WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Tuesday spoke about his recent travel to Germany, Kosovo, Serbia and Ukraine with U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Prior to their departure, Russia had denied both senators a visa to enter the country.
In May and following reports that Rudy Giuliani was traveling to Ukraine, Murphy sent a letter to U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch to submit an official congressional inquiry to the Trump administration about why a private citizen was traveling to Ukraine to work with a foreign government in a Trump campaign re-election effort.
Excerpts of Murphy’s remarks are below:
“[W]hat to me is disturbing about this suspension of aid for Ukraine is that it's the first significant breach in what has been a fairly bipartisan approach to supporting Ukraine in their efforts to rebut Russian incursion. And so I do think it's important to note that we, in general, have that pretty good bipartisan buy-in as to the importance of supporting Ukraine militarily and politically,” said Murphy.
Murphy continued: “And as Senator Johnson mentioned, this decision to suspend the aid to Ukraine seems to come from the president himself. It doesn't seem to be something that, you know, that came from anybody else other than the president.”
On Rudy Giuliani’s Attempts to Invite Foreign Interference in the 2020 election
“No Ukrainian officials that we met with brought [Rudy Giuliani] up on their own. I raised [it] with President Zelensky—just made the point that if the Ukrainian government gets requests from the Embassy, that’s different than getting requests from a political actor in the United States…In order to keep the United State –Ukraine relationship strong, it was much better for the president to rebuff any pressure he's getting from political campaigns in the United States to conduct investigations,” said Murphy.
Murphy continued: “[Zelesnky] wasn't surprised that I brought it up…his response was pretty simple: that they have no intention of getting involved in an American election. But we didn’t talk in depth about the nature of the contacts and no one brought it up to us. I raised it with President Zelensky.”
On Russia Visa Denial
“We applied for visas because we wanted to start a dialogue not because we wanted to show up and make a big show of our list of grievances. We're going to raise our protests, but we also wanted to see if there were areas upon which we could cooperate,” said Murphy. “So my feeling is that you aren't letting the two of us in, it makes it pretty clear that you're not interested in a dialogue moving forward. You know maybe there is an opportunity down the road for members of the Duma and members of Congress to meet in neutral locations. But I think this was really disappointing to me and frankly surprising.”
On Russia Rejoining G8
“If the Russians want back into the G8, they've got to show compliance with the Minsk Agreement to start with. And then of course recognize what they did in Crimea. And so there is an opportunity for some real change to happen because I think the Russians are much more willing to talk with and deal with Zelensky than they were with Poroshenko,” said Murphy.
Murphy continued: “..sometimes the president makes it sound as if he alone makes that decision [letting Russia back into the G8]. The Europeans know that's not how the G7 works. They would also have to extend that invitation as well. And right now they are not interested in extending that invitation.”
On Russian Meddling in Ukraine
“[Putin is] attempting to politically and economically destroy Ukraine. And so the stronger that Ukraine becomes economically and politically, the higher we raise the cost for Putin to continue to meddle in Ukraine. At some point, that cost becomes so high and the chances that he will economically and politically destroy Ukraine become so remote, that he may move on,” said Murphy.
Murphy continued: “[O]ur support for Zelensky right now is so critical. Because if he really does move forward with the series of reforms that he's proposing, he will put Ukraine on solid economic and political footing for decades, and that will be a signal to Putin that his plan will not work.”
On Nord Stream 2 Discussions with Germany
“I think [Germany] recognize[s] that Congress is serious about Nord Stream 2 and they're very concerned that there's going to be consequences to our relationship if they don't change their policy… I made it clear that we didn't see the value of the sanctions being optimized if they continue to greenlight this new pathway for Russian gas into Europe,” said Murphy.
Murphy continued: “…the thing that flummoxes us is that they worked with us on sanctions but then were gifting this pipeline to the Russians. And so I think it was good that they heard this concern coming from a Democrat because they've heard a lot of these concerns from the Trump administration as well.”
Murphy added: “We've made our objections to Nord Stream 2 made clear on a bipartisan basis for a long time…You know what the Germans will say is that they are going to do an agreement with Putin in which he guarantees a certain amount of gas flow through Ukraine, and I think it's important for us to raise the stakes right now with our European partners.”
“There is a potential that the stakes will be high enough that they will reconsider the final stages of the project. Even if they don't, it may force them to bargain harder with Putin with the Russians as they're trying to guarantee some amount of gas flow through Ukraine. I remain skeptical that trusting Putin to run gas through Ukraine when you've just given him a means to bypass the country is probably a fool's errand.”