WASHINGTON — During a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing today covering Russia’s war in Ukraine, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) spoke with LTG (Ret.) Keith Kellogg and foreign policy experts from Georgetown University and RAND Corporation about the dangers of China’s potential entry into the conflict. Senator Tuberville and his SASC colleagues also discussed the threat of Russian escalation, the potential use of nuclear weapons, and the necessary course of action for the United States.
Excerpts from Senator Tuberville’s line of questioning can be found below, and the full video can be found here.
ON LEARNING FROM MISTAKES IN UKRAINE:
TUBERVILLE: “I was in Ukraine six months before this war started and talked to President Zelensky and he knew this was coming. They were putting troops on the border of Belarus, all over the place, building up, knowing it was coming. We didn’t do one thing. We said it was going to be a small incursion, that’s what President Biden said. We’re coming off Afghanistan where we didn’t look very smart. What would we do different now, General, in your eyes? Now, we are doing it, though it seems like we are one step behind in everything that we are doing. What should we have done different at the beginning? Because it looked like we were going to be the defender of the free world. We need to learn from our mistakes, and we made huge mistakes at the beginning of this.”
KELLOGG: “Yes, Senator, thanks for your question. As a former and retired military officer, I’m a little bit disappointed in the military and the intelligence community that either didn’t relay this or didn’t believe it as well. You know, recall, we had very senior officers say, one, Ukraine would fall in three days of the invasion and try to get President Zelensky a ride out of town. And that’s when he made the comment, I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition. You know, the fact is, we just didn’t really believe it and we didn’t look at it hard. I would really question our intelligence communities, all of them, and also the military, why their decision making was so poor in foreseeing this. Most of us saw it, we saw the indicators. I’m a big believer in indicators and patterns and patterns and indicators were there. So, I think it was a fault somewhere in our systems that we didn’t convince ourselves that it was really going to happen. Part of it may have been a misunderstanding of President Putin himself, and they just didn’t believe he would do it. I’ve actually heard commentators saying up until the day before the invasion, he wasn’t going to do it. Yes, he was. And if you read Putin, and I had a fortune when I was in the National Security Council, I brought Dr. Fiona Hill in on the NSC team. She came out of Brookings and she’s a very well-read person on Putin. And she says when he says something, believe it, he’s going to do it. We didn’t believe it.”
ON U.S. STRATEGY IN UKRAINE:
TUBERVILLE: “General Kellogg, do you have a clear sense of the overall U.S. strategy in Ukraine? And what does victory look like for Ukraine?”
KELLOGG: “I do not have an overall view of what the current strategy in Ukraine is. I believe we should have one. And I think you have to put, in-state, you have to put Russia’s army at risk in Ukraine. Putin has to understand he’s got two options, lose his army or leave. If his army loses and is defeated, he falls.”
TUBERVILLE: “Can Ukrainians win it on their own?”
KELLOGG: “No. Let me rephrase, they can win it on their own if we give them the equipment to do it.”
TUBERVILLE: “Okay. What’s the most dangerous course of action for the United States when it comes to this conflict? What puts us in harm’s way?”
KELLOGG: “By doing what we’re doing right now because it is not disciplined. It is also not emphatic.”
ON THREAT OF RUSSIAN NUCLEAR CONFLICT:
TUBERVILLE: “General, how concerned are you about nuclear conflict?”
KELLOGG: “I think it has to be a consideration simply because it’s in the Russian philosophy to use. They’ve got a large amount of what we do. And I hate to use the term tactical nuclear weapons, and they believe in using it. And it’s something we really don’t have, and if it’s in their philosophy to use it, if it gets pushed, he may use it. I’m hoping that there would be smarter people prevail and he would not use it. But you always have to understand the probability and possibility of it happening.”
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.