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Biden was slow to move on Russia-Ukraine crisis, Rep. Malliotakis says

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All right. This week, Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, has spoken in support of President Biden's course.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: It appears to me the administration is moving in the right direction.

INSKEEP: Other Republicans have said, including on our air, that the president has moved much too slowly. We have called Republican Representative Nicole Malliotakis of New York. She is a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee. Welcome to the program.

NICOLE MALLIOTAKIS: Thank you. Great to be with you.

INSKEEP: This written response to Russia from the United States is not public, but NPR at least has reported that it was shared with members of Congress. Have you seen it, and what did you think of it?

MALLIOTAKIS: I have not seen this report. I do believe that right now we're facing two courses of - I guess there's two schools of thoughts right now. One is that Putin is trying to put together the pieces of the Soviet Union a hundred years later. And the other school of thought is that he's just looking to test, to see how far can he go until the EU or the United States respond because he's trying to have some demands met, including not allowing Ukraine into NATO.

INSKEEP: Right.

MALLIOTAKIS: That, I think, is one of his big priorities. So...

INSKEEP: Is the...

MALLIOTAKIS: ...You know - hmm?

INSKEEP: I - just 'cause time is short. Is the president, as McConnell said, moving in the right direction now?

MALLIOTAKIS: You know, I think he is moving a little better. I do believe that it's been slow to date. I think some of the actions that he is taking now should have been taken previously. Certainly, there's not an appetite to put boots on the ground in Ukraine. But I do believe if he had issued more sanctions or worked with our EU partners quicker, this may have been preventable. What we want to see is him exhibit strength. I think, you know, what happened in Afghanistan earlier this year, other actions by this administration, have given sort of a green light for Putin to kind of further test the waters, particularly rubber-stamping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. These are the things that concern many of the members on both sides of the aisle of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

INSKEEP: You've raised a couple of things that warrant following up on. One, you mentioned the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We should explain for people, this is a gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. Russia could use it to sell gas to Europe. Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, told NPR last evening that if Russia invades Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 quote, "will not move forward." Can the United States stop that? And if so, how can the United States stop that?

MALLIOTAKIS: You know, at this point, I'm not sure that they can completely stop it. But there were sanctions at the beginning of Biden's presidency that he chose to lift, which really caught the eye of many of the members of Congress. Here, President Biden stopped the Keystone pipeline. He's also saying they're withdrawing support from the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, which would go from Israel to Greece, Cyprus and then into Europe. So it seems that when it comes to our energy independence or our allies' energy independence, he's taking a pause. But when it comes to our adversaries like Russia, he is rubber-stamping that. And that is an issue because I believe that Putin can and will use this energy as leverage. Forty percent of European gas comes from Russia, so he has leverage there when negotiating in this whole discussion that's taking place.

INSKEEP: One other thing in the moment we have - you mentioned things the United States has done that may make the U.S. look weak on the world stage, might have encouraged Putin. You mentioned the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. An analyst on our program elsewhere today named another thing. His name is Dominique Moisi. He is in Europe. He was spoken to our colleague, Eleanor - he was speaking to our colleague, Eleanor Beardsley, and he said this of Vladimir Putin.

DOMINIQUE MOISI: He sees the situation in America, what happened on January 6, march to the Capitol, has convinced him that democracy is dying in America.

INSKEEP: He was watching, according to the analyst, the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Representative, you voted to object to the election on January 6. There was no evidence to support that at all. Were you conscious then that U.S. adversaries might be watching?

MALLIOTAKIS: You know, the - democracy has - the Constitution allows for this particular debate of the Electoral College to take place. And that is exactly what took place among the members of Congress. What occurred on that day from people outside of the Capitol was very disturbing. And I've highly condemned it, and I've also asked for the prosecution of those who broke our laws. And it should not at all influence the debate that was occurring inside the chambers. So there were two states that if they were seen to not abide by the Constitution and were overturned, it wouldn't have had an impact in the overall.

INSKEEP: You have 10 seconds.

MALLIOTAKIS: I think really what's at issue here is President Biden, you know, reentering...

INSKEEP: About 10 seconds.

MALLIOTAKIS: ...The Paris Accord without requiring China and India to level the playing field, reentering the UN Human Rights Council, which Russia is a member of, and one of the most...

INSKEEP: Representative, I've got to stop you there, but thanks for the answer. Thanks for the time. I appreciate it. I know you also have to run. Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis of New York. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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