Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs, is standing at the forefront of America’s response to the struggle in Ukraine.
Murphy accompanied a bipartisan delegation to Ukraine of eight senators from March 13–16, in an attempt to assure Ukrainian leaders that they are supported by the United States. Following the trip, Murphy and his colleague, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, have twice updated New Haven residents on U.S. involvement in Ukraine. These updates took place on March 19 and yesterday.
“I knew, in those scary first few days of the Russian invasion, that nerves would be fraying in Kiev,” Murphy said in a statement. “A strong, unified message of support from Ukraine’s friends in the U.S. Senate could make a difference.”
The March trip was Murphy’s second to Kiev, following a visit in mid-December during the most violent days of protest in the Maidan, Kiev’s central square.
In the interim, Murphy and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona collaborated on a comprehensive bill, which included one billion dollars of aid relief to the new Ukrainian government and sanctions against Yanukovych and Russian officials involved in orchestrating the Crimean invasion.
On Thursday, the bill passed with an overwhelming 98-2 vote.
“Senator Murphy and Senator McCain have been instrumental in drafting of this bill,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. “The bill reflects similar actions taken in Europe. It makes clear to Russia that sanctions will only increase with further action.”
The Senate was due to vote on the aid package before the bipartisan delegation departed for Europe. However, Murphy said “the isolationist wing of the Republican party” delayed the vote due to objections over assistance it would have allocated to the International Monetary Fund.
According to Cardin, the relief part of the IMF package was removed from the bill to ensure strong bipartisan support for the legislation.
“There have been differences between the parties,” said Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois on the floor of the senate on Wednesday. “But there comes a moment, and there always has, at least in the past, where we decide to stand together as a nation, particularly when it comes to issues of foreign policy.”
Blumenthal visited St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in New Haven yesterday to update members of the Ukrainian community on the passage of the bill.
“The [Ukrainian] community is very gratified by the resolution, but still concerned about the future,” Blumenthal said. “I was inspired and moved by the dedication of the community towards the need for democracy and self-determination for Ukraine.”
Blumenthal said he and Murphy have worked as a team and talked extensively over the past few weeks about connecting Connecticut’s Ukrainian community to the action in Washington.
More recently, the U.S. has coordinated with its allies to prepare for stronger trade sanctions against Russia, Blumenthal added.
While in Ukraine, Murphy and the delegation heard news of possible Russian movement into the Crimean region to seize a gas terminal and halt flow into Crimea as an effort to manipulate Ukraine by restricting energy supply.
Murphy wrote that the delegation sought to present a unified message to Ukrainians regarding the invasion before the end of the trip.
“We stayed together, on message, and strong in our support of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and right to self-governance,” he wrote.
In addition to Murphy, the delegation, including Republicans McCain, Jeff Flake of Arizona, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and John Hoeven of North Dakota and Democrats Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse ’78 of Rhode Island.