Kay Bailey Hutchison, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, said Wednesday the Biden administration should have acted sooner to prevent or prepare for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hutchison, who is also a Republican former U.S. senator from Texas, said the U.S. didn’t fully recognize Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wish to “recreate the Soviet Union.”
“I did not think in 2022 we would see the horrific devastation of a country that is a good, honest elected democracy,” Hutchison said during a Texas Tribune event in Austin.
Hutchison said the U.S. should have provided Ukrainians with more weapons and support amid clear indications of war. She also called Putin “a madman.”
“Putin had for years been messaging to his military, messaging to the people, ‘We were robbed.’... You hear that, but you don’t think that someone would really follow through on these countries that have become democracies,” Hutchison said.
Ukraine had been part of the now-dissolved Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and established its independence in the 1990s. In 2014, Ukrainian protesters ousted their pro-Russian president and Russia then invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine began in February.
Hutchison also acknowledged the U.S. is “doing quite a bit” to hurt Russia economically, but said that there “absolutely” needs to be more sanctions in place. So far, the Biden administration has banned Russian oil imports, expelled Russian banks from an international bank messaging system and frozen billions of dollars in Russian assets, among other sanctions.
“I would do everything to cripple their economy,” the former ambassador told Tribune CEO Evan Smith. “All of our allies should be willing to give anything they can to help these people fight for themselves.”
Hutchison advocated for increased measures even as U.S. sanctions on the Russian regime have hurt Americans’ wallets — rising prices at gas pumps and making some commodities more expensive.
While Hutchison lauded the Biden administration’s decision to share intelligence on Russia prior to the war, she said the U.S. should have “moved faster” upon Putin’s military “buildup” along the Ukrainian border.
“When Putin was putting 100,000 people on the border, that was a signal we should have acted on much stronger,” she said.
The ambassador also called on the administration to provide Ukraine with more military equipment like sea missiles and MiG fighter jets. She said former President Donald Trump’s administration, which she served under, should have fulfilled Ukrainian requests for weapons in a now infamous Trump-Zelensky phone call, which spurred the first of Trump’s two impeachment trials.
“We should be always helping people who are trying to become free,” Hutchison said.
While the ambassador said she hopes the country of Ukraine will “stay whole,” she “wouldn’t be critical” of a Ukrainian decision to cede parts of the country, like the regions of Donbass and Luhansk, to Russia under an agreement.
“This is going to last a long time,” she said. “And the more atrocities that are occurring by the Russians, the longer there is going to be a war because I think Putin is desperate.”
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