WASHINGTON – Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, issued the following statement after Russian warships opened fire and seized three Ukrainian ships near Crimea on Sunday.
“I strongly condemn the Russian Federation’s escalation of hostilities in the Kerch Strait yesterday. The Kremlin must immediately return the seized Ukrainian vessels and cease any future actions that threaten the freedom of passage through the Kerch Strait. Yesterday’s events show that the Kremlin remains sharply intent on weakening Ukraine’s security and democratic trajectory. In response, the Trump Administration must immediately increase security assistance to Ukraine, including the provision of lethal maritime equipment and weapons. The United States should also assist Ukraine’s efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness. NATO also has a critical role and should consider increasing exercises and its presence in the Black Sea. I urge President Trump to commit to these measures prior to his reportedly scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin later this week at the G-20. Once again, the Kremlin has shown that it only respects a strong adversary that is willing to stand up to bullies. At this precarious time, the U.S. cannot afford a weak performance by President Trump at the G-20, like we saw in Helsinki. Mr. President, this is your opportunity to finally show American leadership in defense of our principles and our close allies across Europe.
“Congress also has a responsibility to act. I urge my colleagues to pass the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act in the coming weeks. We have a clear opportunity to send a message to the Kremlin that military aggression and political interference abroad will not go unchecked.”