Rep. Ken Calvert discusses his Europe trip focused on Ukraine, reacts to being sanctioned by Russia
Republican Rep. Ken Calvert spoke with KVCR’s Jonathan Linden about his trip to Europe that addressed the war in Ukraine, and also discussed being sanctioned by Russia.
Below is a transcript of the conversation between KVCR's Jonathan Linden and Corona Rep. Ken Calvert.
Jonathan Linden: Earlier this month, Corona U.S. Congressman Ken Calvert joined a bipartisan trip that stopped in the countries of Poland, Romania, and Belgium, with the trip focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine. To start off, Congressman, can you tell the listeners more about what you did during the trip?
Ken Calvert: Well, we were there for two primary reasons. One is to see how the flow of lethal aid is coming across the border; because of my position as the ranking on (the defense appropriations committee) ... we want to make sure that the millions that we've appropriated for were getting across the border and into Ukraine. And Ukrainians are quite efficient about delivering those weapons to where they need to go. And obviously, they're very effective in using those weapons. The other reason, of course, was humanitarian aid. There's been probably upwards of 5 million refugees, primarily going into Poland and Romania, but also in Moldova, and some of the Balkan states, and really throughout Europe… Even going around the world in order to like to get out of that war zone. But a lot of people remain, and so there's some pockets in Ukraine that are unable to get food, water, and medical attention. So, we're trying to make sure that that gets across the border, and it's been having some hiccups. So, we wanted to make sure that we did everything we could to encourage that aid to get across the border, where the Ukrainians can deliver it.
Jonathan Linden: And so, when you were visiting these three countries, who were you meeting with? And what were those conversations, specifically looking like?
Ken Calvert: Well, we met with the leaders of Poland and Romania... the political leaders of those countries, both their Prime Minister and President. We met with their Defense Secretaries and the coordinators, military personnel... we met with our U.S. personnel in Poland, (the) 82nd airborne... their working to get the weapons into Ukraine. (We also) went to the border and talked to people crossing the border, and a lot of people, quite frankly, Ukrainians, once the Russians started pulling out of Kyiv... (Started) going back into Ukraine. So, there was a lot more people going back than coming in. Then we went to a refugee center where (people) crossed the border (and then) were given a hot meal and clothing and sent on their way to wherever they're going, whether in the country of Poland or elsewhere.
Jonathan Linden: And what would you say some of your biggest takeaways were from this trip?
Ken Calvert: Well, I think the biggest thing, which I kind of already knew, is the intensity of the Ukrainian will to not be defeated by the Russians. That they've been under Russian control before, and obviously, it was not a good experience, and they don't want to go back to that, and they're willing to fight and die for their country. And that's obvious. The morale of the Ukrainian military is quite high. They feel that they're doing everything they can for their country. By the way, it's on the Russian side that the morale of the Russian soldiers is quite low.... because obviously, on the battlefield, the Russians are not having that type of success they expected... they miscalculated, I think.
Jonathan Linden: And to add on to things right after the trip, Russia sanctioned you along with some of your fellow members of Congress. What was your reaction to that? And has it actually had any financial impact on you?
Ken Calvert: (Laughs) No, I don't think it has any financial impact on any of us. Russia is basically a great big gas station; that's the only real economic... you know, they have some other industry but demonyms, really. So, it doesn't have any effect; I don't think personally on virtually anyone. It's just an ego part on their side to say, well, they've been sanctioned, so they want to sanction those of us who are critical of Russia, and certainly extremely critical of what they're doing to attack a democratic nation in Europe. We haven't seen this kind of warfare since World War II, and one of the big takeaways there is the devastation that these Russians are doing. I mean, it's just total war taking out entire communities, civilian population, no regard for the people of Ukraine. Now, they brought in this new general that's known as the Butcher of Syria, Aleksandr Dvornikov, and he's well known for what he did in Syria, using cluster bombs, chemical weapons, and it wouldn't surprise me if Russia does that again.
Jonathan Linden: Is there anything else about this trip that you would like to share with our listeners?
Ken Calvert: Well, Ukrainians, they don't want the U.S. soldiers coming in. They just want the ammunition. They'll do what they have to do, just supply the type of ammunition weapons that they need, and they'll take on Russia. They're not asking for us, nor any NATO country or European country, to come to their assistance with their own personnel, just give us the weapons. And I'm very heartened that certainly, the United States is their number one ally in giving them those weapons. And NATO countries have been feeding weapons into Ukraine for the military, along with, of course, significant humanitarian aid. And the Polish people, for instance, have just been taking these Ukrainians, mainly their women and children, because the men are staying behind to fight... (And polish people are taking these families) into their homes. And it's very heartening because t they recognize that if Russia prevails here, they may very well visit some of these other countries like Moldova, Poland, Romania, or the Balkans.
Jonathan Linden: Well, thank you so much, Congressman Calvert, for taking some time to speak with me. I really do appreciate it.
Ken Calvert: Okay, thank you. You have a great day.