After weeks of heightened tensions, Russia on Thursday launched an attack on Ukraine that President Joe Biden called a “premeditated war.”
Biden has placed sanctions on Russia and indicated he’s willing to take further action. On Thursday afternoon, he announced additional sanctions and said he was authorizing more troops to NATO allies in Europe like Estonia, Latvia and Poland, according to The Washington Post.
As the U.S. response unfolds, here’s how Tampa Bay’s congressional delegation is reacting. This story will be updated as more responses are provided.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg
Crist began a campaign news conference Thursday morning by expressing solidarity with the people of Ukraine and saying the United States needs to bring forward the harshest sanctions.
“Russian President Vladimir Putin is a murderous dictator who has invaded a sovereign democracy in an effort to recreate the glory days of the USSR,” Crist said in a statement. “This is an unprovoked war of his choosing, and it will cause tremendous loss of life, destruction, and suffering. This aggression will be met with harsh, punishing sanctions designed to cripple the Russian economy. Bullies like Putin only respect power. The U.S., European Union and our allies will meet these transgressions with fierce, unyielding pressure, as we stand in solidarity with Ukraine and her people.”
When asked if he would support a congressional authorization to send troops into Ukraine, Crist said he doesn’t feel it’s appropriate now.
“I think we ought to follow the lead of President Biden. He has said that that is something that we’re not going to do, and I think that’s the right approach certainly for now,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa
Castor also called for harsh sanctions and said her heart is with the people of Ukraine.
“The violent attack on Ukraine and innocent civilians by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will be met with the harshest sanctions to ever emanate from the free world and defensive military support for Ukraine and Eastern Europe,” Castor said in a statement. “Freedom-loving people across the globe will see a strong, coordinated response from the United States, NATO and our allies. While President Biden and world leaders work together to stand up for Ukraine and democracy, Americans should unite in support of our democratic ideals and freedom and security for all people.”
Get insights into Florida politics
Subscribe to our free Buzz newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor
In a statement shared on Twitter, Bilirakis expressed his concern for the people of Ukraine and took the chance to criticize Biden, saying the president missed an opportunity to back up talk with serious action earlier.
He also said Biden’s energy policies have led to dependence on foreign nations like Russia.
Bilirakis does not support authorizing U.S. troops to go to Ukraine, according to spokesperson Summer Blevins.
“My prayers are with the people of Ukraine as they watch violence unfold on their streets and continue to grapple with a violent invasion led by a power-hungry, unstable leader,” Bilirakis said in a statement.
“Sadly, this tragedy may have been avoided if President Biden would have backed up weeks of tough talk with serious action. This humanitarian and political crisis is the latest example of how weakness on the international stage only serves to embolden our enemies. The international community must now send a strong and clear message to Putin and other authoritarian regimes that unprovoked attacks on a sovereign European nation will have swift and severe consequences. The violence must stop immediately, and we must make strategic changes that will deter future aggression.
“For example, President Biden must reverse his disastrous energy policies, unleashing domestic energy production so the U.S. and her allies are no longer dependent on foreign adversaries, like Russia!”
“The fact of the matter is that under Vice President Biden’s watch Putin invaded and annexed Crimea and under President Biden’s watch Putin has now invaded Ukraine,” Bilirakis’ spokesperson said in a statement. “Thugs like Putin detect weakness and test the waters.”
“The violence must stop immediately, and we must make strategic changes that will deter future aggression. Furthermore, Xi in China has been watching closely and moving more aggressively against Taiwan. This Administration must stop leading from behind.”
U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Clermont
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Webster said a lack of strong response by the United States in light of the attack would not only fail to stop Russia but would also embolden other adversaries and show that the United States has weakened.
“Yesterday, the White House announced new sanctions on Russia for their invasion and de facto annexation of Ukrainian sovereign territory. President Biden needs to be strong, forceful and clear-eyed — now is the time to impose real and significant economic and diplomatic costs on Russia for its invasion, not slaps on the wrist. Like it or not, the U.S. is a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum in which we, along with the U.K. and Russia, provided security assurances to Ukraine in exchange for giving up their nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Webster said in his post.
“Failing to match words with action will not only fail to deter Russia from further action but will send the signal of another broken promise — and a weakened U.S. on the global stage after the disastrous consequences of our broken promises in Afghanistan.”
“Our adversaries across the globe, including China and Iran, are watching. Just today, the China Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece clearly indicated that the CCP will take Taiwan one way or another, echoing President Xi’s previous remarks. These bellicose statements are emboldened by Putin’s actions in Ukraine and the West’s tepid response.”
U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
Scott posted a tweet early Thursday saying freedom in Ukraine was under attack and asked followers to pray for “the innocent lives in danger.”
Scott later said in a statement that Putin’s move is an act of war and must be responded to with severe sanctions. He also said Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Putin.
“We must be clear about what has occurred over the last 24 hours: At the direction of Vladimir Putin, Russia has violated the sovereignty of a free country and American partner, committed a blatant act of war and unlawfully and violently invaded Ukraine,” Scott said Thursday.
“Freedom in Europe is under attack and we must acknowledge that Putin’s goal is to seize further control of wealth and power across the continent. The United States must respond with devastating sanctions and severe consequences that cripple the Russian oligarchy and Putin’s thugs and cronies both in and outside of the Kremlin. Joe Biden has spent the last year driving America backward. Oil prices are surging while American energy independence has suffered under this administration’s continued attacks. Biden’s total failure of political leadership and foreign policy incompetence, which has been on full display since his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, not only emboldens dictators like Putin, but has direct consequences for the financial security and safety of American families and hurts the poorest Americans first and most. Things will only get worse now that Biden has failed to prevent this Russian aggression. The world is watching. Communist China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela are watching. Now more than ever, America must stand with Ukraine, as well as Lithuania, Taiwan and all countries standing with us and against evil thugs trying to control the world. We must show an unyielding commitment to freedom. Anything less is dangerous and unacceptable weakness.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
Rubio posted multiple updates Thursday about the situation in Ukraine on his Twitter account.
Rubio is a co-sponsor of a resolution expressing support for Ukraine, which passed on Feb. 18. The resolution affirms the right of Ukraine to be independent and “encourages the President that, should any further invasion or other malign activity to undermine the sovereignty of Ukraine occur by Russia, the United States Government should exhaust all tools at its disposal to impose significant costs on the Russian Federation to restore peace in Europe.”
In an interview on Fox News, Rubio said the situation shows the United States is too dependent on Russia for energy and China for the supply chain.
On Wednesday, Rubio said on CNN that “we should recognize the Ukrainian government, even if it happens to be in exile or some remote portion of the country, and we should help them. ... They’re not asking for American soldiers. They’re just asking for the weapons to fight for themselves and their families.”