Putin, His Enablers, and Russia must be Punished — Now

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-9) this weekend published an op-ed in the USA Today Network and the Bergen Record of New Jersey discussing the struggles of the Ukrainian people, outlining the need to aid Ukraine, and demanding heavy punishment for Vladimir Putin and the Russian economy. Representing one of the largest Ukrainian American communities in the entire United States, standing with Ukraine is of enormous importance in New Jersey’s Ninth District.

The text of Rep. Pascrell’s essay is below.

This past Sunday I attended services at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey.

The love and reverence our neighbors have for their ancestral homeland is powerful as Ukraine is menaced by Russia.

Already the most diverse kaleidoscope of America, our Ninth District is blessed with one of the largest Ukrainian American communities in our country. It was essential at this moment that our neighbors know that the United States Congress stands squarely in their corner.

The citizens of Ukraine demand Americans’ support now too.

The Ukrainian people know struggle. Few people in history have suffered more tragedy and pain at the hands of tyrants than Ukraine.

In 1932 and 1933, over three million Ukrainians starved to death at the hands of Josef Stalin’s dictatorship in the Holodomor.

After Nazi Germany commenced Operation Barbarossa in 1941, millions of Ukrainians were massacred, and thousands of Ukraine’s cities were razed by Adolf Hitler’s armies.

Even after 1945, Ukraine’s suffering did not end. Ukrainians were subject to more of Stalin’s ethnic cleansing as the Iron Curtain descended over Eastern Europe.

Ukrainians have transcended the brutal hardship which has forged their identity. Ukraine’s independence in 1991 and its Orange Revolution of 2004 stand as two of the greatest moments for human freedom in modern history: the birth of democracy amid a field salted by totalitarianism.

Yet Vladimir Putin has never accepted Ukraine’s self-determination. On Ukraine soil, Putin has spent years sowing violence and chaos.

Putin poisoned former Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko. He installed a puppet dictator who imprisoned political opponents and looted millions. Putin stole Crimea in an illegal 2014 military action.

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine may be stunning to many but is no surprise if we go by nothing except Putin’s own rhetoric. Over the years, Putin has repeatedly bemoaned the demise of the Soviet Union and questioned Ukraine’s very right to exist as an independent state and not a vassal territory of Mother Russia.

Too often illusions to the days before the Second World War are overused by politicians, but at this moment there are unmistakable parallels.

In the 1930s, the world made repeated concessions we hoped would sate a wolf. Those concessions only whet the enemy’s appetite.

So too have we pursued half measures against Putin.

Putin’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 and of Ukraine in 2014 and his annexation of their territories was not met with a strong response to deter his malevolence.

At some point the wolf will turn to devour you. At some point you must accept pain and sacrifice for the greater good of the world community. We cannot shrink from this moment.

To do so it is not enough to hold Putin accountable; Putin, his enablers, and Russia must be punished. Russia must be treated like the rogue state it is.

America must arm Ukraine however possible. We must disrupt Russian intelligence and share our own. We must revoke Russia’s normal trade status and kick them out of the World Trade Organization. We must accept refugees seeking shelter from the horrors of war.

All Americans should realize: Ukraine is a proud nation of 44 million people — larger than California; its capital, Kyiv, is about the size of Chicago.

We must impose overwhelming economic pain on Putin and the circle of billionaire criminals and military advisors propping him up.

Seize their estates. Impound their yachts. Auction their lear jets. Topple their stock market. Kick the oligarchs’ kids out of our colleges. Make them feel pain for the horrors they are causing.

Of course, the United States cannot do any of this alone. We must have willing partners.

So far, President Joe Biden has shepherded our European and global partners to join us under common purpose.

Winning over our allies, especially Germany, is no small thing. And the president’s warnings as to Putin’s plans were dismissed by many but they turned out to be tragically correct. Biden deserves enormous credit for his patient, steely leadership.

The multi-lateral sanctions we have so far enacted against the Russian government and state-owned entities has had a catastrophic impact on the country’s economy. The ruble is plummeting, the Moscow stock market is in free fall, Russian banks are cut off.

I have no doubt that if Biden’s predecessor were still in office, none of this of this would have been possible.

Putin invaded Ukraine believing that he would further fracture the relationship between the United States and EU countries. Putin believed none of us would have the strength to hit him back.

The exact opposite has happened: the U.S. has not been this close to our allies in years and NATO has not found this level of resolve in decades.

It is a start. We cannot weaken our resolve. Ukraine is under existential threat.

Now is the moment when friendships are tested. We must be there at Ukraine’s side.

The Ukrainian people must know that they will not be forgotten in their darkest hour.

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