Murphy backs Obama plan on Russia -– and urges caution

Sen. Chris Murphy's photo of a rally in Kiev, taken from the podium over Sen. John McCain's shoulder.

Sen. Chris Murphy's photo of a rally in Kiev, taken from the podium over Sen. John McCain's shoulder.

Washington – Citing Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, Sen. Chris Murphy took to the Senate floor Wednesday to defend President Obama’s policy toward Russia from GOP sniping —  and to suggest changes.

Mostly Murphy urged caution in reacting to Russian aggression.

“Our response needs to be proportional to our nation’s national security interests, not proportional to Russia’s actions in their backyard,” he said.

A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Murphy has visited Ukraine twice. He wants the United States to shore up the Ukrainian government economically – but give limited military help.

He said he has “listened in agony” to Republicans who criticize the Obama administration for holding back on military aid to Ukraine.

On Monday, Murphy’s traveling companion to Ukraine, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued  a statement that said “As the risk of further Russian aggression against Ukraine appears to be growing, it is outrageous that the Obama administration still has not met the Ukrainian government’s request for modest military assistance.”

Murphy said U.S. military aid to Ukraine should be limited to “body armor,” communications equipment and other non-lethal aid.

Referring to the Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Murphy spoke of the military strategy of one of the novel’s characters, Russian Gen. Mikail Kutuzov, who believed in “the long game.”

“They must understand that we can only lose by taking the offensive. Patience and time are my warriors, my champions,” Murphy quoted Kutuzov as saying.

“Russia simply does not matter to us in the same way it used to,” Murphy said. “They are a secondary world power whose power is diminishing.  Their demographics are catastrophic, their economy cannot survive the inevitable world energy revolution, and their endemic corruption will rot them from the inside out.”

Murphy also said the United States “should make clear to Russia, right now, that if the May 25th (Ukrainian) elections do not occur in a free and fair manner, we will hold Russia, and only Russia, responsible, because if not for their interference, there is can be no explanation for why these elections could not come off properly.”

The Connecticut Senator said “industry level” sanctions should be imposed on Russia if it interferes in Ukraine’s elections.