ukraine, and it would be wrong to conclude that there is an active effort in the Pentagon to prepare for them.”
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Last week, President Joe Biden threatened significant economic sanctions during a video call with Putin, telling reporters that unilaterally sending combat troops to Ukraine should Putin decide to invade is “not on the table” at the moment.