Biden administration has 'doctrine of appeasement' toward Russia: Ernst

"We need to be very aggressive," the Republican senator said Sunday.

January 23, 2022, 4:16 PM

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, called for a strong response from the Biden administration as tensions continue to rise with Russia's potential invasion of Ukraine.

"We simply need to let Putin know that the United States stands with our Ukrainian friends," Ernst told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz Sunday.

"What's the likelihood you see of a Russian invasion at this point, and why should Americans be worried about that?" Raddatz asked.

"Well, we need to be strong as America," said Iowa's junior Republican senator, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "And what we see with Russia ​amassing troops and equipment at the Ukrainian border is indicative of some sort of action. What that will transpire into is yet to be seen."

But, she added, "What we can say is that we need to be very aggressive in pushing back against President Putin, whether that's in the form of sanctions, expulsion from the Swiss banking system certainly, sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, all of these actions need to be put in place, as well as continuing to equip our Ukrainian friends with not only defensive capabilities but also offensive weapons."

Russia has mobilized as many as 100,000 troops​, causing a standoff at the Russian-Ukrainian border and sparking debate about whether an invasion is ​imminent.

"And what happens if they do invade, if the Russians invade?" Raddatz asked. "The sanctions are put in place. What does Putin do next? He hasn't ruled out missiles to Cuba, Venezuela. Should a NATO military response be on the table if Russia invades?"

"We want to make sure that an invasion doesn't happen," Ernst said. "And that's why I think diplomacy is very important at this point. But also showing a strong resolve from the United States. So far, with this administration, we have seen a doctrine of appeasement. And that certainly is not going to deter President Putin and Russia from invading Ukraine."

Raddatz followed: "I want to go back to my first question, it may be obvious to some, but I would like to say, why -- why is this important to your constituents, to Americans?"

"Well, number one, we do need to fight for democracy. And understanding that Putin's goal is to retain some of what he had during the Soviet era, that power and control, to expand his reaches across Europe," Ernst answered. "We know that if he's able to go into Ukraine, and there's very little pushback from the United States or from NATO, it allows him to move into other countries in Eastern Europe."

"And we know that when -- when Soviet Union expands, as -- as he wants to see it, it's, you know, a new form of the Soviet Union, as it expands, democracy will constrict," she later added, noting that "when democracy is stable, that means our troops, our citizens, are much more safe."

​Last week, the Senate failed to vote for eliminating the filibuster to allow ending debate on the Democrats' voting rights bill with a simple majority.

The legislation would have created nationwide laws that would have made Election Day a national holiday and allowed for no-excuse absentee voting.

Following the failed vote, Raddatz reported ​out of Texas, covering the lead up to the primary election and how new voting laws are impacting the election system. The state's new Senate Bill 1 has already had an impact on voters, with hundreds of voters' ballot applications being rejected, according to a local election administrator.

"And, Senator, I want to move to voting rights," Raddatz said. "I went down to Texas. You heard what the nonpartisan election official said, this is a canary in the coal mine for the midterms. Do you agree with that?"

Explaining her ​opposition to the Democrats' voting rights bill, Ernst insisted that federal legislation is unnecessary.

"Well, every state will put in place their own voting systems. Their own election systems. That is a state's right. We should not be federalizing our election system, as the Democrats had attempted to do," she said.

Iowa is one of 19 states identified by the nonpartisan Brennan Center as having a new restrictive voting law. The new law shortens the early voting period from 29 to 20 days and closes polling sites an hour earlier.

"How do those changes make voting any more secure?" Raddatz asked.

"Well, it is the same level of security," Ernst responded. "What I would say is we still have three weeks of early voting before our Elections Day, which is far more liberal than the state of New York. So, I would love to see the Brennan Center actually focus on New York. I think they only have 15 days of early voting. So it's still three weeks to go in and vote."

"But why shorten what you already had?" Raddatz pressed.

"Because, when you do that, you are manning election centers," Ernst explained. "And in rural communities like mine where it really does make sense, simply local governments can't afford to step out there and continue to man as they would during a smaller election season."

Ernst went on to argue that voter turnout has actually increased with new voting laws despite warnings that such provisions restrict ballot access.

"I would also say, since we have put a number of the voting laws into place over the last several years -- voter ID is one of those -- we've actually seen voter participation increase, even in off-election years," Ernst said. "So I think it's a false premise that the Democrats are promoting out there that this is restricting access. Because, in Iowa, we've only seen voters get out in higher numbers to participate in their very safe elections."