Letlow: How should we handle these uncertain times in Ukraine?

Published 9:54 am Friday, March 18, 2022

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Over the past few weeks, we’ve all seen the horrific atrocities in Ukraine as Russia’s onslaught against innocent civilians, particularly women and children, has created a massive human tragedy. As a mother, I’m particularly heartbroken by the stories of pregnant women and newborn babies attacked in a hospital and fleeing families who were ruthlessly targeted by Russian troops while desperately struggling to reach safety.

It is clear that Vladimir Putin is a ruthless tyrant, and he and his henchmen are vicious war criminals. He has shocked the world not just with the brutality of this invasion but the murders of political adversaries, the imprisonment of opposition leaders, and continued assistance to oppressive governments in countries such as Iran and Syria.

I firmly believe that the United States and our allies must continue to use the harshest economic and diplomatic sanctions possible and permanently expel Putin’s Russia from the international community. Furthermore, we must ensure that these actions have far-reaching impacts that will cripple the Russian economy and leave him isolated in the world.

In Congress, we’re taking action. I was proud to vote for sending financial assistance to Ukraine, which will ensure that President Zelensky and his freedom fighters have the arms and ammunition they need to defend themselves. In addition, Republicans and Democrats in the House were able to come together and vote on a bipartisan basis to ban all Russian oil imports to the United States, stopping the daily purchase of nearly 600,000 barrels. Every day, the millions of American dollars spent on those oil purchases were ultimately lining Putin’s pockets.

While the import ban was an important step, I was disappointed that this Administration did not want to increase domestic oil production. The crisis in Ukraine has also led to increases in already near historically high gas prices that are hurting working families across the Fifth District. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In Louisiana, we have the solution to fuel the nation and return America to energy independence. Our state has abundant oil and gas reserves and a skilled workforce ready to return to work. Our refineries alone can process nearly 3.4 million barrels of crude oil daily. Louisiana can once again fuel the nation, but this is only possible if this Administration and the Democratic majority in Congress reverse their misguided energy policies and allow us to unleash the full power of domestic production.

We know that our adversaries, particularly China, are closely watching these events, encouraged by this Administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. A failure to decisively respond to Putin will undoubtedly lead to another international crisis, such as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

If we want to live in a free and democratic world, America must never waver in our commitment to a strong military and never approach diplomacy from a position of weakness. That’s why my Republican colleagues and I are fighting in Congress to ensure that our men and women in uniform always remain a top priority. I was proud to support legislation in the past year that has included a pay raise for our troops and brought substantial investments to Louisiana’s military installations, such as Fort Polk and Barksdale Air Force Base.

It was Ronald Reagan who told us that “Freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few, but the universal right of all God’s children.” I believe that as Americans, we are living in incredibly challenging times. But we can rise to meet this challenge, just as we have met so many throughout our history. After what we’ve seen in Afghanistan and Ukraine, it is clear that not just our future depends on it, but that the world needs a strong United States to be the world’s shining bastion of freedom.

 U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow represents Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her district includes all of Washington Parish.