House

Pelosi calls for Moscow, Putin to ‘feel the pain’ if Russia strikes Ukraine

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on Thursday, February 3, 2022.
Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday amplified her support for strong sanctions on Moscow if Russia invades Ukraine, warning that Congress is prepared to advance “forceful” new restrictions on both the country and its autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin, if such a strike occurs.

“They have to be … much more forceful than they have been, because we’re talking about the invasion of a country,” Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “We’re talking about … NATO countries being at risk if the Russians succeed in Ukraine. So this is deadly serious.”

“So they have to feel the pain, and it has to be felt right up to the richest man in the world, Vladimir Putin.”

The Russian military has amassed tens of thousands of troops at Ukraine’s borders in recent weeks, though it remains unknown if Putin is merely saber-rattling or intends to strike.

“Nobody knows what he’s going to do except him, but that’s why we have to be prepared for whatever that may be,” Pelosi said.

In response, Democratic leaders in both chambers are poised to move on legislation strengthening Russian sanctions. The House bill, sponsored by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), differs from the Senate proposal, championed by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), meaning leaders would have to iron out those disparities before sending a bill to President Biden. But Pelosi vowed to move swiftly if an invasion of Ukraine materializes.  

“We want to be as close to the Senate bill as possible, so there’s no delay in getting something to the president’s desk,” she said.

Amid the debate, some lawmakers on Capitol Hill, most of them Republicans, have urged the Biden administration to adopt preemptive sanctions, arguing that it would be an effective deterrent to an initial Russian strike.

But Pelosi on Thursday rejected that strategy, stipulating that any new restrictions should come only in the event of an attack and not before. That chronology, she suggested, is best suited to win over the cooperation of the international community.

“They have to be strong enough to be effective. They have to be done after — and if — they invade. And they have to be done in compliance with our allies working together,” she said.

Pelosi praised Antony Blinken, Biden’s secretary of State, for what she characterized as a “forceful” diplomatic effort to deter Russian aggression.

“Diplomacy deterrence is what we want to see succeed,” she said.

“But in order to be good peacemakers,” she quickly added, “you have to show that you’re a good fighter.”

The Speaker also rejected the notion that Biden, in order to send U.S. troops to Europe to counter Putin’s aggression, would first need approval from Congress in the form of a special resolution, known as an authorization for use of military force, or AUMF.

The AUMF under current use — a relic of the war against terrorism that followed the 9/11 attacks — is “stale” and needs replacing, she acknowledged, but not for the case of simple troop movements in Europe.

“I don’t think we need an AUMF for that, in terms of the scope and the threat that is there,” she said.

Pelosi’s comments came just as The New York Times published a new report revealing that U.S. intelligence agencies had discovered a Russian plot to use misinformation as a guise for justifying an invasion into Ukraine.

Pelosi declined to comment on the new report, citing the classified nature of the intelligence behind it.

Tags Antony Blinken AUMF Bob Menendez Europe Gregory Meeks Joe Biden Nancy Pelosi NATO Russia Russia-Ukraine relations Ukraine United States US military Vladimir Putin

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