The United States remains steadfast in its support for war-torn Ukraine, a leading Democratic senator told AFP in an interview Thursday before heading to the world's largest global security conference in Germany.
Sheldon Whitehouse discussed a range of issues likely to loom large at the weekend Munich Security Conference, including Russian leader Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and tensions rising between Washington and Beijing over espionage claims.
Here is a selection of his answers to the big issues.
- Ukraine aid -
Now that Republicans control the House of Representatives, a question mark has hung over whether Congress will continue to pass multibillion dollar aid packages for Ukraine.
Whitehouse -- who sits in the Democrat-controlled Senate -- said the concerns were overblown, however.
"The first thing is to communicate bipartisan and bicameral American support for Ukraine as it resists the invasion by Russia," said Whitehouse, who heads to the Bavarian capital with influential Republican Lindsey Graham.
"I think that the hostility to continuing to support Ukraine has been much exaggerated... I think even among House Republicans, the normal view is to continue to support Ukraine."
The only bump in the road would be a determination that there was "considerable corruption and misappropriation of American dollars or military materiel," Whitehouse said, expressing confidence that this would not happen.
The Rhode Island senator told AFP it was "possible" that an agreement could even be reached on sending fighter jets to Kyiv, a controversial idea that has sparked heated debate in the coalition of countries supporting the Western ally.
"And I think it's very helpful if other allies contribute, because Putin would like to be able to say that this is all a proxy war, (that) it's actually America attacking Russia," he added.
- The climate crisis -
Whitehouse, who is seen as one of the most green senators, remained optimistic about Congress's ability to pass climate change legislation even with a Republican-held House.
"I have long supported carbon border adjustment, carbon border tariffs," says the senator, adding that "the European Union has a very important role" in enforcing climate reforms.
Whitehouse was referring to a plan announced by EU officials in December to impose a tax on imports based on the greenhouse gases emitted in making them. The "carbon border adjustment mechanism" (CBAM) would be the world's first levy on the carbon content of imported goods.
He voiced hope that a similar project could be adopted soon in the United States, if Democrats can reach a "consensus" with Republicans.
"Don't let anybody from the United States tell you to give us a waiver, to slow down, to delay, to prevaricate in the way," said Whitehouse, who has been urging America for years to "wake up" on the climate crisis.
"So part of my message to the EU countries in Munich is 'pedal to the metal,' to use an American phrase -- pedal to the metal on EU CBAM."
- US-Chinese tensions -
Another subject likely to be discussed in Munich is Beijing and its rivalry with Washington.
"I think there are people in Congress who are using China as a means of delivering partisan political attacks on President (Joe) Biden," Whitehouse told AFP.
"But that doesn't change the underlying fact that China's behavior has become much more belligerent," he continued.
"We, as a country, have gotten fed up with the many ways in which China has taken unfair economic advantage of a trade relationship with the United States.
"So trying to contain Chinese belligerence, and trying to reset our economic balance after years and years of being taken advantage of, I think, are two very appropriate things for us to do."
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