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Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine -- Motion to Proceed -- Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to talk about an issue that has been in the news quite a bit, and quite a bit on the minds of people, I think, all around the Capitol, which is what is happening with, specifically, Vladimir Putin and Russia and the invasion and takeover of Crimea and the activities in Ukraine.

On March 15 Russian forces seized a natural gas distribution station in a Ukrainian village. I think this is key because this was right at the time they were getting ready to have a vote on Crimea leaving Ukraine, joining Russia, and I was in Ukraine at the time. I was there with a bipartisan group. We had eight Senators--Republicans and Democrats from across the aisle and across the broad spectrum of politics in America. What we saw at the time, right before the vote, was the helicopters heading in to take over the gas plant. To me that showed how Vladimir Putin thinks of energy, thinks of politics, and thinks of power.

In the Washington Post that Sunday morning, the day of the vote in Crimea: ``Ukraine decries Russian Invasion, Natural Gas Facility Seized.'' Their first action before the vote even occurred, the Russians came in and seized a natural gas facility. It showed his willingness, his desire, to use energy as a weapon. It is also a reminder that energy for us can be a powerful weapon to counter Russian aggression.

President Putin has repeatedly made it clear that he does not care about democracy, about freedom or about the Ukrainian people. What he does care about is money and power. As the United States considers how to help the Ukrainian people, as we are doing right now on the floor of the Senate with sanctions and aid, I think we need to make sure we take steps to hit Putin exactly where it hurts, which is in his wallet, in his power. Right now some may say: How does this matter? How important is this? Right now about half of Russia's revenue comes from oil and natural gas.

We heard it today in the energy committee. The chairman of the committee stated that in her remarks before hearing testimony. Fifty-two percent, she said, of Russia's revenue comes from oil and natural gas. I think Senator John McCain was exactly right when he said this past Sunday on CNN that ``Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.'' He was part of that group of eight Senators who went to Ukraine, went to Kiev, went and saw where the massacres occurred and visited with the new Prime Minister and the new President.

That is why I believe my amendment to this sanctions bill, this aid bill on the floor of the Senate, is so very important not just to us as a Nation but to the people of Ukraine, the people of Europe, those who are trying to regain some freedom from the yoke and the tyranny of what Russia is doing by charging outrageous energy prices to people across Europe and across the Ukraine. We have an opportunity right now to make it easier for the United States to export our own gas to NATO countries and Ukraine. That is what my amendment will do. It is simple. It is two pages. By expediting the approval of facilities to export liquefied natural gas, we can send a very powerful signal to European markets that alternative supplies will be available soon. We can undermine Russia's leverage with its European customers today and undercut Russia's ability to make so much money off gas exports in the future.

Some Washington Democrats continue to act as though the conflict in Ukraine has nothing to do with energy. Other Democrats see it differently. The Obama administration claims that speeding up LNG exports to Europe would not have an immediate effect. That is not what we heard today in the energy committee. That is not what a bipartisan group of Senators has heard and believes.

We cannot ignore Russia's economic dependence on energy and the reality about how energy markets work. Remember, half of Russia's revenue comes from oil and natural gas. That is why the United States shale gas revolution is already undermining Russia's negotiating position with its European neighbors.

This all has come about in the last decade--new techniques of horizontal drilling, directional drilling, all of which makes energy in the United States easier, cheaper to get, and then more available so it can then be more easily exported. By reducing U.S. demand, that frees up supply that can be bought on European markets. Because there is more supply, that forces Russia's state-owned gas companies to adjust their prices. Every molecule of American gas that can get anywhere else in the world is going to be a molecule that those in Europe and those in Ukraine cannot be held hostage to buy from Russia.

That is what The Economist said earlier this year. The more supply there is, then Russia's state-owned gas company will have to adjust its prices. It ran an article on European efforts to reduce the control Russia has had over gas prices. We can immediately apply more pressure to the region's gas prices and further erode Russia's revenues by approving additional liquefied natural gas export capacity.

I think about that hearing earlier today in the energy Committee, when every witness endorsed LNG exports to undercut Russia. So what is stopping us? Some Washington Democrats have denied any need to act more quickly. The administration has approved just seven applications for LNG export facilities over many years. It spent an average of 697 days processing each of them. The Energy Department has still not processed another 24 applications that are waiting and waiting and waiting.

My amendment would speed up that process, force the administration to act on applications to be able to allow energy to be sent to our NATO allies and to the Ukraine. We don't need more hearings to tell us what we already know. Natural gas and the pricing continues to be a boot on the neck of the Ukrainian people and in Europe.

Majority Leader Reid needs to allow a vote on my amendment. To me, it strengthens the Ukrainian relief package. It strengthens the economics in terms of money going from the United States. It strengthens aid, and it strengthens sanctions because it actually works to specifically undercut, undermine Russia's ability to hold others hostage. Plus, it has bipartisan support. There are a number of Democrats who would vote to support it. I think it is time to send a signal to Russia that we are finally ready to use energy to help stop their aggression.

I will point out that I am not alone in this, and there is significant across-the-board support. It is interesting, the number of headlines in the past week or so from papers with various different approaches, including the New York Times: ``U.S. Hopes Boom In Natural Gas Can Curb Putin,'' directly tying natural gas to the Russian President. That is the New York Times.


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