The Ukrainian people want and deserve a unified, stable, secure, and prosperous country free from Russian interference. The tenuous cease-fire between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists appears to be holding for the moment. However, I am concerned about reports from NATO that Russian troops remain inside eastern Ukraine with some 20,000 amassed along the border. Russia has been on the offensive since its forces began the illegal annexation of Crimea in late February.
It is important that we send a clear, unified signal with our European partners: there are consequences for Russia’s continued aggression. Additional sanctions may be necessary if President Putin continues to flout his public commitments and fails to work towards peace. All sides must come to the table to work towards a lasting, negotiated solution to this conflict.
Tonight, the President outlined a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. and a broad coalition to take action against ISIL, a vicious terrorist group that has brutally murdered Americans and threatens our national security interests. I believe it is prudent for the U.S. to take action now to eradicate ISIL.
This effort must be supported by a broad coalition of countries. I welcome the Administration’s efforts, including extensive work by Secretary of State John Kerry, over the past few days and weeks to build a coalition that is committed to fighting ISIL. The Administration will need to continue its work to ensure all coalition members step up to the fight. I have urged the Administration to prioritize efforts to dismantle ISIL’s financial networks. This will help dampen their recruiting efforts and their operational effectiveness over time. I welcome the President’s commitment to ensuring there is an interagency effort to hold accountable those individuals who do business with ISIL in violation of international sanctions.
I also support the President’s commitment to training and equipping the moderate, well vetted Syrian opposition. I have called on the Administration to take more robust measures to support the moderate opposition for several years. Any effort to assist these forces must be well coordinated with other members of the coalition and must include a thorough vetting effort.
Protecting Americans must be our top priority. I will continue to press the Administration to ensure they are working with coalition partners to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. I will also continue to urge the Administration to ensure American personnel at our diplomatic and support facilities in the region have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively and safely.
We should be proud of the American men and women, especially our servicemembers, who are already helping to degrade ISIL Degrading and defeating ISIL will take time and there will be risks, but I support the strategy laid out by the President tonight and will work with my colleagues to ensure the Administration has the necessary resources and authorization to implement it swiftly and effectively.
One month ago, Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls in the middle of the night from their boarding school in northern Nigeria. This terrorist group committed this unconscionable crime against innocent young girls who are the future of their community and of their country. I am deeply concerned about this kidnapping and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the abducted children.
Education is a right that all children should enjoy without the fear of being kidnapped by terrorists. However, these girls and their families understood the risk of getting an education in a society where so many are terrified of what an educated woman will mean. But they took this risk because they aspire to be teachers, lawyers, and doctors, and positively impact their society and the world. Countless studies and reports have shown that a society and its economy benefit exponentially when women are educated and actively participate.
We cannot lose hope for the girls and families in Nigeria. It is crucial that we continue to raise the awareness on this tragic event and not allow their plight to fade. I joined many of my Senate colleagues in cosponsoring S.Res.433 which condemns the abduction of the students by Boko Haram. While a Senate resolution will not bring back our girls it is one action we can take to show our support for the students and their families.
It is crucial that the U.S. government continue to work to recover these girls and seek justice for this unthinkable horror. We must bring back our girls.
Thirty four years ago today, thousands of Iranian protestors broke down the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, took the Americans inside as hostages, and began a 444-day ordeal that no American alive at the time will soon forget. Again today, Iranian hardliners celebrated this anniversary in Tehran’s streets by burning American flags and chanting anti-American slogans.
Later this week, the United States and our international partners will meet again with Iranian representatives in Geneva. I have strongly supported the tough economic sanctions that have brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table, and I urge the Administration not to back away from these sanctions until Iran translates its rhetoric into concrete and verifiable action. Previous negotiation efforts have yielded little but additional time for Iran to continue its support of terrorism and expand its nuclear program.
In honor of those Americans who were taken hostage on November 4, 1979, we must continue to insist that Iran forgo its enrichment program and allow full access for international inspectors. Their courage and sacrifice those many years ago should prompt us to accept nothing less.
Last November, I called for a more assertive US approach to the conflict in Syria because it is in line with our national security interests and our humanitarian values. Taking action now will certainly be more difficult than it was last year, but if the administration does decide to act in collaboration with our allies in Europe and the Middle East, it should act decisively to avoid further extending the conflict. As part of any military response, the US should redouble its efforts to support the moderate opposition with training and equipment. The US should also increase humanitarian support for Syrians inside the country as well as refugees in surrounding countries. Addressing the crisis in Syria at this stage will be extremely difficult, but every day that Assad remains in power helps Iran and Hezbollah and threatens stability across the region. Iran and terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah, are plotting against the United States and its allies every day. I commend the Administration for confronting this difficult but critical challenge. Assad has slaughtered more than 100,000 people and stoked sectarianism throughout the region. He has crossed more than a red line and the United States must act in the interest of our national and global security.