WASHINGTON — Maine’s U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree voiced support Monday for offering financial assistance to Ukraine and exploring economic sanctions against Russia over its escalating military involvement in Crimea.
Sen. Angus King and Rep. Mike Michaud were less willing to endorse specific steps the White House or Congress should take if Russia continues to expand its presence in Ukraine.
None of Maine’s representatives to Congress called for the United States to take a more aggressive military stance against Russia but, instead, urged caution as President Obama and other world leaders weigh their responses. Most said they look forward to Secretary of State John Kerry’s report after his trip Tuesday to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
Here’s what each member of Maine’s delegation said:
A moderate Republican, Collins condemned “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” and called on the country to withdraw its troops “and refrain from further violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law.”
Collins serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which receives regular, classified briefings on domestic and international security matters. She expressed strong support for economic and diplomatic actions against Russia.
“I support the cancellation of the upcoming G-8 summit in Russia until such time as Russia is willing to stop its meddling in Ukraine and act in a manner that is consistent with the principles and values of the G-8,” Collins said. “I stand ready to work with my colleagues in Congress and the administration to support Ukraine through loan guarantees to help stabilize Ukraine’s economy and through targeted sanctions applied to Russian officials to discourage Russia from further undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”
King, an independent, indicated Monday that he was not prepared to publicly endorse any specific actions. King serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee, which oversees military affairs.
“Very tough (and dangerous) situation,” King said in a Facebook chat with the public Monday. “No conclusion at this point as the situation is changing from hour to hour, but believe we should be very careful about getting in too far, too fast.”
In a statement to the Portland Press Herald, King said there are no easy solutions but he supports “an international response to Russia’s blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
Pingree endorsed providing U.S. financial assistance to Ukraine. On the issue of economic sanctions, she said European Union nations would likely have to take the lead because they do much more business with Russia than the United States does.
Pingree, a Democrat, said the U.S. must be “very thoughtful and very deliberative” before it takes any aggressive action toward Russia. Ukraine was a major topic at the weekend’s Democratic caucuses, she said. The resounding message she heard was that the U.S. must exhaust all financial and diplomatic options first.
“This is a war-weary country and I would say what I heard from my constituents was, before anything else, we need to be cautious in the steps we take here,” she said in an interview.
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.
Michaud said he is “deeply concerned by the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.”
“A swift and diplomatic resolution to the tense situation is key to the future of a free and democratic Ukraine, and to stability in the region,” said Michaud, a Democrat who is running for governor this year.
“The Ukrainian people should have the right to determine their own future, free of intimidation or undue outside influence.”
In a subsequent exchange with the Press Herald, Peter Chandler, Michaud’s chief of staff, said Michaud was not prepared to endorse any specific actions against Russia.