Russia Will Lose Crimea and Suffer for Decades After Putin: US Senator Risch Interview

Monday, 21 November 2022 — , European Pravda

In Ukraine, the Republican Party of the USA is now often connected with the notorious Donald Trump, the most recently elected president from this party. However, most Republican politicians have views that differ from Trump's on many issues, including Ukraine's war against Russia.

The recent failure of Trump's team in the midterm election proves to us the importance of "traditional" Republicans, whose political weight is now growing.

79-year-old Senator Jim Risch is one of them. He serves as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, maintaining the so-called "Ukrainian folder." He has visited Ukraine more than once, the last time in June 2022.

"European Pravda" has had a chance to speak with Senator Risch in Canada, on the sidelines of the Halifax Security Forum. He attends it as the head of the American Congress delegation. The politician is actively working on new weaponry for Ukraine. But he admits: you have to be realistic, including jets. However, he has not the slightest doubt about Ukraine's victory.

Also, an episode of this interview is available in video format.

"When you go head-to-head with the Russians on the ground, you beat them"

- Ukrainians have "three most important words" in international politics. It’s "Ukraine will win". You started saying them before it was mainstreamed in the US.

I'd say some other words, too. Putin has already lost. I really believe that. I think that the Ukrainian people have demonstrated that he will never succeed in his objective, which was to occupy the country. The Ukrainians will fight to the death before they allow their country to be occupied. That has impressed the world. It is incredibly impressive.

To me, at this point, that's really an overriding idea that he has already lost. He hasn't found an exit ramp yet, but he needs to continue to look. 

I'm not talking about the fighting. The fighting is going to go on. I'm talking about him accomplishing the objective that he set out to do. He will never succeed and accomplish what he set out to do. The Ukrainians have demonstrated to themselves, to the world, certainly to the Russians that they will not allow their country to be occupied. Under any circumstances, they will fight to the death to oppose that. 

So Putin hasn't won and he can't win.

- Winning on the battlefield is also important. Is it possible in the upcoming months or next year?

- That's really hard to say.

I think that we talk all the time with you military about the kind of weapons that they need. Certainly at the top of the list is anything that can control the air defence. We're doing better on that. We can do more on that. I think that is certainly an objective that is necessary. So that you can beat them on the ground. Because every time you take them on the ground, you beat them. It needs to be fair. It needs to be done on the ground, not in the air.

- We will return to air defence, but first - an important political issue. Following the 2022 mid-term election, Republicans have retaken control of House of Representatives. We have heard from them many statements recently about a possible reduction of assistance to Ukraine. Is it possible to happen?

- No.

Look, this is America. We have absolute free speech. People can say what they want. They can think what they want. There are 535 members of Congress. Out of those 535 members, there is a handful that does not support America’s effort in Ukraine. They are absolutely free to express that view. When they do, the media rush like flies to cover it. As a result, the people, who are saying that, get way more publicity. Way more news coverage.

The vast majority of both the Senate and the House stand by Ukraine.

- Will there be any changes after the elections? If you do not expect the assistance to Ukraine to decrease, then perhaps you will increase it.

That is a matter that is discussed regularly. In fact, it's ongoing right now because the President has proposed another supplemental that has a given amount in it. There are some people who think it should be more. Then some people think it should be less. We will sort this out. We have always had in the past. We will hear it and take proposition like anything when you're legislating. 

"There aren't enough people now that are in support of jets"

- What should the White House do differently in backing Ukraine? What would you personally do differently if you were them?

If I were the person to decide, I would try to help them form the policies at the beginning. Particularly, I was very critical of the administration. I didn't think they were doing enough. I didn't think they were doing it fast enough.

Biden's Administration has improved in terms of backing Ukraine.

I will say that I would still like to see more. I'd still like to see it faster. I'm probably at the world's robust end of the spectrum. If it was up to me, fighter jets would be important, training the pilots would be important.

I hear people say: ‘Oh, you can't do that because you're going to escalate the war.’ Look when we fought in Vietnam and in Korea, the Russians supplied jets and supplied pilots to the other side. It's time to return the favour. I met with the pilots from Ukraine. I believe they can fly our F-16. It's going to take them some training. I don't think flying them is as much of a problem as operating the avionics and the battle systems in the airplane.

Right now we're doing better. We started out with the Stingers, went through the HIMARS and we're doing the NASAMS now. The NASAMS have really proven more effective on the battlefield. If there's anything I would urge the administration right now, that would be realistic, would be actually to supply more NASAMS. 

Ріш неодноразово відвідував Україну. Фото з зустрічі у Києві у червні 2022 року

- Maybe Patriot could be an option? And together with them, place F-16 or F-35 in Poland, which would patrol the sky and shoot down missiles?

- We're not going to supply manpower to Ukraine. And Ukraine knows that. They have indeed said: ‘We do not need Americans here to fight. We will fight ourselves. Give us the tools.’ The common refrain that someone said and has been repeated over and over again to us.

- If you hand over Patriot to Ukraine, the Ukrainian military will also be able to operate them, if they are trained. Fighter pilots can be both Ukrainians and Americans, whose mission will be to shoot down missiles.

- I hear the argument. But again, I want to come back to American pilots are not going to fly in Ukraine. Like I said in the past, the other side did provide jets to our enemies. I think that the F-16 would be a weapon that could be used. I have to say I'm in the minority on that. I don't think that there is a majority that believes that. Having said that, the next step down for me would be the NASAMS which are really proving their effectiveness in closing the airspace. We don't actually have to put airplanes in the air to close the airspace. Using NASAMS, using HIMARS, using the Stingers, has done a pretty good job of closing the airspace. Obviously, there's more that needs to be done, and I've urged the administration to do that. 

There aren't enough people right now that are in support of that. Let's do what we can all agree on, and that's NASAMS. Let's get you guys as many NASAMS as we can. 

- Do you expect that all these could lead to a nuclear war? 

- I don't think so.

Obviously, as long as there’s nuclear weapon, there's a risk. But I think that there are two things I think Putin will not do. Number one, I don't think he'll use nuclear weapons.

Number two: I don't think he will attack a NATO country. He believes us when we say that if you attack a NATO country, you're going to get 30 of us, pretty soon 32 of us, right in your face. We believe that an attack on one is an attack on all, so I don't think he's going to do that.

As far as the nuclear systems are concerned, that would be a step that would really turn the world greatly against him. Nuclear Holocaust is something that's unthinkable. 

"I don't know how Putin plans to find an exit ramp, but Crimea is Ukraine"

- Most of the world has already turned away from Russia, but nothing stops them. Instead, there is other logic. Putin is losing on the battlefield. Finally lost, he must use all the powers available to him, including nuclear weapons.

- Well, there's another option for him, and that is to find an exit ramp. That gives him what he needs at home because he, obviously, needs political cover at home. Everything we read is that his political capital at home was decreasing every day. So he should be looking for an exit ramp that gives him what he needs. He gets out of Ukraine and gives all of Ukraine back to the Ukrainian people. 

- Everyone understands that Crimea is the key issue. Ukraine will not give up Crimea.

- Ukrainians decide what they will give up, right? I subscribe to it. Crimea is Ukraine. The international rule of law says that a country cannot make war in another country and take part of it, or take all of it. The United Nations Charter itself that 193 countries belong to says that the Integrity of borders is just that and that it is not appropriate with the international law for a country to get a part of another country. 

- But will Putin be able to retain power if, as a result of the war, Ukraine returns Crimea? Russians perceive Crimea as a precious treasure, and the day Russians realise that Crimea is lost, they will realise that Putin has lost the war. What about the Russians?

- I can't speculate on that. We all know this is a one man war. Only Putin makes the decision every day to continue this war. He started it. He can end it. He has his own domestic issues at home and he has to be answerable to his people. I hope that he listens to the voice of reason in this country. I'm not hopeful that he will, but certainly I'm not confident that he will.

- I cannot fully agree. It is not just Putin who killed people in Bucha, in Kherson, and so on.

- I agree. But he gave the order.

- Russian people obey the order and are happy with that. It means whole of Russia is behind this war.

- I don't disagree that the country itself is liable. They certainly are liable, but the person who gives the orders is one man.

- There are frequent calls for Ukraine to negotiate with Russia (in particular, to find a "way out for Putin". - EP). Do you think it is possible that we will agree when the war ends, and Ukraine and Russia will be good neighbours again?

- I've talked to Ukrainians: from President Zelenskyy to ordinary people, Ukrainian veterans who have fought. There is anger in the Ukrainian people that won't heal for generations

It is not going to happen when the war ends there's going to be a reconciliation Commission where everybody hugs and makes up.

That is not going to happen here. Aside from Ukraine, Russia itself is going to suffer fallout from this for decades and decades to come. People will not trust them again. People who want to do business with them. This is going to affect when this is over. It's not over. It will have long-lasting effects, not just on the Russia-Ukraine relationship, but on Russia's relationship with the rest of the world. 

- Even after Putin?

- Definitely after Putin. Just because Putin leaves, the people are not going to look at this and say: ‘Oh well everything is ok now.’ The entire country bears responsibility for this. 


Interviewed by Sergiy Sydorenko

"European Pravda editor"

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