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@MyKitchenTable:Monday April 18, 2022

Washington, April 18, 2022 | Caroline Banaszak (202 - 225 - 3761)
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April 18, 2022

@MyKitchenTable:Monday April 18, 2022

Dear Friend:

“Our defense is the preservation of liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere.It is the eternal struggle between these two principles—right and wrong—throughout the world.”

The above quote is from Lincoln, and I just started reading Lincoln and the Fight for Peace by John Avlon. Lincoln believed that decency could be the most practical form of politics. He understood that if you do not win the peace, you do not win the war. Certainly a lesson we see playing out in today’s world.

This past week I joined with a number of my democrat and GOP colleagues meeting with German, Polish, and Danish members of parliament, foreign ministers, and our troops in the 82nd Airborne in Poland. I led the nine-Member (plus a Senator) bipartisan delegation with my colleague Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. I also met with multiple humanitarian agencies helping with the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the brutal and devastating attack directed by Putin. Literally some 42 meetings in six days.

GERMANY

Beginning in Germany, we had a candid discussion with the new U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Amy Gutmann (former University of Pittsburgh president). At the beginning she noted how her father and his family had fled Nazi Germany at the outset of the Holocaust. The significance of that fact as we began discussions on the plight of the Ukrainian people was lost on none of us.

Just the day before, on Sunday, we walked through the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. At the Imageend of the memorial is an underground information center with the names of over 3 million Jewish Holocaust victims. At the entrance, a somber inscription, “It happened once. It will happen again.” We saw thousands of photos and read hundreds of personal stories documenting the horror. I was particularly struck by the July 31, 1942 message from a youngster to her father, “I am saying goodbye to you before I die. We would so love to live, but they won’t let us and we will die. I am so scared of this death, because the small children are thrown alive into the pit. Goodbye forever. I kiss you tenderly.”

Yes it is happening again as reports showing nearly 1,000 innocent civilians executed with bodies being booby-trapped with explosives, and Russia’s TASS news reports that 550K Ukrainians were shipped to Russia from Ukraine.

Almost across the street is a sidewalk plaque marking the spot where Ronald Reagan spoke in front of the Berlin Wall with his famous “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this wall!”

Those words were among Reagan’s most notable and authorized over the State Department’s objections by Reagan’s Chief of Staff, Ken Duberstein. Ken was my boss and mentor when I worked at the White House in the 80’s and that story was used in my eulogy for him last month.

Monday, we met with Ambassador Gutmann and her embassy team. We met with the American Chamber of Commerce industry heads (including Pfizer and Ford). We then met with Germany’s Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht as well as other officials, all before we met for a couple hours with the Chancellor’s Chief of Staff and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Germany has been an instrumental leader in the NATO coalition much to some observer’s surprise. Sholz jolted the equation by agreeing to the 2% of GDP defense spending agreement and were then working on drafting yet another seventh economic sanction resolution to further tighten the penalties on Russia. Not only have we seen unanimous NATO support but also among the European Union. And, importantly, everywhere we went, the verdict that the Russian Nordstrom 2 pipeline will never operate. The comment was made that NATO really is alive and kicking.

DENMARK

In Copenhagen, Denmark, our delegation met with the Ministers of Finance and Defense Noclai Wammen and Morten Bødskov at Kastellet Fortress (their Pentagon). Steny Hoyer and I also presented wreaths for their fallen soldiers who died fighting with Allied forces in WWII. I had previously traveled to Afghanistan and Iraq and witnessed their participation with our troops. Hoyer later made a major policy speech to the Danish Foreign Policy Society followed by a press conference with our delegation and meeting with their Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee and Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod. It certainly appeared to all of us that Russia’s actions have only strengthened NATO as the Danes also have agreed to the 2% defense spending figure. Clearly they believe that Putin seriously misjudged NATO’s reaction believing that they are in for the long haul and that yes, freedom comes at a price. All of us believe that the Ukrainians are fighting for us and we need to ensure that they have the necessary military aid. The point was also made that more LNG exports are needed which was the focus of my two earlier trips to Ukraine in 2015 and 2016 as the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee with now-GOP-Leader Kevin McCarthy.

POLAND

Wednesday and Thursday we were in Poland. Our delegation met at our embassy in Warsaw with Ambassador Mark Brzezinski and his key staff as well as the Polish Defense and Foreign Ministries. Yes, Brzezinski is son of Zbig and I have to say apple has not fallen far from tree. We were all impressed with his knowledge of the challenges at hand and his commitment to solutions that require Poland, the US and all our allies to step up.Image

Some 400 thousand Ukraine refugees have been welcomed in Warsaw and are being housed by Polish families. We met with the Mayor of Warsaw Rafal Trzaskowksi who is expected to come to Washington early next month and I invited him to the bipartisan Problem Solver’s Caucus weekly meeting. He was a former intern for Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) in the 90’s whose office was across the hall from me and served as my Energy and Commerce Committee Chair and I later served as his. Michigan has the third largest percentage among the states of Polish-Americans.

We then traveled to the border where we met with a number of humanitarian agencies Imagehelping with the millions of refugees flooding the border. So many organizations are involved in this effort and the relief workers all deserve badges of honor. Among others we heard from UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Program (WFP). In calm, measured voices they relayed to us the situation in Ukraine and the daily atrocities. What struck me was their compassion, courage and commitment to continue helping for as long as needed. These aid workers are truly angels among us. Included in the visit at the border was Chef José Andrés from the World Central Kitchen (WCK) (you can see more on this great organizationHERE) where they have now served some 9 million meals (290 thousand daily) in some 60 Ukraine towns. One of their kitchens in Kharkiv was hit over this weekend, just three days after we were there. You can read more about the Russian attack on the kitchen HERE. Due to privacy concerns at the border, we kept our distance from traumatized refugees crossing into Poland with their children and pets and witnessed the beginning of some Ukraine refugees with over-loaded autos beginning to return to western Ukraine.Image

We also participated in a classified briefing at the US 82nd Airborne Command Center in advance of the $800 million delivery of military equipment including howitzers, helicopters, body armor and helmets, chemical and nuclear protective equipment, switchblade drones (very effective) which as you read this has now arrived and is being delivered to Ukraine. We also took the opportunity to say thank you to our soldiers who are currently deployed here at the base, a number of whom are from Michigan. We continue to see the Russians attack thousands of innocent civilians with the tragic news that the city of Mariupol has been “wiped off the face of the earth.” It is so clear that what the Russians did in Syria with cities of Aleppo has been their strategy and why the coalition of the EU and NATO have to help.

As I have referenced in earlier KT reports, Ukraine is viewed as the breadbasket of the world with crops – corn, wheat, sunflower oil, etc. They Imagesupply much of Northern Africa, China, and Eastern Europe. This, like here at home, is the time farmers are beginning to prepare the land for the crops and as you can imagine, is not likely to happen at the same scale with issues like the shortage of fuel for tractors and the entire Black Sea coast now controlled by the Russians. Apparently, Exxon pledged to provide diesel fuel at cost but there is a catch.... the fuel is refined in Russia. In the meantime, Russia continues to send LNG through Ukraine to Europe with Europe paying for the gas and Ukraine being reimbursed for the pipeline transit fees from Russia. Ultimately, one can expect our NATO allies to wean themselves off Russian energy on what hopefully will be a fast transition which is why US exports of LNG is so important. We had discussions on fuel needs whether it be nuclear, coal, renewable, and LNG. Like here, an all-of-the-above energy strategy is so important.

One of the next real milestones is the runoff election April 24 in France. I believe the Russians will do all they can to interfere as Macron needs to win to keep the EU and NATO coalition intact. Le Pen has voiced her opposition to the coalition’s efforts.

All in all, the trip reaffirmed my commitment to supporting Ukraine with all they need to win this war. The stakes have never been higher. HERE is a link to Steny Hoyer’s press release today.

MEET THE PRESS

I was a guest on Sunday’s Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and discussed my recent retirement news and closed on the visit to the Ukraine border. You can watch that segment HERE and read the subsequent stories HERE. Chuck Todd asked me, “Is the United States doing enough to help Ukraine?” I answered, “We have to do everything we can. Let me just tell you, the Ukraine folks, so brave, they are fighting for us. It was a bipartisan trip that I went on. We have to make sure that they have every tool, to make sure that they can survive.”

 

All best,


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Fred



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