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Montana lawmakers react to invasion of Ukraine

| March 1, 2022 7:00 AM

Montana U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines each condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine Thursday morning.

In separate statements, the Democrat and Republican senators, respectively, said they support Ukraine and called the attacks “illegal” and “outrageous.”

Ukraine’s leadership reported that at least 40 people had been killed in the initial push of Russian troops across the border.

“Vladimir Putin single-handedly started an unprovoked war that makes the world less safe,” Tester stated.

“The United States will continue to support the security and stability of our NATO and European allies in the face of these acts of war.”

Daines said he is “praying for the people of Ukraine" and condemns "Putin’s outrageous attack on their sovereignty and independence.”

In his statement, Daines called Putin “a thug” and said he’s been “empowered and emboldened” by President Biden's actions. He blamed Biden’s “disastrous” withdrawal from Afghanistan and his “approval of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline while killing America’s Keystone XL pipeline.”

“The skyrocketing price of oil and resulting inflation are stark reminders of the importance of increasing, not decreasing, made in America energy,” Daines said.

On Wednesday, Biden allowed sanctions to move forward against the company that built the undersea Nord Stream 2 pipeline that links Russian gas to Europe via Germany. The pipeline is complete but not yet operating.

According to Associated Press reports, the U.S. and European NATO allies have opposed the project going back before the Biden administration, saying it increases Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and gives Russia the possibility of using gas as a geopolitical weapon.

Biden waived sanctions against the pipeline’s operator when it was almost complete in return for an agreement from Germany to take action against Russia if it used gas as a weapon or attacks Ukraine.

In Congress, both Republicans and Democrats have long objected to Nord Stream 2.

Last year, Biden nixed a permit for the Keystone XL, which was to transport crude from the oil sand fields of western Canada to Nebraska.

On Thursday, the Biden administration was considering even more sanctions against Russia.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday before the onslaught, Tester said he supported the stiff sanctions, though he doubted the possibility of U.S. air strikes or a ground battle against Russian troops unless Russia attacks a NATO country.

“Ukraine is not a threat to Russia,” Tester said Wednesday. “This shows how unstable [Putin] really is.”

Daines said he does not support sending U.S. troops to the conflict.

Montana's Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale agreed that the U.S. should stay out of the conflict, saying U.S. involvement "does not serve our national interests."

"Now that Russia has begun their invasion of Ukraine, cries from war hawks on both sides of the aisle continue to grow louder to spill American blood and treasure in this conflict. We must resist these calls and put America first. The United States has no legal or moral obligation to come to the aid of either side in this foreign conflict," Rosendale said in a statement.

He said the U.S. should instead work to better secure its borders.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte issued a statement Thursday calling Russia's invasion an act of war.

“Montana stands with the freedom-loving people of Ukraine and continues to pray for their safety," Gianforte stated. "The United States and our democratic allies should respond immediately with sweeping, strict, comprehensive sanctions against Russia.”