SPEECH: Energy and Putin's War on Ukraine
Mr. President, obviously, the images coming out of Ukraine and the heroism that we are seeing is inspiring people all across America, all across the world, and it is spurring governments to action, appropriate action.
Just the other day, there was a world leader in charge of one of the world's most important countries who was spurred to action. Despite his country and his government having a leftwing leaning, he made announcements--historic, remarkable announcements--that not only stunned his country but stunned his world about the importance of a strong defense, military defense, about the importance of being realistic about energy policies. No, I am not talking about President Biden, unfortunately. I am going to get to that. He missed a huge opportunity to do just that. I am talking about the world leader German Chancellor Olaf Scholz who in the last 2 days has said Germany, because of the current crisis, is going to almost double its defense budget to achieve its 2 percent GDP portion of national defense within the next year or two--a huge, stunning announcement by the Chancellor.
A country that is addicted to Russian natural gas is now saying we are not going to have any and we are going to stop the Nord Stream 2 gas line--a huge, stunning announcement. That is global leadership.
And, unfortunately, President Biden missed the opportunity last night at the State of the Union to do exactly the same on exactly the same issues.
Let me talk about this a little bit more. I think we are starting to fully understand the implications as a nation and as a world of what is happening in Ukraine. We have entered a new era of authoritarian aggression, led by Russia's and China's dictators who are increasingly isolated and dangerous, who are driven by historical grievances, who are paranoid about their democratic neighbors and are willing to use military force and other aggressive actions to crush the citizens in countries like Ukraine and Hong Kong and Taiwan.
These dangerous dictators--Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping--are increasingly working together to put forward and implement their vision for the world: spheres of influence that revolve around them.
If you saw and read, they joint communicated just a few weeks ago before the Beijing Olympics, Xi Jinping and Putin. It is a wake-up call to the world. It is a scary, darn document. That is what is happening.
Again, we need to wake up; this administration needs to wake up to this new era of authoritarian aggression because it is going to be with us, unfortunately, in my view, for years, if not decades.
The President had the opportunity to do what the Chancellor of Germany did in the last few days, and he didn't. My view of this situation is that we need to face it as a country with strategic resolve and confidence and recognize that our country has extraordinary advantages, particularly relative to China and Russia.
If we are wise enough to utilize and strengthen these advantages, what are they? They are our global network of allies, our lethal military, our world-class supplies of energy and other natural resources, our dynamic economy, and, most important, our democratic values and commitment to liberty.
We must always remember that Putin and Xi Jinping's biggest weaknesses and biggest vulnerabilities are that they fear their own people. They fear their own people. We need to remember that and exploit this vulnerability in the months and years ahead.
But what happened last night? Again, it was a missed opportunity because the President could have--should have--followed the lead of the Chancellor of Germany, and he didn't.
He put forward a few good ideas that, I think, drew bipartisan support in the Chamber, certainly, talking about the brave people of Ukraine. That was something that all Americans are seeing and supportive of. Also, the President's commitment to defend every inch of NATO territory, I think, is an important redline that he drew last night that, again, all of us support, but it was important for him to articulate it. Other topics--opioids, mental health, helping our veterans--count me in on those.
But what he didn't do was step up in front of the American people and, like the Chancellor of Germany, say: It is a new world, and we need to recognize it, and the Biden administration is going to make a course correction on some critical issues.
What were those critical issues? Well, they are the exact issues that the Chancellor of Germany announced to his people.
Yesterday, 23 Senators--we sent a letter to the President respectfully imploring him to address the same issues that the Chancellor of Germany just did in this new era of authoritarian aggression. We need a much stronger, robust military budget that can ensure the lethality and readiness of our forces. If you don't believe that, you are not watching what is going on in Ukraine.
What we don't need is another Biden budget like he put forward last year that increases, by double digits, the budgets of literally every Federal Agency in the Government of the United States, with the exception of two: Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.
The Biden budget last year cut those, and I guarantee you the dictators in Beijing and the dictator in Moscow noticed. You can't do that. He didn't even mention it last night--didn't even mention it last night. And I guarantee you the dictators in Moscow and Beijing noticed and so did our European allies, which is, again, why what the Chancellor of Germany did was so extraordinary. He announced a budget doubling the budget of the German military--stunning.
But the other area that we suggested strongly to the President of the United States to address to the American people in this new era of authoritarian aggression is energy.
In our letter to the President yesterday, we respectfully called out the President and said: With respect, Mr. President, you recently told the American people in a press conference that your administration was using ``every tool at our disposal to protect American families and businesses'' from rising energy crisis, but that is not true. It is not true, and the whole world knows it. Heck, the administration knows it.
So we suggested 12 actions that the President of the United States could take and announce at the State of the Union that would help us with regard to energy: bring down costs, put American energy workers back to work, and not let Putin blackmail European allies of ours with energy and continue to use it as a weapon.
We asked for a course correction on the Biden administration's energy policies, which, from day 1, have focused on restricting, delaying, and, indeed, killing the production of American oil and gas.
All of this has had the predictable result, the catastrophic result of driving up energy prices at the pump and in home heating for American citizens--enormous increases, hurting working families, increasing pink slips for American energy workers like those in my State, the great State of Alaska, and again in the current crisis, significantly empowering our adversaries, especially Vladimir Putin, who has used energy as a weapon against our allies for decades.
So I am not going to go into each one of the topics or the actions that we suggested the President of the United States take, with the exception of one because it is so apparent that we need to do it and so apparent that the President should have announced it last night that I want to just briefly mention it again here.
We called on--and today in a press conference many of us called on--many Republicans and some Democratic Senators now have called on the Biden administration to undertake sanctions and an embargo against Vladimir Putin's strongest weapon, his export of natural gas and oil.
Now, many people are saying: Well, you can't do that as it relates to our European allies. What we are saying is, we understand there are challenges there. We are not talking about Europe. We are talking about the United States of America.
I want you to understand these numbers. Right now, we are buying an average of almost 700,000 barrels a day of Russian oil. By the way, that number has increased 35 percent--actually over 35 percent during President Biden's first term. At the same time, the Biden administration is going to States like mine and saying, We are going to try to shut down Alaskan oil production.
Does anyone in America, does anyone in the U.S. Senate, does anyone in the Biden administration think that that makes sense--increase imports of Russian oil to the United States while shutting down the production of American energy?
They are doing it. We all know they are doing it. Heck, they know they are doing it. It makes no sense.
In the last year, imports from the United States paid for that went back--oil imports of Russian oil, paid for in the United States going back to Russia--put $17 billion into Putin's war chest--$17 billion.
So a number of us--like I said, Republican and now Democratic Senators--have been saying: This is nuts. We are trying to sanction Putin. We are trying to isolate Russia from the global economy, and there is this giant loophole, and it is coming right to the United States. We are paying for hundreds of thousands of barrels a day of Russian oil going back to Putin, and they are still trying to shut down American energy production. Come on.
Of course, some of this is driven by the far left that the Biden administration listens way too much to. Come on, Mr. President, my colleagues here, this is insane, and everybody knows it. Everybody knows it.
What are we doing right now? We are subsidizing this war. We are subsidizing--by the importation of 7,000 barrels a day of Russian oil in the United States, we are subsidizing Putin's war on Ukrainians.
By the way, our friends in Canada, they just announced that they are not going to import any more Russian oil. Prime Minister Trudeau, well done, sir.
By the way, had the Keystone Pipeline not been killed by the President of the United States a little over 12 months ago, we would have up to 700,000 barrels of oil from Canada. I would much rather be getting oil from Canada than Russia right now.
If you think that this is an issue that is not impacting Ukraine, here is what the Foreign Minister of Ukraine recently said about this topic:
We insist on a full embargo for Russian oil and gas around the world. Buying Russian oil and gas right now means paying for the murder of Ukrainian men, women and children.
That is the Foreign Minister of Ukraine. What he is asking for is something we can easily do--block any more Russian oil, Russian natural gas coming into the United States of America. People say: Well, where would we get it, then? I will tell you where we would get it. We would get it from the United States of America.
The only thing that the President mentioned last night on this topic in a glancing manner--to be honest, it was a lame glancing manner. It was almost a pathetic attempt to just barely recognize that this giant issue had to be touched upon. He said we are going to briefly release oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. We are not going to produce more, which we could. We are just going to release a little more oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Here is my answer to that: Mr. President, there is a much better Strategic Petroleum Reserve than the one you referenced last night. It is called the great State of Alaska. That is America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And you need to let us, as your fellow Americans, help our fellow citizens and the rest of the world by producing. So it was a missed opportunity last night.
We have world leaders who, right now, the Prime Minister of Canada on the imports of Russian oil, the Chancellor of Germany on significantly recognizing the new era in which we are all in, saying: I have got to be serious about national defense and our military, and I have got to be serious about energy.
We had respectfully asked the President of the United States last night in the State of the Union to do just the same--just the same. The American people were watching, and he had an opportunity to talk about the consequences, long term, of this new era of authoritarian aggression and say: ``And I am going to make some course corrections as the President of this administration because it is going to be what is good for the American people and our allies,'' and he didn't do it. He didn't do it, and it was a big missed opportunity for our country and for the world.
I yield the floor.
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