February 24, 2022

Van Hollen Joins MSNBC to Discuss Russian Decision to Expand Attack on Ukraine

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) spoke with Chris Jansing on MSNBC to discuss Vladimir Putin’s decision to expand Russia’s attack on the people and territory of Ukraine. A full transcript of the Senator’s exchange is available below and video of the interview is available here.

CHRIS JANSING, HOST MSNBC: Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland – thank you for being with us at this very serious time, Senator. A lot of people waking up to this news – what’s your reaction, and how bad could this get?

SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD.): Well Chris, it’s good to be with you. And Putin has blood on his hands now. This is an unprovoked, cold-blooded attack, and it's essential now that the United States, together with our allies, impose the most punishing economic sanctions that we have – to make clear to Putin and others who are watching that you cannot invade a democracy, another country, and violate its sovereignty without paying any price. We also need to be providing weapons to the Ukrainian resistance. The key of course is to do this in unison with our allies. And I want to commend the President for having worked for weeks to prepare for this moment. 

JANSING: Well, you did issue a statement saying that “Putin must be made to rue the day he unleashed this unprovoked violence in the heart of Europe.” I’ve seen similar comments from some of your colleagues: Mark Warner warning Putin he’s going to pay a steep price for reckless ambition, Mitt Romney calling for the harshest economic penalties. Look we all know – we’ve talked about it – that no bipartisan agreement was able to be reached after weeks of work that you all did on sanctions. So, what needs to happen now, and has the calculus changed given what’s happened over the last 12 hours?

VAN HOLLEN: Well Chris, I do think you’re going to see strong bipartisan support for the President’s actions. I traveled to the Munich Conference over the weekend with a bipartisan, bicameral delegation. The Senate delegation released a joint statement after that in unity – both with the President’s actions and the need to respond with everything we have when it comes to economic sanctions against Putin. I should stress the fact that President Biden has at his disposal all the sanctions authority he needs, both what we call primary sanctions – so sanctioning you know Russian entities – as well as secondary sanctions – sanctioning those countries, or other people, or organizations around the world who are helping, and aiding, and abetting Putin. So, the President does have those authorities. And I do think the Congress on a bipartisan basis will support the President deploying all those economic sanctions.

JANSING: Our correspondent in Moscow said that as he watched Putin’s speech overnight he seemed delusional. Look you’ve condemned – world leaders have condemned – this attack in the strongest possible terms, but given the kind of actions that we’ve seen will anything, do you think at this point, get Putin’s attention? Does he have a pressure point?

VAN HOLLEN: Well Chris, it’s clear that economic sanctions by themselves are probably not enough to deter Putin’s actions. And the U.S. military and the President have been telegraphing for weeks that Putin, you know, planned this invasion. We need now to raise the price – the cost to him, his cronies, and to Russia – of the invasion. And that’s important both to respond to Putin, but also others around the world, including other authoritarian leaders who are watching closely. Now what the response by the United States is; what the response of our allies will be – at the end of the day – it’s going to be very difficult for Putin to occupy a country of 40 million people who don’t want him there. And that’s why continuing to support the resistance here – to provide weapons to the resistance – will be important. Because as you indicated, the final test will be at the end of the day, whenever that may be, this needs to be seen as an epic miscalculation by Vladimir Putin. 

JANSING: Senator Chris Van Hollen, we appreciate your time on this day in particular, thank you.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.