When U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal visited Ukraine in December as part of a bipartisan delegation, he met with military and government officials who said they would not back down from what was then just a possible Russian invasion.
And that’s exactly what has happened, Rep. Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, told the News-Press, calling the Ukrainians’ resolve “admirable.”
Rep. Carbajal, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, praised President Joe Biden’s ban on Russian oil, as well as other economic sanctions, in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. He said he’s confident the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European nations will work to decimate the Russian economy and topple the ruble.
“The more time goes by, the more the (Russian) economy will suffer. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his oligarchs will be isolated,” the congressman said. “They are seeing their president run amuck in an unprovoked aggression toward Ukraine. The Russian people do not want to see their men and women come back in body bags, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier recently estimated between 2,000 to 4,000 Russian troops have invaded Ukraine since President Putin launched the war.
Rep. Carbajal warned there is still work to be done.
He said the U.S. has more than 100,000 troops in Europe that are being repositioned — a clear message to Mr. Putin that he cannot “continue his aggression beyond what he’s doing now.”
“We’re evolving and continuing to work with our NATO allies and other partners to make sure that we understand their needs, that we are getting security aid and humanitarian aid to them and economic aid, and that we’re providing them the type of weapons that are practical for them to implement,” Rep. Carbajal said.
“We’re doing everything possible to avert an escalation and a bigger war that could actually lead to a really big war that would necessitate sending NATO and American troops into the area in Ukraine. We are working hard to avoid that,” the congressman said.
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, a Republican from Missouri who is the vice-ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also praised the sanctions but said she wished they had been imposed earlier so as to deter Mr. Putin. She traveled to the Ukrainian border with a bipartisan delegation earlier this month to witness firsthand the crisis unfolding.
“I believe they are very much working,” Rep. Wagner told the News-Press, “but I believe they could have done more to deter (Putin) earlier, perhaps, than imposing them after he already started the war. The sanctions are important. They’re working; they should have been done earlier as a deterrent.”
Rep. Carbajal, in an echo of President Joe Biden’s past comments, said Americans will feel the impact of the sanctions placed on Mr. Putin as well — most noticeably as gas prices continue to skyrocket.
“There is a price for us putting in these sanctions and working with NATO to pressure Putin and as such, that’s going to have an impact on some of the costs in our country,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Putin’s aggression and chaos is a great reason why we are seeing gas prices rise, and it’s important for our community on the Central Coast and our country to know that this is a direct impact of our standing up to Putin.”
On Wednesday, the average price of gas in Santa Barbara continued its record climb to $5.54. In California, the average fuel price was $5.57 with the country’s average lower at $4.25.
Mr. Biden warned the move to ban Russian oil would cause a continued spike in gas prices across the country, placing the blame squarely on Russia.
“Russia’s aggression has cost us all,” he said earlier this week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom promised a proposal to alleviate the rising fuel costs during his State of the State address Tuesday evening. A spokesperson for the governor told the News-Press the proposal is still being developed but would take the form of a tax rebate.
When Rep. Carbajal was visiting Ukraine in December, he met with the head of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces, Major General Hryhory Halahan, and other members of the Ukrainian military and diplomatic officials.
“The Ukrainian people expressed to us their commitment to fighting and resisting a Russian invasion,” Rep. Carbajal said. “What they told us came to be: that they were not going to roll over should Russia invade, and they were going to resist and fight, and that is what they’re doing now admirably.”