Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this afternoon in support of H.Res. 499, which condemns Russia's violations of Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“I want to congratulate Chairman Royce for bringing this bill to the Floor, Ranking Member Engel, and my good friend from Massachusetts [Rep. Bill Keating] for his leadership on this issue.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my strong support for this resolution. Hopefully it will pass unanimously. Russian forces continue to occupy Crimea in gross violation of international law and binding agreements signed between Ukraine and Russia in 1994 and 1997.
“Mr. Speaker, I chaired the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe from 1985 to 1995. It was an extraordinary era where the Soviet Union crumbled under the weight of its bad economic system and its political terrorism. It is starting to rear its ugly head again.
“President Obama and Secretary Kerry have made it very clear, and we need to make it very clear, that Russia cannot interfere in Ukraine without serious costs. And, when I say serious costs, I mean exactly that. It cannot be empty words. It cannot be ‘you ought not to.’ It needs to be ‘you must not, and we will not allow.’
“Last week the President proposed sanctions and travel bans against Russian leaders complicit in their country's military intrusion into Crimea. If Russia were to annex Crimea, those costs would rise. A referendum has no legitimacy when there are military forces in the streets.
“In any event, as I said, I chaired the Helsinki Commission. The Helsinki Final Act, passed in July of 1975 and signed by President Ford, said emphatically and explicitly that borders cannot be changed other than by political and peaceful means. Military incursion is not an option.
“This resolution will send a powerful message on behalf of the American people. The people of Ukraine who want to build a future based on democracy and freedom will hear us and be strengthened by our support. How do I know that? Because Vaclav Havel, the leader of Czechoslovakia, a Helsinki Act activist, spoke from that podium where the President of the United States gives his State of the Union and said the Helsinki Final Act made an extraordinary difference. Us speaking out will give courage and encouragement. Those who undermine that project and who threaten Ukraine's territorial integrity or its economic activity will hear us as well.
“As I understand, the 1994 agreement, Great Britain and the United States, two of the great powers in this world, said that we would protect and come to the aid of Ukraine when they gave up their nuclear weapons, in consideration, in part, of that representation made by us and made by the Russians.
“Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to approve this resolution and send a strong and unmistakable message of solidarity with the people of Ukraine and of unity and defense of democracy in Ukraine – and, indeed, throughout the world.”