Answering questions at Dartmouth College on Friday, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said they understood the economic ripples of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia were beginning to sting, but both agreed that international stability hinges on Ukraine’s ability to decide its own path forward.
Both senators are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and have been staunch supporters of democracy-promotion efforts abroad. Shaheen said she thinks the policy of support for Ukraine is ultimately in the American interest.
“They are defending democracy not just for their country but for the rest of the world,” Shaheen said. “It’s about whether we’re going to stand up for other democracies.”
She said other European countries are watching nervously — and added that she believed China and Iran could feel empowered if Russia is allowed to take control of Ukraine.
“It’s going to give them a green light to do all kinds of things,” Shaheen said.
Portman, a 1978 graduate of Dartmouth College, agreed, adding that he felt secure in support for Ukraine because dozens of other countries are helping too.
“Freedom loving countries all over the world are stepping up,” Portman said. “If not us, who?”
Shaheen and Portman said American elected officials could be doing more to put blame on Putin for the growing crises of food and fuel in the world.
“As democracies, we respond to different pressures than Vladimir Putin,” Shaheen said. “The frustration people feel about the impact of the war on those rising gas prices is going to increase.”
Shaheen proposed that the United Nations “escorts” shipments of grain out of Ukraine, and “dare” Russia to attack. “There’s some risk involved,” she said. “But so far we’ve been on the defensive, Ukraine has been on the defensive and we’ve got to figure out how to reverse that.”
Portman, who is not seeking reelection, agreed, and said he supported even more punishing sanctions to stop Russia exporting more fuel.
“This is what’s funding the war,” Portman said. “The Russians aren’t feeling all the pressure they should be feeling.”