By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy carried one key message to the Biden administration and Congress during his recent trip to Washington D.C.: Please continue your aid as we fight to expel Russian invaders.
Not everyone, however, was gung-ho about it.
A poll last month by CNN showed a majority of Americans, 55 percent, said Congress should not authorize more funding for Ukraine. Republicans drove the majority sentiment, 71 percent of the GOP opposed new funding.
“There’s no national security interest for us in Ukraine,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., recently told national media.
One Republican who is not ready to forsake Ukraine is Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City.
He represents his hometown, Reno, Elko, Fallon, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and much of Northern Nevada. He’s been at this awhile, getting called up to D.C. in 2011 after career in the Assembly and state Senate in the Legislature.
He’s not shilling for Biden’s Democratic agenda. But Amodei, a U.S. Army veteran (JAG officer), is concerned about how U.S. policy toward Ukraine impacts America’s standing and security on the world stage.
“I’m not saying … damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” Amodei said Wednesday on Nevada Newsmakers. “But if your response is nothing, then ‘nothing’ will send a message at a time when I don’t want to send that message to China. I don’t want to send it to Iran. I don’t want to send it to North Korea. I don’t want to send it to, well, you can fill in a few more blanks on that thing.”
Amodei also said one nation, like Russia — invading another — is mortal sin in terms of international politics.
“That’s the ultimate crime in terms of a world of nations,” he said.
Host Sam Shad mentioned to Amodei that with United States’ support so far — about $75 billion — it seems the U.S. may already be at war with Russia. The only things missing are U.S. boots on the ground.
But those boots-on-the-ground are nearby. The New York Times has reported there are about 4,000 U.S. soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division deployed in southern Romania, near the Ukrainian border.
Also, it would only take seven minutes for a Russian missile fired from occupied Crimea to hit those troops, according to the Times.
“Well, real quick, let’s remember the history. We didn’t pick a fight with them,” Amodei said of the Russians. “I don’t think the Ukrainians picked a fight with them.”
In the spirit of remembering history, let’s recall that 33 years ago, the U.S. led an international coalition in the Gulf War because Iraq invaded its next-door neighbor, Kuwait.
Yet one difference between then and now is that Iraq did not pose a nuclear threat. Russia does.
“Just like some of the other stuff we found ourselves entangled in over the last three decades, you can’t appropriate (political euphemism for invade) your neighbor, no matter who you are,” Amodei said.
“And so you’ve got this Russian thing where they tried to appropriate … You tell me what their endgame is. They want at least some of Ukraine and they’ve gone about it in a phenomenally barbaric way.”
When it comes to U.S. foreign policy, Amodei asked: “So what’s the right way?
“And I’m not defending the Biden administration,” he added. “But, you know, I voted for the first bill that gave them this stuff.”
By supplying Ukraine with American-built F-16s and Abrams tanks, the U.S. also discovered Russia’s military may be a paper tiger, Amodei said.
“We found out just how not wonderful Russia is as an army, as a lethal-kinetic-force country, stuff like that,” he said. “Not that they haven’t done a phenomenal amount of damage that’s flat-out war crimes in Ukraine.”
NATIONAL DEBT: Amodei has been in Congress since 2010, long enough to remember when the national debt was no big deal. Now it’s at $33 trillion, according various fiscal watchdog groups.
“Well, when I got here, (Republican Rep.) John Boehner was the Speaker (of the U.S. House). Barack Obama was in the White House in the first five years. We had cut the annual debt to a half a trillion, $500 billion. And it was like, well, that’s good work. But nobody said mission accomplished.
“Since then, it’s been it’s been back on the climb again,” Amodei added.
The Trump administration saw the debt rise $7.8 trillion during its time in office.Democrats blame Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy. Amodei sees another culprit.
“COVID didn’t help,” Amodei said. “And whether you voted for or against those bills, still, it’s like, well, you did what you thought was right at the time.
“That was the first bill…the second and third bills, despite all the pretty names and stuff like that, it was that old Rahm Emanuel thing: You never want to waste a good emergency.”
“And and so I don’t think that has turned out to be great or responsible policy,” he said.
THACKER PASS: Amodei congratulated Jon Evans, CEO of Lithium Americas, for beating back all challenges — legal and environmental — in opening a major lithium mine not far from Winnemucca.
Evans said on Nevada Newsmakers earlier that it was a 16-year process, start-to-finish, getting the mine open.
“This has been 16 years to go from picking up data that Chevron had in developing this into a project, then moving forward with permitting, appeals, financing, engineering … that’s how long it has taken,” Evans said recently on Nevada Newsmakers.
Amodei said he admires the company’s perseverance.
“Here’s the important part, because there’s been some controversy around it,” Amodei said. “They went through the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process, totally transparent, complied with all the rules.
“I think they’ve been to court a couple of times,” Amodei said, joking about the extensive legal issues. “Yeah, prevailed on all that.
“And so the real story is the system can work,” said Amodei, president of the Nevada Mining Association from 2007 to 2008. “Not as fast as you’d like it to be some days, but those folks have crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘i’ administratively, legally, environmentally, all that stuff.”
Lithium is a metal that is essential to a green economy, electric vehicle manufacturing and major electrical-grid storage batteries. An astonishing 600 million tons of lithium is probably buried at the Thacker Pass site, Evans said. The mining at the site is expected to continue for 40 years.