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Rep. Maloney on trip to Eastern Europe, Putin's war crimes, and the U.S. response

Rep. Sean
Office of Rep. Maloney
Office of Rep. Maloney
N.Y. Rep. Maloney, Vermont Rep. Welch greet Slovakian officials during a Congressional trip to Eastern Europe.

Members of Congress from the House Intelligence Committee are just back from a trip to Eastern Europe. Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York’s 18th district was one of the representatives in Poland in recent days, where he got an update on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the effects on neighboring countries that are now sheltering millions of refugees.

What was the scene?

It's a desperate situation. And thank God, you know, we're doing all we can with our NATO allies and partners to make sure Putin fails. That's the number one thing.

What are the current needs in the places you visited?

Well, that's the right question. And we were speaking directly to the Ukrainians and to our allies about that. Look, here's what has worked. What has worked enormously well are the TB2 drones they've been getting from Turkey that allow them to destroy these convoys, the anti-tank guided munitions, those are the javelins that are working to great effect against Soviet tanks, and also what we call MANPADS, which are the manned portable aerial defense system. That's the acronym, it means the stinger missiles that are shoulder fired. But we also need these anti-ship weapons that we've now seen the value of with the sinking of the Moscow, a huge event for the Ukrainians and demoralizing for the Russians. They have other ships in the Black Sea that are sitting ducks if we get them the right munitions. And we need to.

What's your sense of where we are in a timeline here? Is it possible that there's resolution on the horizon? Or are you expecting fighting to continue for some time?

I think people should be prepared for a long conflict. But the key is to make sure that it's not on Russia's terms that this is not Mariupol, where they are grinding down some heroic Ukrainian defenders. But the Ukrainians can only hold out for so long. We need to make sure the larger situation is one where time is working against the Russians. We've already seen that Ukrainians have won the battle of Kyiv. But we don't know that this is the last time the Russians are going to try to take that city. But I'm particularly concerned now about the Black Sea coast, about cities like Odessa that the Russians may try to overtake. So we have to keep them pinned down in the east and roll back those gains so that time works for the Ukrainians, not against them.

President Zelensky in a recent interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” renewed calls for the U.S. to establish a no fly zone, which has been seen in our country as provocation that would lead to a major war with Russia. Do you see any movement on that front?

Well, what I hope people understand is that if you're talking about a traditional no fly zone, you're going to need to take out sophisticated surface to air missile systems that are stationed on Russian territory. That's why, strictly speaking, a no fly zone is tantamount to a war with Russia. But we can give the Ukrainians sophisticated air defense systems of their own that can keep Russian planes out of the sky, or at least keep them in the fight and contesting the airspace. That's the SA-300 system that has recently been sent from Slovakia that we backfield with a Patriot missile system with our NATO allies, Germany in particular. That gets the Ukrainians the type of sophisticated air defense radars and missiles to keep Russian airplanes from owning the sky. That is the best way to establish Ukrainian control of their own airspace, keep contesting that airspace, take some Russian planes out of the sky.

Are these weapons and supplies getting to the Ukrainians fast enough?

Yes, they are. But it's going to remain a challenge to make sure that they are getting to where they need to go within the country. But I can tell you is that the United States and our NATO allies, with the president's leadership on this, are flooding the country with sophisticated weapons and other supplies and aid that the Ukrainians need. But every military has a problem with logistics and getting the right material to the right place is always going to be a challenge. But I was very impressed by what I saw in Europe. What I can tell you is that we are doing a lot. And the president just recently used another $800 million of budget authority that we've provided to him part of the $13 billion aid package the Congress approved. We're doing a lot and it's having a big impact on the war.

Lastly, was there a personal story or a personal interaction you had during the trip that is sticking with you?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think that you can't go there and speak to folks who have been chased out of their homes without it making a big impression on you. We spoke in particular to a group of Ukrainian lawmakers, and hearing them tell the story of having to leave their families behind, in many cases, is heart wrenching. One woman told us about literally having to choose between her husband and children and doing her job as a member of the Rada, the Ukrainian parliament. There are thousands of people suffering right now. And we can never repair all that damage. But the best thing we can do is make sure Vladimir Putin fails and that we hold him accountable for his war crimes. There needs to be justice here, in addition to victory, and we can do that, but first we have to win the war.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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