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Texas Congressman says Ukraine’s fight is our fight

a large banner says "Texan for Ukraine"
Patricia Lim /KUT
Supporters of Ukraine gathered at the Texas Capitol on February 24.

From Texas Standard:

Russian troops have invaded Ukraine and have now launched attacks on the country’s capital city, Kyiv. In response, President Joe Biden announced new economic sanctions on Russia Thursday.

The new sanctions affect Russia’s four largest banks. Additionally, the U.S. and western allies will establish export controls that are intended to hurt Russia’s military and technological capabilities.

U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a Democrat from Dallas who sits on the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, recently visited Ukraine. He says he believes sanctions imposed by the administration will have impact, especially because they were imposed in cooperation with U.S. allies. Listen to the interview in the audio player above or read the transcript below.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

Texas Standard: After visiting Ukraine, you wrote an op-ed declaring that Ukraine's fight is our fight. What do you mean and what experiences during your trip might have influenced your thoughts on the invasion?

Rep. Colin Allred: Well, what I meant by that is that Ukraine is being attacked by Russia because they are a democracy and because their existence as a democracy, neighboring Russia and Putin's dictatorship, is a threat to his rule and to his kleptocratic cronies rule of that country. And that's really what this is all about. I see a broader movement around the world challenging democracy, whether it's China trying to reabsorb Taiwan — which I have also visited — or even here at home in the United States, where in many ways we've seen our own democracy challenged in unprecedented ways. And so that was what I was referring to – is that the fight for democracy in this era, I think, is the defining one for this century.

Thursday, President Biden announced new sanctions blocks on technology exports targets against Russia's largest banks from accessing the U.S. financial system. Are these sanctions enough? 

Yes. Listen, I really want to go into this because I think that some of the reporting has been maybe not as in-depth. This is the most expensive sanctions package that has ever been established on a country. We have done this in coordination, and the coordination with our European allies and with our allies in the Pacific like Australia and Japan and even Taiwan is very important. And the reason why it's important that it's in coordination is that we're only about 6% of Russians imports. We don't have a huge economic connection with Russia, so anything we do on our own is not going to be as effective as if we do it with our allies and with our democratic partners around the world. And that's why, in conjunction with the banking sanctions that we've imposed, the import and export controls that we've put on them are going to cripple their economy and also take away the ability for them to conduct wars like this. And so it really is a very good and targeted sanctions package. There, of course, is discussion about what else could be in there. But I think we should all recognize that this is done and I think it's a diplomatic achievement.

Besides economic impacts, what additional leverage does the United States have? What would President Putin do to take our response to the next level? And what would that response look like? 

Well, it's a good question, because obviously I do think that conditions in Ukraine are going to continue to deteriorate. But the point of sanctions is to impose such a penalty on the aggressor nation that over time it becomes something that they have to make a very difficult choice — which is, as President Biden said in his speech, whether or not they're going to be able to pursue their long-term strategic goals or pursue this war. He can't do both. If they continue with this war, their long term strategic goals will be blocked by our sanctions. But there may be other steps that we have to take, and I think that the president has said — and I was at a briefing last night from the White House — that all options are still on the table absent military intervention. We are not going to see American troops put into Ukraine. That's not something that's being discussed. But we certainly are going to be supporting our NATO allies who are now neighbored by Russian troops. And we're going to be looking at any other mechanisms we have to hold Vladimir Putin accountable.

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.