Although the White House hailed the agreement reached in Minsk Thursday between Ukraine and Russia as a "potentially significant step toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict," GOP members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Newsmax the Minsk agreement in no way changed their distrust of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
To a person, GOP lawmakers on the foreign affairs panel told us they stood by remarks they made a day before in which they voiced skepticism of Putin’s intentions toward Ukraine and in support of providing arms to the Ukrainian government led by President Petro Poroshenko.
"President Poroshenko got a hero’s welcome when he addressed Congress last year," Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis of Florida told Newsmax on Wednesday. "[Members of Congress] know he is fighting the good fight and that it’s not an American fight but a Ukrainian fight. Ukraine is our natural ally and we should support them as best as we can, and that means providing arms and continuing to put pressure on Russia."
Regarding the agreement, which was reached in Minsk Thursday by the OSCE-led Trilateral Contact Group and endorsed by the leaders of Ukraine, a spokesman for DeSantis told us: "The congressman plans to read the agreement carefully and then will comment."
DeSantis’ support for providing arms to Ukraine and putting pressure on Russia were strongly echoed by those of fellow Foreign Affairs Committee member and GOP Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona.
As Salmon told Newsmax on Wednesday, "Putin cannot be trusted, and if we don’t draw a hard line in Ukraine, we can expect an invasion in Moldova. We made an ironclad agreement with Ukraine to defend them but when Russia seized Crimea and we did nothing, we let them down in a big way. My state’s senior senator [Republican John McCain] has the perfect word to describe the Obama foreign policy: 'feckless.'"
Salmon said "the plight of the Ukrainian people has not fallen on deaf ears in Congress. If we neglect them in their hour of need and don’t provide arms, we’ll regret it because Russia will be emboldened to go further."
Citing conversations with "my counterparts in foreign countries," the Arizonan said "they ask what happened to the 'shining city on the hill' that America once was. They’re afraid our foreign policy is empty and are not sure the U.S. will honor commitments it has made to be there for them."
Reached by Newsmax shortly after news of the Minsk agreement, Salmon spokesman Tristan Daedulus said, "The congressman stands by his words on Ukraine on Wednesday."
A freshman Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, said any agreement should be approached with caution.
"The conversation can change and the dynamics can shift in a matter of hours and days," he told us. "When it comes to Ukraine, it is always important to remember that the devil is in the details. If we are going to provide the Ukrainians arms to defend themselves, does that mean M-16s or does it mean other arms? We have a duty to get past the sound-bites and find out specifically what would be in the best interests of the Ukrainian people and the best interests of America."
Although not on Foreign Affairs in this session of Congress, three-term Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger is very much a player in the growing debate over the U.S. role in Ukraine. As one of the first members of Congress to call for arms to Ukraine, former U.S. Air Force pilot Kinzinger told us, "arming Ukraine is very much a bipartisan issue."
Regarding any agreement between Ukraine and Russia, Kinzinger pointed to the earlier agreement between the two "in which Ukraine gave up thousands of nuclear arms in exchange for Russia honoring their borders. Now Putin senses the weakness of the West and, if we don’t respond now, when do we respond — when Putin is in Estonia?"
Kinzinger emphasized that "we must learn the lessons of the past. This is first time since World War II that one nation has challenged the sovereignty of another. Right now, the whole situation is eerily reminiscent of the Europe in the 1930s."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.