Graham, Wilson discuss next steps for U.S. amid Ukraine invasion

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 10:58 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 15, 2022 at 11:29 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he’ll support a new bipartisan bill, the Asset Seizure for Ukraine Reconstruction Act, to enable the seizure and sale of Russian oligarchs’ assets.

Proceeds from the sale of oligarchs’ assets would be used to support post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine, humanitarian assistance, military assistance for the armed forces of Ukraine, supporting refugees and their resettlement, or technology and services to ensure the free flow of information to the Ukrainian people.

The bill is in response to Russian ruler Vladimir Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

“Dictators like Putin care only about themselves and their cronies,” Graham said. “It is long past time for all the Russian oligarchs – Putin’s partners in crime – to lose their yachts, luxury apartments, and their assets and pay a price for being part of a thuggish group – a nation-state that really is a mafia-state.”

The bill would also authorize cash rewards administered by the Treasury Department for people who provide information leading to the confiscation of assets, or to any nonprofit humanitarian organization that identifies ill-gotten assets for seizure.

Tuesday’s announcement came a day after Graham and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson weighed in on how they believe the United States should proceed in Ukraine, saying world order hinges on the outcome of the war.

They took part in a roundtable discussion Monday at the University of South Carolina’s School of Law, titled, “Assessing the Conflict in Ukraine and Possible War Crimes,” with UofSC’s Rule of Law Collaborative.

The lawmakers said the war pits the rule of law, democracy, against the rule of the gun, authoritarianism.

“If you can do what Putin is doing and get away with it, then this idea of Western civilization as we know it is very much at risk,” Graham said. “If he’s still standing when this is all over and a viable world leader, I worry about the future of the planet.”

Graham reiterated he does not support sending American troops into battle in Ukraine, an action the Biden administration has said it will not take.

President Joe Biden and NATO have also said they will not enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing it could escalate the war and drag more nations into the fighting.

But Graham said Monday that he thinks the US needs to take that step if Putin resorts to chemical warfare.

“That destroys the international regime we’ve tried to create around banning chemical weapons. So are we all talk, or do we believe in what we say? Do we believe in these conventions that make the world a better place?” Graham said.

The senator outlined three actions he believes the US and its allies need to take: providing more military aid and economic assistance to Ukraine, continuing to enforce sanctions on Russia and impose them on China if it comes to Russia’s aid, and investigating and holding Putin accountable for war crimes.

Graham said the US Senate could take a vote Monday night in support of a bipartisan resolution he is sponsoring to take the final action, and he argued earlier in the day that a regime change is necessary in Russia.

“My goal is, it’s time for Putin to go. That’s my goal,” Graham said. “Twenty years of rape, pillage, plunder is enough. War crimes in Syria, the destruction of Grozny and Chechnya, the killing of everybody who speaks up, the poisoning of people, the throwing people in jail. Like, enough already.”

Wilson is hopeful a democracy can emerge in Russia if Putin is gone.

“The Russian people, we can count on, I believe, a change,” he said. “We were told the people of Japan had never had democracy, there’s no way that they would change, or the people of Korea, South Korea, had never had democracy. Now they’re some of the most vibrant and wealthiest democracies on earth.”

After Congress voted last week to send more than $13 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, the Republican representing South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District is calling for more legislation out of Capitol Hill.

“That is for any patriotic Russia defector, that they would be given immediate refugee status through the United States, and additionally, if they turn over equipment to the people of Ukraine, that they would be paid up to $100,000,” he said.

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